A new arc for safety

A new arc for safety

Safety wear manufacturer Bova, a BBF Safety Group brand, has launched its range of Bova Arc Flash Protection garments. The range has been designed to provide a balance of inherent protection against the hazards of an arc flash, with lightweight, comfortable and durable garments.

An arc flash is the sudden release of electrical energy through the air when a high-voltage gap exists and there is a breakdown between conductors. This energy release comes in the form of an explosion that creates intense heat, force, noise and light.

Temperatures have been recorded as high as 20 000 ºC, and it is this intense heat and flames that can cause fatal burns – the risk of which is greatly reduced by using the correct personal protective equipment.

The Bova ARC range incorporates Beier’s I-ARC fabric; an innovative solution in thermal protection fabrics that was developed in collaboration with Lenzing, a global player in inherently flame-resistant (FR) fibres.

The I-ARC material is what gives the Bova Arc range a significant advantage in both comfort and its inherent FR protection. Inherent materials maintain their FR qualities and these cannot wash or wear away, even when subjected to everyday household detergents and bleach. The fabrics also offer strong abrasion resistance and low shrinkage.

“Power generation and distribution, maintenance industries and electrical contractors don’t always realise how important it is to wear the right protective garments. An arc flash is extremely dangerous and can affect people as far as seven metres away from the blast,” explains JW Eggink, technical sales specialist for thermal protection at BBF Safety Group.

“The shorter the person’s exposure to the resultant flame, the better the chances of survival and of less severe injuries, which is why the garments must have the ability to self-extinguish as quickly as possible.”

The standard for arc rated garments is that they can self-extinguish within two seconds once the exposure to a flame has been removed. However, since this is normally measured in laboratory conditions on an unused garment, Bova wanted to emulate these tests with more real-life laundering scenarios.

Internal tests were conducted after washes with an everyday household detergent that includes stain removal and fine print advising against washing FR materials. The chemically treated FR fabrics representative of a number of popular arc garments currently in use failed after as few as 15 washes and completely burnt out, whereas the I-ARC fabric at 15 washes didn’t ignite at all.

The bigger concern is that the treated fabrics showed no noticeable deterioration prior to their failure.

“This is probably the scariest factor,” adds Eggink. “Wearers may believe they are protected against potential burns when, in fact, their FR treated garments have lost their protective abilities. It is also the major benefit of inherently FR fabrics – so long as the garment is visually intact the wearer is protected, the FR quality does not wash or wear away. The other major benefit with the Bova range, specifically over other inherent FR garments, is the comfort factor.”

In any working environment, it is important to work comfortably. The Bova ARC range offers an exceptional weight to protection ratio.

For example, ARC CAT 2 garments use fabric weighing just 215 grams/m2 (gsm) which is almost 100 grams lighter than a number of other offerings with a similar arc thermal performance value (ATPV) rating. Furthermore, the Lenzing blended materials contain both hydrophilic (water-absorbing) and hydrophobic (water-resistant) fibres to create an evaporative cooling effect.

The Bova ARC range offers garments suited for both Category 2 and Category 4 arc hazards with ATPV ratings of 13 Cal/Cm2 and 52 Cal/Cm2 respectively. This allows wearers across different industries and arc hazard levels to benefit from the balance of inherent protection, durability and comfort.

Bova ARC garments are already locally manufactured and Bova has undertaken to increase its local development of the fabrics through the ongoing collaboration with the Beier Group and Lenzing. For added peace of mind, Lenzing FR fibres are made of botanic materials that come from sustainably managed forestry projects, ensuring the Bova ARC range is sourced through environmentally friendly channels.

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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