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 release of energy 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 PPE.
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 leader in inherently Flame Resistant (FR) fibres.
The I-ARC material gives the Bova Arc range a significant advantage in both comfort and its inherent FR protection, as if it is built into the fabric’s DNA. With the Bova brand priding itself on being Engineered with Purpose, the significant benefits of having inherently FR properties was seen as a non-negotiable as opposed to having garments with a chemical FR treatment. 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 7 metres away from the blast. 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,” explains JW Eggink, Technical Sales Specialist for Thermal Protection at BBF Safety Group.The standard for arc rated garments is that they can self-extinguish within 2 seconds once the exposure to a flame has been removed. However, 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 every day 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 a superior weight to protection ratio – The lighter weight of the garments across both Category 2 and Category 4 compared to leading competitors add to the proven comfort provided by the fabric’s breathable properties and good moisture management; ensuring the wearer can still feel cool and dry while benefiting from the inherent FR protection.
For example, ARC CAT 2 garments utilise 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 superior balance of inherent protection, durability and comfort.
As part of its economic and social responsibility, Bova ARC garments are already locally manufactured and Bova has undertaken to increase its local development of the fabrics further 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 sustainable managed forestry projects, ensuring the Bova ARC range is sourced through environmentally friendly channels.