The role of ARC Flash Gloves is a very necessary last line of defence for workers which may be exposed to an ARC hazard. The very high temperature resulting from an ARC-flash incident requires the gloves to be made from a highly flame-retardant material as well as offering enough thermal barrier to prevent the wear from receiving serious burns to the hands.
Traditional ARC Flash Gloves are manufactured from flame-retardant leather which is very effective against the temperature hazard and very hard-wearing but are not suitable for tasks requiring a reasonable degree of dexterity. Clearly the last thing that an operative should be doing is to remove the protective gloves to conduct a delicate task whilst in the ARC-risk area.
To combat the dexterity issue glove manufacturers developed knitted flame-retardant gloves using Aramid or Modacrylic fibres and a carbon element to provide anti-static properties. The palm-coating, necessary to provide protection and grip, was a neoprene compound to cope with the high temperatures rather than the standard nitrile or polyurethane coating typical to this type of glove.
Unforeseen Side Effects
In use this new generation of dextrous ARC Flash Gloves proved comfortable for wearers and suitable for delicate tasks. However, the coating became slippery in wet conditions and the coating broke down rapidly when used for manual handling tasks. These failures with the neoprene coating not only increased the cost-in-use as well but also presented a potential contamination issue for people working in sensitive areas.
Case Study and Solution
Hazchem Safety was asked to provide a solution to the issue with poor performance of the palm-coating on ARC gloves. BOC had serious concerns about flakes of neoprene from the ARC glove coating causing a risk of ignitions as the gloves started to wear. With some wearer’s gloves lasting less than an 8-hour shift before the coating started to disintegrate there was a serious safety and cost implication for BOC Gases and Linde Group.
Hazchem Safety provided ARC gloves for trial from 10 different manufacturers including gloves from Canada, USA, Germany, and the UK. The trials progressed over a period of 6 months and across several BOC manufacturing sites.
One by one all the options were eliminated until the Hexarmor Helix electrical insulating gloves emerged as the glove which provided the necessary level of protection, dexterity and grip combined with a longevity of over 10-times the worst performing brands.
The result has been a significant improvement in wearer safety and a cost-reduction for BOC and Linde Gases.