When you think about establishing a successful FR clothing program, what “check list” items immediately spring to mind? Generally speaking, the first two mental steps people in this industry take are: 1.) Evaluating the thermal hazard you are providing protection for; and 2.) Selecting the appropriate FR garments for that hazard.
But for your FR program to be fully effective, you need to look beyond just choosing the right gear for the environment you and your crew are working in. You need to examine every layer closely, beginning with your base layers.
Fact is, an FR clothing program is not fully defined if it does not place restrictions or set guidelines on clothing to be worn under the FR uniform. In the worst circumstances, lack of guidance on base layer clothing can leave an employee at risk for injuries. Consider, for a moment, the extent of an injury that could be sustained by someone wearing a t-shirt made of synthetic fibers under their FR clothing. Sure, the outermost FR layer will self-extinguish in a thermal event. But enough thermal energy could transfer to the t-shirt underneath, causing it to melt to the wearer’s skin.
One simple way to manage this issue is to mandate that all undergarments be made of 100% cotton or other natural fiber. However, this option places the responsibility of choosing compliant clothing squarely on the employee. And, it will require additional “policing” on your behalf.
In our opinion, the most comprehensive approach is for the employer to specify and issue the appropriate FR base layers to be worn under the company’s FR uniforms. By doing so, not only are you taking the choice of undergarments out of the hands of your employees, and the questions of whether or not they have the right fiber content against their skin out of the equation. You will also be providing a second layer of FR protection should they inadvertently leave a shirt unbuttoned or untucked in a moment of complacency. (A layer that, believe it or not, can also provide greater comfort; most FR undergarments pull sweat away from the body to help keep workers cool and dry.)
In the case of protection against electric arc exposure, only FR layers can contribute to a composite ATPV rating, so issuing an FR base layer to be worn under an FR shirt may increase ATPV and possibly increase protection.
So, there you have it. Your base layer basics, compliments of the world’s #1 FR brand. Next time you’re evaluating your FR program, please keep these tips top of mind. And don’t let your undergarments become an oversight.
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According to NFPA® 70E section 130.7 (C) (12) (a), non-melting flammable garments (i.e., non-FR) are permitted to be worn under FR garments for added protection. In fact, putting an extra layer of clothing between your skin and your outer FR layers can provide an added level of protection and has the further benefit of absorbing perspiration to keep you drier and more comfortable in warmer months, and insulate you against the elements in cold weather.
So, what does that mean for you? For starters, meltable fibers such as acetate, nylon, polyester, polypropylene, and spandex cannot be used in the layer closest to your skin. Why? Because in the event of a flash fire or electric arc, some heat will inevitably pass through the outer layer of FR and cause a T-shirt to melt, if it is made from synthetic materials like those fabrics mentioned above. The melting of these materials can significantly increase the burn injury. Undergarments made with natural fibers are permitted by the standards as they will not add to the injury. Assuming there is no break open of the outer layer and the outer layer is worn correctly (tucked-in), both of these scenarios could allow for the base layer made with natural fibers to ignite.
When it comes to layering your FR, the best solution to maximize both safety and comfort is to opt for an FR base layer, like those offered by Bulwark. Our FR base layers are designed to wick moisture and keep you comfortable, while increasing your overall protection by eliminating ignition.
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You know you need to be wearing FR. And you know your FR clothing has to meet—or better yet, exceed—your required ATPV. A layered FR system is one great way to ensure you’re protected and keep you comfortable.
But FR layering can get tricky. It’s not as simple as adding up the arc ratings of each layer. For instance, the Bulwark Long Sleeve FR Two-Tone Base Layer- EXCEL FR® on its own carries an ATPV of 6.4 calories/cm². And the Deluxe Coverall – CoolTouch® 2 – 7 oz. carries an ATPV of 9.0 calories/cm² (KH). However, when combined as a layered FR system, the two garments have a layered arc rating of 21 calories/cm2 and a layered CAT rating of 2. As you can see, that’s significantly higher than the total ATPV if you simply combined the two garments’ arc ratings. This is the result of a number of factors, one of which is the additional layer of air between the layers that creates added insulation.
That brings us to another crucial aspect of FR layering, and one that causes a lot of confusion among safety professionals. Do the standards permit you to layer non-FR undergarments beneath your FR garments?
The answer, in short, is yes, if it is beneath the outer FR layer:
According to NFPA® 70E section 130.7 (C) (12) (a), non-melting flammable garments (i.e., non-FR) are permitted to be worn under FR garments for added protection.
In fact, as we demonstrated above, putting an extra layer of fabric between your skin and your outer FR layers can provide an added level of protection—even if the garment is not FR. It has the further benefit of absorbing perspiration to keep you drier and more comfortable in warmer months, while insulating you against the elements in cold weather. However, that layer—and the added protection it affords the wearer—will not count toward achieving the required arc rating of the complete FR layered system. Any protection it provides is considered above and beyond the ATPV already met by the FR garments.
It is also important to note that meltable fibers such as acetate, nylon, polyester, polypropylene, and spandex cannot be used in the layer closest to your skin. Because in the event of a flash fire or electric arc, some heat will inevitably pass through the outer layer of FR and cause a T-shirt to melt if it is made from synthetic materials like those fabrics mentioned above. The melting of these materials can significantly increase the burn injury. Undergarments made with natural fibers are permitted, as they will not add to the injury. However, that is assuming there is no break open of the outer layer and the outer layer is worn correctly (tucked-in), both of these scenarios could allow for the base layer made with natural fibers to ignite.
As such, when it comes to layering your FR, the best solution to maximize both safety and comfort is to opt for an FR base layer, like those offered by Bulwark. Our FR base layers are designed to wick moisture and keep you comfortable, while increasing your overall protection by eliminating the threat of ignition. And, since these FR base layers are arc rated, they can contribute to your overall layered system arc rating. Meaning you can achieve or even exceed your required protection level, often with a combination of lighter weight FR fabric.
To simplify the FR layering process, we worked with our very own FR experts to design the Bulwark Arc Rating Calculator—an online tool that allows you to quickly and simply determine the total system arc rating for over 400 combinations of Bulwark FR garments.
“How do I help my guys stay cool in the hot summer months?” That may be the #1 question we at Bulwark receive this time of year, every year. The world’s #1 FR brand is here to help guide you with some cold, hard facts.
1. Remember the 3 Rs: Rehydrate, Rest and Recognize
Rehydrate: Drink cool water often and before you feel thirsty.
Rest: Take breaks in shaded/air-conditioned areas: Especially when daytime temps are at their peak. Shorter, more frequent work/rest cycles are best.
Recognize: Learn to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness in yourself and others; and report concerns immediately.
2. NEVER Cheat In The Heat
Keep shirts buttoned, sleeves rolled down, and tucked in. FR clothing can only protect you if worn properly.
3. The Right Base Layers Boost Comfort
Wicking base layers move perspiration from the skin outward, to allow for faster evaporation, and constant comfort.
An FR base layer adds protection and might even allow for the use of a lighter weight shirt without sacrificing ATPV/ Protection.
ALWAYS select a base layer that is flame resistant or at least 100% cotton
AR, FR, ATPV, OSHA. The list goes on and on. If there’s one thing that’s true about FR safety, it’s that there are a lot of terms to memorize. It’s not always easy to keep the various words and acronyms straight, but when it comes to building and implementing an effective safety program, knowing your FR vocabulary is important. Here, our FR experts have compiled the most important of those terms in a handy alphabetized glossary so you can create a culture of compliance.
An arc flash is a type of electrical explosion where temperatures can reach or exceed 35,000 °F. The Arc Flash hazard affects all who work in and around energized electrical equipment. This can include general industry electricians, maintenance workers and operators, as well as our electric utilities, including transmission, distribution, generation and metering.
Arc-Rated (AR) Protective Clothing
Arc-rated protective clothing protects from arc flash and electric arc hazards. AR garments are measured in cal/cm². The total AR clothing system must meet or exceed required arc protection levels. Remember, all AR is FR, but not all FR is AR.
Breakopen is the formation of holes in the fabric during arc rating testing. This is the point of failure of FR protective garments.
Energy Break-Open Threshold is an alternative measure to ATPV when that measure cannot be used due to breakopen.
A rapid moving flame front that can be caused by a diffuse fuel, such as dust, gas, or the vapors of an ignitable liquid, without the production of damaging pressure. Flash fire is the primary hazard in the Oil & Gas industry, which includes exploration, drilling, field services and refining.
Hazard Risk Assessment
The first step in the creation of any PPE program is the Hazard Assessment. Federal regulations require employers to assess the workplace to determine if hazards that require the use of personal protective equipment are present or are likely to be present. These include impacts, combustible dust, fire/heat, and chemical hazards, among others.
HRC (Hazard Risk Category)
Hazard risk categories are defined by NFPA® 70E and assigned based on risk associated with electrical safety and arc flash. HRC levels determine the appropriate ATPV of flame-resistant clothing for a given task.
Replaces HRC in 2015 edition of NFPA 70E, the “0” category was eliminated in NFPA 70E 2015. The minimum ATPV’s for PPE Category 1 through 4 are the same as they were for HRC, and the new PPE table only specifies PPE for work within the arc flash boundary.
HRC 2 rated garments have an arc rating between 8 cal/cm² and 25 cal/cm² and are often referred to as “daily wear.”
HRC 3 rated garments have an arc rating between 25 cal/cm² and 40 cal/cm².
HRC 4 rated garments have an arc rating equal or greater than 40 cal/cm². These high ratings are achieved with a layered FR system. Download our FR Layering Fact Sheet to learn the do’s and don’ts of layering for FR.
Inherently Flame Resistant
Inherently flame resistant fabrics are engineered to be flame-resistant at the fiber level, and do not require any additional finishing.
The National Fire Protection Association is an agency whose task it is to promote and improve fire protection and prevention. They publish National Fire Codes.
Refers to NFPA’s “Standard on Flame Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire.” NFPA® 2112 is the “go-to” industry consensus standard that addresses flash fire. It defines the testing methods and performance requirements for flame-resistant fabrics for this hazard.
The “Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace,” NFPA® 70E is meant to protect those working around potential arc flash hazards. Note that NFPA® 70E applies only to general industry electrical safety, not to electric utility workers.
Founded by the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) mission is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” Their general duty clause ensures a safe workplace for all employees and is the basis for all industry consensus standards. OSHA determines regulations and standards related to personal protective equipment.
The regulation states that power utilities make reasonable estimates of the incident heat energy to which their employee would be exposed, and that employees exposed to hazards from electric arcs wear AR clothing and other protective equipment with an arc rating greater than or equal to the estimated heat energy.
Founded in 1918, The American National Standards Institute coordinates and develops voluntary standards for products, services, and systems. The organization’s goals include performance consistency and product safety. It is the U.S. member body to ISO and IEC.
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
Personal protective equipment is specialized safety gear worn by an employee for protection against a hazard. Flame resistant/arc rated garments are a form of personal protective clothing worn against thermal hazards.
Moisture wicking fabrics pull moisture (sweat) away from the body and dry quickly, keeping the wearer cooler, dryer, and more comfortable. Bulwark iQ Series® FR Comfort Knits and Wovens are among the best moisture wicking FR garments available.
Breathability refers to how well a fabric allows air to be transmitted through the material. The more air that passes through, the cooler the wearer stays. Bulwark iQ Series® Endurance Collection is the first of its kind to offer high level FR protection in a material that is extremely breathable and durable.
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.
The work you and your team accomplish is tough – and the weather doesn’t always cooperate. That’s why it’s important to be dressed properly while on the job, especially as winter approaches. Our FR experts give their top five tips when it comes to choosing the right FR outerwear, so you can prepare for the cold weather.
Knowing your hazard should be at the top of your list when choosing FR ¬— no matter what type of garment you’re selecting. Choose FR clothing that meets or exceeds all relevant safety standards per your hazard assessment, such as ASTM 1506, NFPA 2112 and NFPA 70E.
When your guys need to work outside, layering is key for staying warm. But layers need to be safe and compliant first and foremost. You need to think about the fabric for each item and ensure the FR/AR integrity of each layer. The best solution for maximizing both safety and comfort is to choose FR layers specifically designed to wick moisture, including FR base layers.
Breathability and Moisture Management
Overheating and perspiring are not only uncomfortable but also potentially dangerous. FR outerwear that is made from moisture-wicking fabrics helps to prevent chilling and hypothermia. You should also look for breathable layers to prevent overheating and to reduce trapped moisture.
Ease of Movement
Mobility is key while performing tasks out in the field. Tight clothing reduces blood circulation. It’s important to look for clothing that allows for ease of movement. Look for product features like pleats and gussets to provide maximum range of motion.
Even the smallest of details can make a huge difference in the performance of FR outerwear. Features like water-resistant finishes, comfort-enhancing knit cuffs, zip-in hoods and elastic waistbands can improve the functionality of FR outerwear.
When the forecast calls for cold weather make sure your guys are armed with the right FR outerwear for all-day comfort and protection.
To learn more about Bulwark’s extensive collection of FR outerwear, get in touch with a sales rep today.