Can An Ink Pen Impact FR Performance?

can pen affect fr performanceWe regularly receive questions from customers about our products and the FR industry in general. We recently received a question that was so good, we thought it would be a great blog post discussing a potential problem that is often overlooked.

Question:    If an employee gets into a flash while having a writing utensil (any kind, pencil, pen, gel, marker) in a shirt pen pocket opening, can that pen create or become a hazard that would adversely impact the performance of the AR/FR garment?

Hello Dorothy. What a great question! ASTM F1506 has no language addressing this issue however they do have repeating language talking about items that “contribute to the extent of an injury” during an arc flash.

NFPA 70E has a section 130.6(D) regarding Conductive Articles Being Worn. They consider conductive articles to be watchbands, rings, key chains, necklaces and even metal frame glasses. They ask for these conductive items not to be worn within the restricted approach boundary.

Due to the metal clip, I believe your question about this pen would fall under the “conductive articles being worn” section of NFPA 70E. In my interpretation, even though this pen is separated from the wearer by a layer of arc rated material, I would advise that they remove the pen when within the restricted approach boundary or use a pen that does not contain exposed conductive metal.

In my opinion, I believe the greater danger is this pen with a conductive metal clip falling out of the pocket and making an electrical contact.

DATA POINT: Currently code allows metal to be used in the construction of arc and flame-resistant clothing (zippers for example) as long as they “do not contribute to the extent of an injury” and are “not in contact” with the skin.

There are rumblings in our industry to remove all metal from arc and flame-resistant clothing. This includes snap buttons on shirts and even brass zippers in pants. We are trying to be ahead of this trend when reasonable and have already replaced the shank on all pants to a non-conductive shank and use FR plastic zippers in place of brass on our jackets. Next will be using these same FR plastic zippers in our coveralls. Lastly, we have two customers who ask us to make their jeans with plastic zippers even though code allows brass to be used when it’s not exposed to the wearer.

In conclusion, and in my professional opinion, I would say it would be a good idea to ask your crew to not use pens with metal clips or uncapped ball point pens.

If you have questions about our products or other things FR related, contact us. We will do everything we can to provide you with the best answer possible.


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