Can I Wear an N95 or Other Respirator in an Arc Flash Exposure?

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Can I Wear an N95 or Other Respirator in an Arc Flash Exposure?

***NOTE: e-Hazard and ArcWear do not sell PPE.  ArcWear does testing, and e-Hazard does electrical safety training on NFPA 70E and OSHA standards.  We are not recommending a course of action.  We are providing information in an international crisis in which essential workers have to work but must stay safe from multiple hazards.***

Are there standards for testing respirators for arc flash?

There is no ASTM, IEC or NFPA standard for testing respirators for arc flash.  There is an NFPA standard for firefighter’s SCBAs, but it does not cover arc flash.  In this blog, we are providing two test reports and a peer-reviewed paper that support using firefighter’s respirators as non-contributory in an arc flash to certain levels and reports showing a low risk for using common respirators UNDER a faceshield or hood at certain levels. (See below for the links.)

NFPA 70E states, “130.7(C)(12) Clothing and Other Apparel Not Permitted. Clothing and other apparel (such as hard hat liners and hair nets) made from materials that do not meet the requirements of 130.7(C)(11) regarding melting or made from materials that do not meet the flammability requirements shall not be permitted to be worn.

Informational Note: Some flame-resistant fabrics, such as non-flame-resistant modacrylic and nondurable flame-retardant treatments of cotton, are not recommended for industrial electrical or utility applications.

Exception No. 1: Nonmelting, flammable (non–arc-rated) materials shall be permitted to be used as underlayers to arc-rated clothing, as described in 130.7(C)(11).

Exception No. 2: Where the work to be performed inside the arc flash boundary exposes the worker to multiple hazards, such as airborne contaminants, and the risk assessment identifies that the level of protection is adequate to address the arc flash hazard, non–arc-rated PPE shall be permitted.”

So the AHJ can make exceptions.

This data is provided to offer guidance on this issue.

This data report is free and was paid for by ArcWear, the DOE or a CA Utility which did not want to be identified.

PUBLIC Report DOE K25 on N95 Masks from 2010

PUBLIC REPORT- DOE 0604F, Respirator Evaluation April 2006 ArcWear e-Hazard.pdf

N95 non-FR and FR Respirator Arc Testing Evaluations 1908P49- 52 Public Service of ArcWear e-Hazard.pdf

PUBLIC Report On Boots and Respirators for Canadian Nuclear Energy Group

For ideas on sanitizing and disinfecting PPE,  see our blog, Is is OK to Share Arc Flash and Electrical PPE?  More is coming on this from our test lab.

If you want consulting on this subject or others, we are happy to offer a consulting webinar from e-Hazard on these subjects to go into more detail. Sign up on our request for services page.

Hugh Hoagland

does research and testing of PPE exposed to electrical arcs and is an arc flash expert. Hugh is a Sr. Consultant at ArcWear and Sr. Partner at e-Hazard. Read more about Hugh.

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