Flame resistant (FR) and Arc rated (AR) clothing are essential for keeping workers safe around fire or electrical hazards. While there are a lot of fire-resistant clothing and PPE items out there, it is important to understand what qualifies an item to be FR/AR rated, and which type is necessary for your situation. FR clothing is made to resist melting and dripping when in contact with flames or extreme heat, and is typically made with inherently flame-resistant materials or treated to resist flammability. AR clothing is used specifically to protect from burn injuries from arc flashes.

The NSA Vizable FR Hi-Vis Hybrid Extreme Bomber Jacket provides optimum protection from unfavorable wear conditions and flash fire/arc flash hazards.

For an article to be considered FR, it must self-extinguish in 2 seconds or less after being exposed to a flame. This is often determined by a vertical flame test, where the FR item is positioned vertically above a controlled flame for a certain amount of time and once the flame is removed, the article should extinguish on its own. Ohio Power Tool carries a wide range of FR and AR T-Shirts, polos, jeans, sweatshirts, jackets, overalls, and full suits to ensure that you are protected in any situation.

What are the Different FR Categories?

FR PPE is separated into 4 different categories based on their level of protection. Different jobsites and applications require various protection categories depending on the risk level associated with the job you are doing.

FR/AR PPE ranges from Category 1 to Category 4. The minimum arc rating for each category are as follows:
-Category 1: 4cal/cm2
-Category 2: 8 cal/cm2
-Category 3: 25 cal/cm2
-Category 4: 40 cal/cm2

Category 1 and 2 FR clothing are the least protective and often used for daily wear or as layering pieces to add an extra level of safety. The DriFire FR Lightweight T-Shirt is one of our favorite Cat 1 FR items because it is super lightweight and breathable and makes a great base layer under a uniform or other FR items. Category 2 FR clothing is slightly more protective daily wear such as the NSA TecGen FR Work Shirt, Taproom Denim Jeans, and Pullover Hoodie.

Category 3 and 4 give more extreme flash fire and arc flash protection. We carry a lot of hi-vis and weather proof Cat 3 and 4 items such as the Hi-Vis Bomber Jacket and HydroFlash Foul Weather Jacket. These are still lightweight, but are also waterproof, windproof, and meet the ANSI Class 3 hi-vis requirements while providing even more protection than their Cat 1 and 2 counterparts.

Construction workers are wearing the HydroFlash Foul Weather Jacket and Bib Overalls on the jobsite. This FR rated gear can withstand foul weather conditions to keep you protected all day.

You can layer multiple FR clothing pieces to achieve an even higher level of protection, however, you should always arc test or do an inspection to ensure that your layering pieces are safe enough for your situation. Because every job is different, layering a Cat 1 item with a Cat 2 item does not always equal Category 3 level protection. Depending on the items, layering FR/AR clothing can increase the arc rating up to 2.5 times.

Arc Flash Kits

The model is wearing the Cat 4  ArcGuard RevoLite Olive Green Arc Flash Kit (KIT4SCLT40NGLF)

Arc flash suits are a category of PPE used to protect the wearers from burn injuries from arc flashes. An arc flash is an undesired electric discharge from a conductor that can cause an explosion that can reach up to 35,000° F. They are usually worn by workers performing maintenance on energized equipment as well as de-energizing equipment. Arc flash gear can come as shirts, jackets, overalls, hoods, and head coverings or a complete set for full-body protection.

Arc flash PPE also ranges from Cat 1 to Cat 4 and can be layered with other items for added protection.  We stock a variety of arc flash kits from NSA such as the Cat 4 RevoLite Arc Flash Kit, which is inherently fire resistant and will keep you protected in environments with an arc flash hazard of 40cal/cm2 or less. We also have a lighter-weight option, the Cat 2 Westex Arc Flash Kit w/ Balaclava, which is a Category 2 suit that protects the wearer from an arc flash hazard of 12 cal/cm2. This version comes with a hardhat and face shield, safety glasses, balaclava, FR coveralls and a gear bag to provide full body protection.

Caring For Your FR and Arc Flash Gear

You should always check the washing instructions on your garment to make sure that you don’t ruin the chemical treatments on the item or damage the materials. Most FR/AR clothing can be machine washed and dried, but you should always avoid using cleaning products that contain chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or any other flammable substances. Hang drying your PPE is also a safer option if you are worried about your items getting damaged in the dryer. Some FR/AR clothing uses a special coating as the protectant, so be sure to check how many times an item can be washed before laundering them as well.

Check out our full range of FR/AR PPE items from NSA and other top brands on our website or stop into Trade Pro Outfitters at Ohio Power Tool to see it in person! If you have any questions about FR or AR clothing or need help deciding what would be the best fit for your job, the OPT team is here to help! Give us a call at 800-242-4424, email us at sales@ohiopowertool.com, or leave a comment below for assistance. To be the first to know about new products and deals, subscribe to our e-newsletter and follow us on social media!