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Arc Flash and Flame Resistance: Do You Know the Difference?

by Joe Geng on December 15, 2015

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In 2012, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) updated the way that personal protective equipment is rated to differentiate between flame resistance (FR) and arc rated (AR).

Although they’re often used interchangeably, these two classifications mean very different things and the distinction between the two is important. Not all arc flash-resistant gloves are inherently flame resistant, and not all flame-resistant gloves are arc flash resistant.

Confused yet? Don’t be!

The NFPA updates were instituted so that you — the consumer — would know exactly what you’re buying, and whether or not it provides enough protection for your application. In a nutshell, the ratings tell you whether your equipment will insulate against heat and resist ignition, or self-extinguish — and at what rate.


Welder wearing proper hand protection

“Wherever burns are a hazard, arc flash and flame-resistant gloves are your best friends.”



Arc Rated Vs. Flame Resistance:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that insulates against heat and flame is considered flame resistant. However, since there are varying degrees of resistance, that’s why the new guidelines are so important. Industrial Safety and Hygiene News explains that fabrics that are arc resistant are also flame resistant. However, certain fabrics can be flame resistant to a lesser degree — which means that they are not actually arc flash resistant.

Here’s what you need to know: industrial testing determines whether or not the fabric resists ignition or extinguishes on its own after the source of ignition is removed. When it comes to arc-resistant gloves, even if they don’t actually catch fire, the person wearing the gloves can still suffer from burns if exposed to flame. Yikes! Pretty scary, right?

AR testing determines how much energy the fabric can block out before the wearer experiences a second degree burn in half of the testing results. This rating is the Arc Thermal Protective Value (or ATPV) and if the fabric is shown to break before that threshold is reached it’s called the Energy Breakopen Threshold (or EBT).


Flame-Resistant Gloves:

Although not every application requires the extreme protection that an arc-rated glove provides, anyone who works with sparks or flames should be wearing these types of gloves.

Here are a few examples of industries that would benefit from some added protection against flame resistance:

  • Petrochemicals
  • Oil and gas
  • Electronics
  • Mining
  • Military
  • Some welding applications

When flame-resistant Rhovyl® Sure Knit gloves are exposed to heat or direct flame, the fabric doesn’t drip, melt, or stick to skin — even though they’re as lightweight as nylon! The ESD-carbon filament they feature also provides anti-static protection. As an added bonus, these gloves protect against extreme cold, and you can launder them without having to worry about damage to any of their protective properties! Like our S13FRT pictured below.

S13FRT Flame Resistant Rhovyl® Anti-Static String-Knit Gloves
S13FRT Flame Resistant Rhovyl® Anti-Static String-Knit Gloves

Arc Flash-Rated Gloves

These gloves it up a notch. Along with an arc flash rating they may offer additional protection against hazards like cut or puncture resistance. Where flash fire and exposure to excessive heat are high risk hazards, arc-resistant gloves are a great choice.

If you work in any of these industries, you should consider arc flash rated gloves:

  • Automotive
  • Steel mills
  • Construction
  • Mining
  • Utilities
  • Petroleum

Arc resistance should match the needs of the job. For example, the Clutch Gear® Hi-Viz Flame-Resistant Arc-Resistant Anti-Impact Mechanics Gloves are arc hazard Category 2 rated, and they also provide stellar impact resistance. It’s a great glove for minimizing the risk of a wide range of injuries — including burns.

MXVSBFR-Superior-Glove-clutch-gear-hi-viz-flame-resistant-arc-flash-anti-impact-mechanics-glovesS13FRT Flame Resistant Rhovyl® Anti-Static String-Knit Gloves


Flame and arc flash resistance are not the same thing, but they both protect your hands from burns. It’s just a matter of how much protection you need, and the type of application you’re working in.

For lighter-duty work, flame resistant gloves are just what you need and in jobs where there’s a risk of flash fire and extreme heat, arc flash rated gloves are your safest bet.

(Want to try a pair of Arc Flash Resistant gloves for yourself? Click the button below the image!)

Dexterity® Flame-Resistant Arc Flash Glove with Neoprene PalmDexterity® Flame-Resistant Arc Flash Glove with Neoprene Palm

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I always assumed that all AR are FR.

Reply FR Clothing - July 29, 2016

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