Even the most comprehensive safety program can only mitigate—not eliminate—risk associated with the flash fire hazard. A reliable and controllable means of protecting employees from harm is the proper use of PPE. In a flash fire context, flame resistant clothing provides further protection and offers a foundational defense. This paper guides safety managers and purchasers in the selection, use, care and maintenance of clothing for flash fire protection that’s compliant with the industry consensus standard NFPA® 2112.
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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.
OXNARD, Calif. (Feb. 19, 2018) — From fires and explosions to sharp objects, pathogens and dangerous chemicals, laboratories are home to a variety of hazards. To help promote lab safety, Workrite Uniform Company — a manufacturer of protective workwear, including lab coats — recommends following these safety tips.
1. ESTABLISH A COMPREHENSIVE SAFETY PROGRAM
Based on the hazards in your laboratory and the applicable safety standards and regulations, determine the equipment, procedures, emergency protocols and environmental conditions that will best facilitate safety. Be sure to document the program and complete ongoing audits as needed.
2. CREATE A CULTURE OF SAFETY
Once you’ve established a safety program, it is important to communicate all safety information clearly and ensure laboratory personnel and visitors fully understand the actions they need to take. Make sure that safety is treated as a top priority and that each individual has the safety resources they need and feels comfortable bringing up safety concerns.
3. FOLLOW SAFE WORK PRACTICES
Outlining safety procedures is one thing — following them consistently is another. Even basics such as keeping food out of the lab, storing chemicals correctly, practicing good housekeeping in work areas and washing your hands can easily be forgotten. Remember that skipping a step even once can have devastating consequences.
4. USE THE PROPER PPE
Personal protective equipment (PPE) can include lab coats, safety glasses or goggles, gloves, and beyond. Always ensure that the equipment you select is designed for the hazards present in your laboratory. For example, you may need lab coats that are flame-resistant (FR), offer chemical-splash protection (CP) or provide a combination of both (FR/CP).
5. REGULARLY RE-EVALUATE YOUR APPROACH
Even if you have a strong safety program in place and have gone awhile without an accident, it is still important to be vigilant. Stay on the lookout for potential safety issues as well as new innovations in laboratory safety, and continue to improve your program over time.
Workrite Uniform manufactures chemical-splash protection (CP) lab coats, flame-resistant (FR) lab coats and FR/CP lab coats that combine thermal and chemical-splash protection in a single garment.
Laboratory workers are often exposed to an abundance of flammable and combustible liquids that pose the risk of burn injury. Employers that implement a PPE program that’s specific to lab hazards will help protect workers and labs from the outcomes of serious injuries from exposure to these hazards. This whitepaper provides employers with information on the uses and benefits of FR/CP and CP lab coats.
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Depending on the line of work you’re in, there are any number of dangers you may encounter on the job. From slip-and-fall hazards to those due to working at height, there’s PPE to help keep you protected. When it comes to thermal hazards, your FR clothing protects you against two main hazards: Flash Fire and Arc Flash.
A flash fire is 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. In the Oil & Gas industry, which includes exploration, drilling, field services and refining, flash fires are the primary hazard FR protects against.
NFPA® 2112 and NFPA® 2113 are the “go-to” industry consensus standards that address flash fire. Once safety managers have identified they have a flash fire hazard, FR is necessary. Selecting the appropriate FR garments for your safety program should be based on a number of factors such as protection, comfort and durability.
An arc flash is a powerful and dangerous occurrence where an electric current leaves its anticipated path and travels from phase to phase, or phase to ground. The resulting explosion produces extremely high temperatures, acoustic energy and concussive force. When a person is in close proximity to the arc flash, serious burn injury and even death can occur.
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. As employers, it is your responsibility to ensure that all employees exposed to the hazard are protected with arc-rated flame-resistant clothing.
No matter which hazard your FR clothing is designed to address, the success of any program is dependent upon the proper selection, use, care and maintenance of your FR program. For more information on how to select the right FR for your needs and tips on implementing a FR clothing program, get in touch with a Bulwark FR expert.
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.
NFPA® 2112 is the well-known and often quoted safety standard to those who work in the Oil & Gas Industry — no matter where they fall in the stream. And while 2112 is an important standard on how to specify the minimum performance requirements and test methods for flame-resistant fabrics and components, it does not provide any guidance for the selection, use, care, and maintenance of FR clothing. NFPA® 2113 is your go-to safety standard in regard to building your FR clothing program.
NFPA® 2113 walks safety professionals through their hazard assessment, explains how to specify clothing based on the requirements of NFPA® 2112. NFPA 2113 is where you will find proper care and maintenance addressed. NFPA® 2112 lays out the minimum performance requirements and test methods that FR garments must meet in order to enter the market, while NFPA® 2113 focuses on minimizing the health and safety risks by choosing the correct garment based on the proper selection criteria and how to properly wear FR garments in the field.
In addition to proper care and maintenance, NFPA 2113 stipulates the training guidelines that help ensure your program is in compliance with OSHA 1910.132, the often cited regulation when FR clothing programs fail to meet OSHA requirements.
Even though NFPA 2112 may get all the headlines and recognition as a safety professional NFPA 2113 is your go-to standard.
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There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to the terms “treated” and “inherent” FR. What’s the difference? And, more importantly, does one offer better protection than the other? In short, the answer is no. But in order to understand why, we must start by understanding what these terms mean and why they were applied to FR fabric in the first place.
Definition & Engineering
“Inherent” FR refers to a fabric that has FR properties—defined by the fabric’s ability to self-extinguish when the ignition source is removed—by its very nature, as a core property. In other words, a fabric is FR without any additional finishing. “Treated” FR on the other hand, refers to a fabric that has been engineered with flame-retardant chemistry to have FR properties that were not present prior to the treatment.
There are 3 levels at which FR properties can be achieved:
• The Molecular Level – Synthetic derivatives are engineered at the molecular level to be FR (e.g., Nomex, Kermel, Twaron, Kevlar, etc.)
• The Fiber Level – At this level, flame-retardant chemicals are added to the process prior to the fiber being extruded (e.g., FR Modacrylics, FR Rayons)
• The Fabric Level – FR properties are permanently imparted into flammable fabrics through a combination of chemical and mechanical processes (e.g., FR Cotton, 88/12)
When these terms were adopted by the FR world over 30 years ago, they reflected the durability of flame resistant technology at that time. Back then, the intent was to imply that “Inherent” was superior to “treated.” Why? Because at one time, it was true. Cotton and other cellulosic materials are naturally flammable, so they do have to undergo a chemical process, or “treatment,” to impart FR properties. And these early “treated” garments did lose their FR properties over time and after repeated washings. Treated fabrics, prior to 1987, could not compete with aramids as a durable FR alternative.
Over the past 30 years, however, we’ve made dramatic advancements in FR technology that have blurred the lines between these two terms. “Inherent” and “treated” have become so common and so misused that the terms now create more confusion than clarity. Most popular FR fabrics today are blends of several different fibers, and this has created confusion on where and when to apply the current labels. Because “inherent” and “treated” refer to single fiber types, they fail to accurately represent today’s complex blends—which sometimes combine all 3 engineering levels. For example, what should we call a fabric that is 35% Aramid (engineered at the molecular level) and 65% FR cotton (engineered at the fiber level)? When a fabric is a combination of both inherent and treated FR fabrics, and with no rules in place about how to apply the terms, they become more confusing than helpful.
FR technology has come a long way. The fabrics in use today are far superior to those of just a generation previous, and the terms we use to discuss them must make the same evolution. The bottom line is, when it comes to selecting FR fabrics, the most important considerations should always be protection, comfort and durability. No matter which fabric you select, be sure that you can count on the FR properties to last, wash after wash. Bulwark offers an FR guarantee for the lifetime of the garment, on all of our products. To ensure your safety program does what it’s supposed to do: keep you and your guys safe.
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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The best defense for you and your team is to stay educated on how you can reduce injury in the case of an arc flash. The Bulwark Protection PPE experts provide a wide range of tools and resources on how to select the right FR and tips on how to properly implement a safety program.