The Importance of Understanding Arc Flash Ratings Explained at Safety 2015

Scott Margolin of Westex gave an impassioned presentation regarding arc flash.

DALLAS -- A surprising fact about arc flash incidents is that workers in field may be better off at times wearing nothing at all than wearing the wrong clothing. Scott Margolin of Westex explained the important distinctions between different arc flash ratings at ASSE's Safety 2015 conference and how the material involved in FR and arc apparel can greatly differ.

With 7,000 workers suffering burn injuries every year from arc flash, that equates to one worker every 15 minutes. Margolin has made it his mission to bring that number down in the coming years by educating those in the field.

A number of variables determine the amount of danger one worker might face out in the field, such as distance from the source and the percentage of cotton in his or her clothing. All cotton blends burn, leading to burn injuries on employees regardless of how the clothing is advertised.

Fire-repellent clothing isn't foolproof, but it can be the difference between second- and third-degree burns – sometimes the difference between life and death.

One of the most important takeaways from the discussion is the effect laundering has on FR apparel. Although certain FR standards take into account a small number of launderings for every piece of clothing, they stop being accurate standards as soon as a worker surpasses that number, he explained. That is an important distinction, which is why it is better to leave a large margin of error when determining what standards a company's garments should meet, he said.

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