Laundry Mistakes that Cost you Money – Arc Flash Suits

EIN author TerryBecker 400

April 14, 2022

EIN TB Arc Flash Suit smBy Terry Becker, P.Eng., CESCP, IEEE Senior Member

It is just as important to know how to clean and launder Arc Flash PPE as it is to have it.  You purchased this specialized equipment to save lives, so knowing how not to diminish the protective qualities of that equipment so that it is up to par when needed is extremely important. 

The following information is provided by the Oberon Company Oberon Company.

Cleaning vs. Disinfecting

In all situations where PPE, tools and equipment are used by workers, employers must ensure all surfaces that can be touched by workers have been cleaned and disinfected.

However, cleaning is not the same as disinfecting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines cleaning vs. disinfecting as follows:

Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

The important distinction to be made here is that cleaning your PPE is not enough to kill germs and viruses. To protect your workers, you must also disinfect it between each use. When it comes to Arc Flash PPE this is a complicated process as we have both porous and non-porous surfaces. For example, a face shield is considered a non-porous surface and can be easily cleaned. The fabric portion of an Arc Flash Suit would be considered a porous surface and is much more difficult to disinfect.

How to Clean and Disinfect an Arc Flash Suit

The fabric portion of a suit is very porous which creates a very challenging proposition when it comes to disinfection. One method currently available is to turn the suit inside out and spray with an approved disinfectant on the inside of the hood and suit. While this will not kill 100% of all bacteria and viruses, it is one of the best defenses currently available. When spraying the inside of the suit and hood, be careful not to get any spray on the outside of the suit. It is also very important to let the suit dry completely before putting it back into service.

Another method to disinfect the suit is to launder it according to the directions on the label. If higher temperatures are needed to kill bacteria and viruses the suits can be washed and dried at higher temperatures without diminishing their protective qualities. This may, however, cause additional shrinkage that could hamper the overall fit of the suit.

As a third method, consult your local commercial laundering facility and inquire what options are available that will clean and disinfect Arc Flash PPE according to ASTM F1449 Standards.

*Caution: When consulting your commercial laundering facility it is important to note that any deviation from the washing instructions has the potential to damage the protective properties of the suit. Please consult your local Oberon representative for further guidance on this topic.

Please submit any questions or comments to Terry Becker, P.Eng., CESCP, IEEE Senior Member via email terry.becker@twbesc.ca

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