March 19, 2020 / Derek Sang

The ABC's of Flame-Resistant PPE

Sponsored by Bulwark

Building a PPE program that meets all safety requirements and your personal needs is not easy. You must select the right garments based on the unique hazards faced by workers in your industry, while also accounting for factors like comfort, durability, and laundering. But even the best PPE program in the world is ineffective without the proper implementation and training. Below, we’ll provide you with a step-by-step process for designing, implementing, and maintaining your PPE program.

Hazard Assessment
The first step in the creation of any PPE program is hazard assessment. Federal regulations require employers to assess the workplace to determine if hazards requiring the use of personal protective equipment are present or likely. Using the hazard assessment checklist, you will conduct a walk-through survey of the workplace to identify potential hazards. These include impacts, combustible dust, fire or heat, and chemical hazards, among others. When conducting your assessment, be sure to consider workplace, procedural, and environmental hazards.

Selecting the Right PPE
Once you’ve established the need for PPE, it’s time to determine the degree of protection required based on the hazards of your concern. You do this by matching the hazard to the regulations, which inform what, if any, PPE is required. Industry consensus standards may be used to guide selection decisions. For the main industries Bulwark serves, the hazards and standards are as follows:

  • Oil and gas workers, including those in exploration, drilling, field services, refinement, and chemical, face the known hazard of flash fire, a rapidly moving flame front that expands through diffuse fuel without creating blast pressure. NFPA 2112 and NFPA 2113 are the “go-to” industry consensus standards that address flash fire. NFPA 2113 focuses on how organizations and employers—as well as individual wearers—should choose the correct garment based on certain criteria.
  • Electric utility workers, including those working in the transmission, distribution, generation, and metering of power utilities, are exposed to hazards associated with electrical energy, primarily electrical arcs or arc flashes.
  • General industry: Wherever workers may be exposed to hazards associated with electrical energy, employers must make sure they are protected. These include electricians, maintenance workers, and operators. NFPA 70E requires AR (or arc-rated) clothing for any potential exposure above 1.2 cal/cm2, which equals the onset of a second-degree burn. The level of protection must be based on the task at hand, and most general industry tasks will require PPE rated Category 2 (which has a minimum arc rating of 8 cal/cm2) or higher. It’s necessary to carefully consider the actual risk associated with a job and to match the protection category accordingly.

NOTE: NFPA 70E applies only to general industry electrical safety. To address specific circumstances for utility, OSHA published 1910.269 and 1926.960, which state that power utilities are required to wear arc-rated clothing that matches the potential threat as determined by a proper hazard analysis.

Employers implementing a PPE program are required by OSHA 1910.132(f)(1) and all industry consensus standards to provide training to each employee. According to OSHA, each employee who is required to wear PPE should at least know when it is necessary, what exactly is necessary, the do’s and don’ts of proper wear, what its limitations are, and how to properly care for it.

NFPA 2112 A.5.1.1 offers specific requirements for the information employers must provide to their employees.

Proper care and maintenance of FR/AR clothing is essential to the effectiveness of your PPE program. While most industry standards recommend following the instructions provided by compliant garment manufacturers, some standards offer specific guidance, and there are a few basic rules that apply across all relevant standards:

1. Do not use any kind of bleach or peroxide.

2. Do not use any additive that could build up and impede FR performance.

3. Wash FR/AR garments separately.

4. Turn FR/AR garments inside out to help color retention and preserve appearance.

5. Use liquid detergent for best results.

6. Avoid the hottest temperature to reduce the impact of shrinkage.

7. For tough stains, apply liquid detergent or stain remover and soak the garment.

8. For even tougher stains, Bulwark FR garments can be dry cleaned.

9. Tumble dry on low setting and do not over dry.

10. Rewash garments with lingering odor.

11. Never use DEET or any other flammable substances on FR/AR clothing.

12. Any repairs must be made with fabrics that match the protection level of the original garment.

More specific regulations about PPE maintenance are defined in NFPA 2113 and NFPA 70E.

Derek Sang

Derek Sang is technical training manager at Bulwark.


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