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Make no mistake—keeping FR on their backs falls squarely on your shoulders. In the United States, the responsibility for worker safety rests solely on the employer. In 1970, the OSH Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and established the “general duty clause,” which delegated authority to OSHA to set the rules for implementing the standard.
The General Duty Clause states:
(a) Each employer –-
(1) shall furnish to each of his or her employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;
(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.1
When OSHA was first established in 1970, existing private professional organizations had already begun publishing safety standards and best practices specific to their industries and/or hazards. So, rather than trying to address every possible scenario in which an employee could be hurt and how to manage each, OSHA looked to these well-established entities to define the specifics. In fact, many of OSHA’s permanent standards originated as national consensus standards developed by organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
The General Duty Clause requires employers to be aware of all actual and potential workplace hazards and to take necessary precautions to protect their employees. The only problem is, it doesn’t tell employers how they are supposed to do it.
Therefore, it falls on the employer not just to follow the rules, but also to determine the rules that apply to them and to enforce those rules.
Overall, employers are responsible for:
1. Referring to the industry consensus standards that meet OSHA requirements
2. Determining which standards are applicable
3. Reading and understanding the standards
4. Finding the right PPE suitable to meet the standards
5. Ensuring PPE is compliant
6. Ensuring employees know how to—and do—use and care for their PPE properly.
So, if you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders—you’re not so far off. That’s why Bulwark arms you with FR training and expertise to help ease the pressure and keep your guys safe.
Arming your crew with the appropriate FR gear is a feat in itself. Navigating the ever-changing sea of standards? Now that’s another beast entirely. Bulwark is here to help you choose the right FR program by ensuring you have a thorough grasp on the standards and what they mean for you—and your crew.
When the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) introduced the term “Arc-Rated” or “AR” in its 2012 revision to NFPA 70E, it was a bit of a head-scratcher. The question on every safety manager’s mind was: what’s the difference between AR and FR? According to Bulwark’s Technical Training Manager, Derek Sang, the most basic and important thing to know when it comes to AR and FR is that all arc-rated clothing is flame resistant, but not all flame resistant clothing is arc-rated.
For a piece of clothing to be considered flame resistant, the fabric used to make the garment must withstand ignition and/or rapidly self-extinguish in order to protect the wearer from the dangers of flash fire, arc flash, molten metals and other hazards. In the event of a flash fire or arc flash, the FR PPE worn must resist catching fire, melting, and continuing to burn after the initial flash to act as a barrier between the wearer and the hazard.
The fabric used to create arc-rated clothing is subject to additional tests, above and beyond fabric labeled simply “FR.” Primarily, it is exposed to a series of arc flashes to determine how much energy the fabric is able to block before it would likely cause the wearer to obtain a 2nd degree burn, 50% of the time. The result of this test, expressed in calories, is known as the Arc Thermal Performance Value (ATPV).
Current standards for arc flash protection, detailed by NFPA 70E, state that all PPE clothing must also be flame resistant to qualify for an arc rating. In other words: all AR clothing is FR, but not all FR clothing is AR. This is because, based on the results of the series of tests outlined above, equipment rated FR may not always provide the adequate level of protection for workers who are at risk of encountering arc flashes. These employees—general industry electricians (70E)— must wear the appropriate level of AR clothing for the hazard, in order to reduce their risk of serious injury or death caused by an arc flash.
Workers in the oil and gas and electric utility industries frequently face flash fire, arc flash and heat stress hazards. But one hazard that may not be as talked about is cold stress. Cold stress occurs when skin temperature drops, lowering internal body temperatures and disabling the body’s ability to warm itself. It can lead to several medical conditions, including trench foot, chilblains, frostbite and hypothermia.
Warning signs of cold stress:
• Teeth chattering
• Cold, stinging, aching
• Loss of coordination
• Dilated pupils
• Slurred speech
• Disorientation and confusion
• Unusual fatigue
According to OSHA General Duty Clause, the responsibility for worker safety is squarely on the employer. According to Section 5(a)(1):
Each employer (1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees; (2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
Tips on how you can reduce cold stress for you and your team:
• Train workers on the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and work practices to reduce cold stress risk
• Implement safe work practices
• Help workers who are used to working in warm areas build up a tolerance for working in the cold environment
• Schedule maintenance and repair jobs for warmer months
• Schedule cold-weather jobs for the warmer parts of the day
• Reduce the physical demands of workers
• Use relief workers or assign extra workers for long, demanding jobs
• Provide workers with warm liquids
• Provide workers with warm areas during peak cold periods
• Include a thermometer and chemical hot packs in first aid kits
• Train workers to avoid touching cold metal surfaces with bare skin
• Monitor workers’ physical condition and have them monitor their coworkers
Another great method to keep workers safe from potential cold stress is to utilize a layering system. A layering system allows workers the flexibility to remain more comfortable and safer in a variety of conditions. As long as the layers are compliant to the assessed hazard and are layered correctly according to industry regulations. Try Bulwark Protection’s Arc Rating Calculator to see how your layers add up.
Here are a few critical considerations when layering FR/AR garments:
• Always layer FR/AR garments underneath FR/AR outerwear
• The arc rating of the outermost FR/AR layer must be sufficient to prevent break open and ignition of any flammable base layer
• Non-FR/AR outerwear should never be worn over FR/AR garments
Cold stress shouldn’t be a risk you and your team overlook. That’s why it’s not only important to incorporate a comprehensive layered PPE program, but to be aware of the warning signs of cold stress and how you can reduce the risk.