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“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
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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GARMENTS ADDRESS FLASH FIRE, ARC FLASH, CHEMICAL SPLASH & POOR VISIBILITY
Multitasking is everywhere. Not just in the way we live our lives, but also in the products we use every day. Our cellphones now access the internet and double as calculators, GPS systems, cameras and more. Our watches don’t just tell time, but also count our steps, monitor our heart rates and alert us when we have new text messages. So why shouldn’t our protective apparel serve more than one purpose as well?
According to Frost and Sullivan’s North American Industrial Protective Clothing Market Forecast to 2020, apparel with multiple protective functionalities is becoming increasingly popular. This isn’t surprising, considering that many occupations involve more than one hazard — and most people would rather not wear extra layers of protective apparel or change clothes several times throughout the day to address each hazard they might encounter.
DEFINING THE NEED
Protective clothing is only effective if it is worn consistently and correctly. The best way to encourage proper use is to make the protective apparel as comfortable and easy to wear as possible. By reducing the number of different garments and/or layers necessary for proper protection, you can help increase the likelihood that protective workwear won’t be worn improperly, or worse, forgotten or forgone entirely.
In this way, multi-hazard protective apparel is a major step in improving safety. It provides a much more convenient and practical way to address protection against common workplace hazards, helping inspire increased wearer compliance.
Due to the significant advantages multi-hazard protective clothing offers, a variety of garments have been developed to address some of the most common hazard combinations in today’s work environments.
FLASH FIRE AND ARC FLASH
While a variety of industries face both flash fire and arc flash, employees working in utilities or oil and gas may be particularly likely to need protection against these two hazards. As a result, there is a need for multi-hazard protective apparel that meets the unique demands of those industries.
To address this need, flame-resistant (FR) clothing manufacturers have begun developing garments that meet the requirements of both NFPA 2112, the Standard on Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire, and NFPA 70E, the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. Various multi-hazard protection options are even available to meet the specific requirements for each of the NFPA 70E personal protective equipment (PPE) categories. As an added bonus, some of these multi-hazard garments provide protection against small molten metal splatter as well.
CHEMICAL SPLASH AND THERMAL HAZARDS
In many environments where thermal hazards such as arc flash or flash fire are present, there is also a risk of chemical splash. This combination of hazards may be a concern for those working in laboratories, food processing, machinery and transportation, agriculture, or anywhere else flammable substances or liquid chemicals are present.
Fortunately, recent clothing innovations combining chemical-splash protective technology with FR fabric have made simultaneous protection against these hazards significantly more comfortable and convenient. You can now purchase lab coats that offer lightweight, breathable protection against both thermal hazards and inadvertent chemical splash — and other products aren’t far away.
POOR VISIBILITY AND THERMAL HAZARDS
It is not uncommon to find thermal hazards in work environments where there is also poor visibility, resulting in a need for both FR and high-visibility protection. Even if it is worn over FR clothing, non-FR high-visibility clothing can ignite, continue to burn and even melt when exposed to heat and flame, endangering the wearer. But choosing to forego high-visibility clothing can be just as dangerous.
To solve this problem, FR clothing manufacturers developed high-visibility FR clothing that meets the requirements of the ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Accessories as well as NFPA 70E and NFPA 2112. Now available in a variety of styles of vests, T-shirts and beyond, high-visibility FR clothing is a safety game-changer for workers in industries ranging from electrical utilities to oil and gas.
A FINAL NOTE
While multi-hazard protection can be the perfect solution in many work environments, it is not right for everyone. When selecting workwear, safety should always be the top priority. To evaluate the best protective clothing options for your workplace, begin by thoroughly assessing all potential hazards and consulting the applicable safety standards. From there, other factors such as comfort, long-term cost-effectiveness and style preferences should be taken into account.
If multi-hazard protection sounds like the right choice for you, remember that it is not all garments are created equal. In addition to providing combined protection against relevant hazards, the multi-hazard protection products you choose should be able to meet the demands of your work environment. For the best on-the-job performance and longest wear life, look for garments that are built for durability and made from high-quality, low-shrinkage fabrics. When it comes to comfort, you’ll want to find products that support ease of movement, fit properly, offer good breathability and help manage moisture. Since many of these factors are subjective, you may wish to work with a manufacturer that offers wear trials so you can test out your options before making a purchase.
Multi-hazard protection is already making a significant difference in safety, and these innovations are only the beginning. As work environments continue to evolve and the workwear industry shapes itself in response, new and better ways of protecting workers will continue to unfold.
When it comes to FR, the answer is: more than you might think. Even after assessing hazard risks and selecting the appropriate FR clothing, it also falls on the employer to ensure that each garment truly matches the hazard it’s designed to protect against. That’s why it’s especially important to identify proper labeling on the part of the manufacturer as an indicator that the garment is, indeed, fully compliant.
Read on to learn what to look for on your FR labels.
NFPA® and ASTM labeling requirements are strict, but not everyone follows the rules. Fraudulently labeled FR garments can often be identified by their violation of the standards. According to ASTM F1506 6.3, FR garments must be labeled with the following information:
6.3.1 Meets requirements of Performance Specification F1506
6.3.2 Manufacturer’s Name
6.3.3 Fabric Identifier
6.3.4 Garment Tracking and Identification Code
6.3.5 Size and other associated standard labeling
6.3.6 Care instructions and fiber content
6.3.7 Arc rating (ATPV) or arc rating (Ebt)
126.96.36.199 When garments are made with a different number of fabric layers in different areas of the garment, the arc rating for each area shall be designated. Pockets, trim, closures, seams, labels, and heraldry shall not be considered as extra layers.
That’s a lot of label, but it shows specific compliance, as opposed to labels that are misleading or omit critical information.
NFPA 2112, Chapter 4 provides clear requirements for shirts, pants, coveralls and outerwear. In addition to bearing the mark of the 3rd party certifier, the following words and the edition of the standard must appear on the label of a certified garment:
“This garment meets the requirements of NFPA 2112, Standard on Flame-Resistant Garments for the Protection of Industrial Personnel against Flash Fire, 2012 Edition. NFPA 2113 requires upper and lower body coverage.”
Beware of subtle changes in wording on the label that claim to meet a portion of the standard, but do not meet all requirements. For example, the following language does not meet the requirements of NFPA 2112:
“This garment meets the performance requirements of NFPA 70E-2009, ASTM F1506-02ae1, NFPA 2112-2007.”
There’s one more way to be sure your FR gear is fully compliant: Visit the UL website, where you can query to ensure that the garment has, in fact, been certified by UL.
While it may seem nitpicky, these standards for FR labeling are very important. They are designed to protect the FR provider and FR wearer from purchasing and wearing fraudulent FR garments, which do not meet the minimum requirements of FR safety.
Make a habit of reading your labels. Because when it comes to protecting yourself and your crew from the hazards associated with the job, you can never be too careful.
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.
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.