Arc flash fire safety

The overall number of burns recorded in the Bi-National Burns registry for 2011 was 2480.

Of these, 9.6% of all adult burn injuries occurred in the trade and service area, while 5.4% were accounted for in the industrial and construction sectors.

Arc flashes and flash fires are the most common types of fire that cause injury and harm on work sites.

An arc flash is when uncontrollable amounts of electric current flow through air connecting through dust particles between two conductors and can result in an intense flame that burns at 20,000 degrees celcius hotter than the sun.

A flash fire is a rapidly moving flame front which can be a combustive explosion.

According to Dr Howard De Torres a plastic reconstructive, burns and cosmetic surgeon, people working in industries with fire hazards should not wear cotton or synthetics under any circumstances.

“The most important thing is to avoid inappropriate clothing,” he said.

“It’s very important to wear protective clothing.”

“Unpredictable fires can cause serious burns – especially because the individual thinks the chances of them are small and are subsequently unprepared. Sometimes, they’re even dressed in cotton and as anyone with kids knows – cotton explodes and is not recommended to be worn anywhere near any kind of fire.

Burn injuries can lead to skin grafts, infection, months in hospital and even amputation. Even if the individual thinks the chance may be small, why would you take the chance? Prevention is definitely better than the cure.”

However, in hot climates or extremely labour intensive work, some tradespeople forgo the traditionally heavy fire retardant work wear in order to stay cool and comfortable.

This included opting for cotton based work wear with no fire retardant (FR) qualities, which is one of the worst types of clothing to wear in case of a fire.

Hard Yakka has launched Hard Yakka Protect with TECGEN SELECT, a new range of inherent FR workwear that offers oil, gas, electrical and mine workers the best combination available for comfort and protection from arc flash, flash fire and heat stress.  

The new FR range from meets and exceeds the most stringent fire safety standards, currently set in the USA (including NFPA 70E and NFPA 2112).

Hard Yakka Protect with TECGEN SELECT fabric technology also meets Australian and New Zealand Standards for High Visibility AS/NZS 4602.1:2011.

In addition to great protection offered, the new garments are the lightest weight FR workwear available in Australia.

Tests conducted by internationally renowned independent laboratory Precision Testing Laboratories found Hard Yakka Protect with TECGEN SELECT shirts to be on average 25% lighter and pants 14% lighter than FR competitors. The test results showed the range to be 63 – 68% more breathable than competitors and wicks sweat on average 15% better.  

This means workers don’t have to overheat on the inside to avoid burns on the outside.

The inherent FR fabric was designed and developed in North America.

The fabric ensures that the fire retardant qualities won’t wash or wear out and the self- extinguishing nature of the fabric means it acts fast to reduce the extent and severity of burns to the body.

Brenna Mathews, senior product manager at Hard Yakka said workers could now have more protection from fires and still feel comfortable in their workwear.

“Hard Yakka Protect with TECGEN SELECT offers an Australian first in fire retardant workwear, coupling the best protection from arc flash and flash fire available with the lightest, most breathable and moisture wicking fabric for the reduction of heat stress.  

When arc flash or flash fire events do occur, those dressed in cotton or polycotton garments are the least protected. Until now, traditional FR workwear was typically heavy, thick and can get very hot. Hard Yakka is proud to significantly step up the level of protection workers can now get, without compromising comfort and breathability”.

To gain the optimal level of protection and comfort, the TECGEN patented fibre used in the construction of TECGEN SELECT consists of two characteristics.

One is a patented outer carbon sheath that’s heat resistant and will not burn. The other is a durable inner visco-elastic core capable of stretching and twisting in order to provide maximum wear comfort.

Jon Heard, vice president of TECGEN SELECT developers said comfort plays a huge role in workers’ choice to wear FR workwear.  

“Flame resistant workwear is serious. It plays a big role in limiting the amount of damage to the body in the case of arc flash or flash fire accident, and in some cases may even save a limb or a life. Wearing a garment with TECGEN SELECT fabric increases the chance of wearers finally opting for a FR garment that will feel just as comfortable as cotton drill.

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