Arc Flash and Winter Underwear

Arc Flash and Winter Underwear

Arc flash can melt synthetic underwear right to your skin. Wear arc-rated base layers, socks and briefs beneath an arc-rated jacket.

An arc-rated coat may seem like an all-protective shield, but don’t be fooled. Thermal hazards are just waiting to overheat your non-arc-rated undergarments!

What about spandex waistbands? In this podcast, Dan Clark reviews the 2015 OSHA clarifications on the flammability of spandex.

Also, hear about the polyester molecule that’s flame-resistant in modern arc-rated wear (AR).


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Dan Clark: Arc flash winter underwear? Electrical workers layer up to avoid cold stress. Do all their layers need to be flame resistant or arc-rated? Find out in a moment.

Hi, I’m Dan Clark with The Safety Brief. We take on health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites, a service of Creative Safety Supply. Hey, by the way, save 10 percent off your entire order at with coupon code BIG10.

Can workers facing electrical hazards just wear arc-rated outerwear? No. The entire outfit needs to protect from arc flash. Arc-rated coats and jackets make you THINK you’re wearing a force field, but think again. An arc flash can ignite non-arc-rated shirts, socks or even underwear underneath the protective jacket.

Remember: Meltable fabrics shall not be worn touching the skin. Even the socks and undies.

Clothing made from polyesters, acetate, nylon, rayon and other synthetics will fuse to your hide, even if blended with wool or cotton.

Employers have to make sure employees follow these guidelines, according to OSHA’s 2014 ruling change. When pressed in 2015, OSHA even cleared up the vague world of elastic in underwear and socks. Their response:

[shadowbox]“OSHA expects that clothing systems worn in accordance with the requirements … will ensure that elastic in underwear and socks is not exposed to heat energy that would cause it to melt onto the employees skin or ignite and continue to burn”[/shadowbox]

That means OSHA thinks your arc-rated outerwear will protect the elastic from being torched. I wonder if they did tests on that.

So, what types of layers should a fashion-forward electrical worker wear in the dead of winter? Many manufacturers make arc-rated base layers, socks and briefs.

Select moisture wicking arc-rated stuff. Knit fabrics allow the most movement.

Arc-rated polyesters are now available. These are a new kind that don’t melt. Milliken, a couple of years ago, discovered a way to make a flame-resistant polyester molecule. Bulwark and Westex by Milliken are two brands that use the fabric.

If you wear cotton arc-rated fabric, stop to change that undershirt when it gets soaked with sweat. You know, cotton doesn’t retain heat when wet.

Well, no matter if it’s modern FR polyester or old-school wool and cotton PPE, make sure to make sure to wear it. It can’t save you if you don’t.

That’s all for this episode, Arc Flash and Winter Underwear. Join me again for more ways to stay safety compliant in today’s always-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, a service of Creative Safety Supply. Save 10 percent off your entire order at with coupon code BIG10.


image of electricity 2008 by Pixabay / Wilhei

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