NFPA 70E NEW Tucking in AR Shirts Rule

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Electrical workers are required to wear arc rated/flame resistant clothing when doing energized electrical work. A majority of workers wear AR/FR pants with long sleeved shirts tucked into the pants. However, some workers prefer wearing AR/FR bib overalls with an AR/FR long sleeved shirt. This leaves open the question of whether it matters if the shirt is worn underneath or over the bib overalls. The new 2015 NFPA 70E will have a requirement to tuck the shirt into the pants but the wording will not likely cover a bib overall.
It is important to consider two factors when deciding whether or not to tuck the shirt into the bib overalls when working in an energized electrical environment.
First, the worker may be wearing an AR t-shirt tucked into the bib and adding a long sleeved shirt when working in an energized area. If this is the case, it probably doesn’t make a difference whether the shirt is tucked in or not. The energy coming up under the shirt would likely hit the bib and if it came up from the back would not ignite the t-shirt.
Second, the worker could be wearing a non-FR t-shirt or no t-shirt at all under the bib, with the long sleeved shirt over the bib for energized work. This is a different animal. Here, the t-shirt can possibly ignite if energy comes underneath, or the skin can be burned from energy under the shirt. This is less likely in the front than in the back. While this might not be specifically mentioned in the new rules, it is something to consider when working in an electrically energized environment.
Regarding t-shirts, it is important to note AR t-shirts pose a low risk if any at all. However, non-AR t-shirts pose a little risk but less with bib overalls than with pants. In training we remind workers to “Tuck, button and roll down the sleeves before doing energized work.  This will reduce the risk of ignition of undergarments and protect better than allowing energy under a shirt in those odd circumstances.

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.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Try keeping a shirt tucked in while climbing and working in a linemans belt. Bet they didn’t consider that aspect.

    1. Hugh Hoagland
      Hugh Hoagland

      That wasn’t the intent. Climbing should have no flash hazard. It is when working energized they are shooting for. Just do your best, wearing an AR t-shirt underneath takes away most of the risk from untucked shirts.

  2. Avatar

    One question I hear all of the time is whether or not the gap that is created up the sleeve when you button the cuff of the sleeve is acceptable. Is there a regulation to gaps in the clothing exposing skin?

    1. Hugh Hoagland
      Hugh Hoagland

      There is no regulation on this for arc flash or flash fire. Obviously you want clothing to fit properly. Normally in an exposure the proper PPE will include gloves or VR and AR gloves which should cover this interface. In accidents we don’t see a lot of burns in the interface of the cuffs because we have the gloves on in most work.

      Hugh Hoagland

  3. Avatar
    Richard Lujan

    Hi Hugh! Do you have any stats or incidents describing the risk of not tucking in an FR shirt (not just in coveralls) when working in an energized environment? We utilize a 100% cotton t-shirt under an HRC2 long sleeve shirt. We constantly remind our team to do so, but it helps to share stats, incidents, etc. to reinforce the importance of this critical practice.

    1. Hugh Hoagland
      Hugh Hoagland

      Stats on these types of details are difficult since incident investigations do not typically contain these types of details. I can state that I have seen more than one t-shirt ignition and body burn from arc flash due to garments not being tucked in.

      OSHA mentioned this issue in 1910.269 in the preamble and NFPA 70E mentioned it also in the 2015 version. This issue is why many petrochemcial companies do not allow shirt/pant combo on site and require coveralls.

      This is a critical practice that can somewhat negate wearing the right PPE. How and what you wear do make a difference.

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