March 11, 2013
Many companies call me to ask what is the proper way to wear FRC (flame-resistant clothing). NFPA 2113, the standard on selection, care, use and maintenance of Flame Resistance Garments for protection of industrial personnel against flash fire, does not give us any guidance on how to actually wear the garments. Without a formal standard to go by, most employers look to industry consensus for this guidance. The following guidelines may help you to choose secondary flame-resistant clothing to keep you as safe as possible in the workplace.
First of all, choose proper fitting clothing. You will want the garments to be large enough to create a layer of “air” insulation in between the FRC and your undergarments. This layer of insulation can reduce the amount of heat that can transfer through the FRC in an exposure to flash fire or electric arc. You must always wear 100% natural fiber undergarments that will not melt. Most man made fabrics that are used in athletic under garments will melt in a thermal exposure and would cause significant injury even though the FRC performed exactly as it should. Lastly, be sure that the garments are not too big. Many industrial workers suffer injury every year from getting loose fitting clothing caught in equipment and machinery. Proper fitting clothing will be more comfortable and will last longer than garments that are too small or too big.
You must always keep your FRC free of any flammable soils. This can be difficult when working at chemical plants, refineries, or in oil and gas drilling operations but the rule of thumb is to always replace soiled FRC with clean garments when they are introduced to anything that is flammable. The flammable soils will ignite when introduced to an ignition source. Bulwark offers a disposable FR coverall to be worn over your regular FRC that can be used in heavy soil environments. The garments must be worn with the shirt or coverall buttoned, zipped, or snapped as high as possible. Sleeves must never be rolled up, and shirt tails should always be tucked in. Always remember the chances of surviving a thermal event is greatly determined by percentage of body burn and your age. Just remember, the more of your body that is covered by FRC, the greater the chance of survival.
Always ensure that your outer most layer is FR. In all my years of providing quality FRC I have seen many companies offering secondary FRC but not providing their employees with FR outerwear or rainwear. Your FRC will not provide the protection you need in a thermal event if your jacket or rainwear burns or melts.