AR vs. FR Workwear - What’s The Difference?

Trying to choose between arc-rated (AR) or flame-resistant (FR) workwear? While they sound similar, these two types of safety apparel are entirely different and your job might require one or both types of protection. You need a clear understanding of AR vs FR clothing, which work environments require each, and how to select the best option for the demands of your workplace.

You might discover that you need to be outfitted in both AR and FR gear from head to toe, including flame-resistant and arc-rated pants and shirts, or that you only need to look for FR apparel. We’ll help you differentiate between the two and determine your workwear needs in this guide.

AR & FR Clothing Similarities

What is true of both arc-rated and flame-resistant clothing -- what do they have in common?

  • Both are types of safety apparel that are designed to increase your chances of survival and safety in the event of a dangerous workplace event, like a flash fire or electrical arc flash.
  • Both are flame-resistant and melt-resistant to protect your skin and will self-extinguish after the ignition source is removed.
  • Both offer thermal insulation to protect you from short exposure to high temperatures.
  • Both offer durable protection from flames or arc flashes that last through laundering.

Comparing AR vs FR Clothing

What is the difference between FR and AR clothing? Flame-resistant (FR) clothing is engineered to self-extinguish and protect workers from fire hazards like sparks, heat, and flash fires. Arc-rated (AR) clothing protects workers from dangerous electric arcs when working closely with live electrical systems or conductive tools.

What is arc-rated clothing? AR clothing is constructed with special materials that protect your skin from burns in the event of an electric arc flash. Arc-rated clothing must be tested to determine its PPE classification (how much protection it offers against electric arc flashes) to meet CSA Z462 or NFPA 70E standards, but FR clothing does not. Electric arc flashes can surge to temperatures over 19,400°C in a split second, so AR clothing has to offer stronger protection than FR clothing. All AR clothing is flame-resistant, but not all FR clothing is arc-rated. If you work in any role that could expose you to electric arcs with a potential incident energy exposure above 1.2 cal/cm2, like the automotive, construction, electrical, mining, petroleum, or manufacturing industries, you will likely need AR, not just FR, workwear.

You’ll recognize quality AR workwear when you see it because it’s required to be labeled to indicate its arc rating, tracking code, and fabric. AR workwear must be tested for things like vertical flammability, tear resistance, breaking load, and design standards (like no metal fasteners in contact with skin and FR sewing thread). Choosing a trusted brand like MWG Apparel for AR clothing ensures you’re getting third-party tested workwear that meets or exceeds industry standards to keep you safe from arc flashes at work.

What is FR clothing? FR workwear is required in environments that expose you to flash fire or flame risks, like wildland firefighting, oil & gas, mining, some manufacturing jobs, and more. FR clothing is made with heat-resistant materials that can withstand high temperatures and prevent serious burns on the job. It self-extinguishes in contact with sparks or flames to prevent the fabric from melting into the skin or continually burning against the skin.

FR clothing in Canada must comply with CGSB 155.20 standards, which makes third-party testing optional (but at MWG Apparel, every fabric and garment is tested for exposure through Aitex to ensure safety). FR clothing has to meet minimum performance requirements for thermal stability, heat resistance, vertical flammability, durability through laundering, and less than 40% burn after exposure to 3-second flash fires.

Choose the Best AR or FR Workwear
Whether your work environment calls for AR or FR workwear, it must be able to withstand the demands of your job, be comfortable and durable enough for long-term wear, and meet or exceed industry standards and safety regulations. MWG Apparel is your trusted source for arc-rated and flame-resistant clothing. Shop our diverse range of styles with impeccable quality, made specifically for the rigors of your demanding work environment.
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