When you are wearing flame-resistant (FR) clothing, it doesn’t mean that you’re already 100% fireproof. Flame-resistant clothing is just the same as other personal protective equipment (PPE) - it helps minimize exposure to hazards but you could still get hurt if you don’t use it properly.
Welding, cutting, brazing, and grinding are all examples of hot work that can result in a fire or injury. So, to help you in ensuring a safe and healthy workplace whenever hot work is performed, we will go over the most typical mistakes employees make when wearing flame-resistant clothing. But, first, let's go back to the basics.
NFPA Standards on FR Clothing
As you may know, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides standards for proper personal protective equipment in the workplace. According to NFPA 70E, employers are required to analyze the workplace, calculate arc flash fire boundaries, and determine the appropriate PPE for flame-resistant and arc-rated applications.
Meanwhile, the NFPA 2112 specifies a minimum performance requirement for FR clothing that can be used on a specific worksite and considered as such. Likewise, the NFPA 2113 standard provides details on how these clothes should be worn for work as well as how to clean and maintain them.
What are the different types of FR clothing?
The NFPA 70E standard states that, “when flame resistant clothing is worn to protect an employee, it shall cover all ignitable clothing and shall allow for movement and visibility.” Below are some of the most common FR clothing:
- Coveralls - one-piece garments that are worn over personal clothes or base-layer FR clothing. Unlike separate shirts and pants, they provide continuous coverage over the worker's front, back, arms, and legs, preventing sparks and splatters from entering the waist area.
- Parka Jackets - a zip-up garment that is used over personal clothes or base-layer flame-resistant clothing. It offers the necessary protection from both cold and hot work without losing the required FR clothing features.
- Arc Suits - these are arc-rated garments meant to protect against burns produced by arc flashes. They do not ignite, melt, or leak, and will not lead to more arc blast injuries.
Top 5 Common Mistakes When Wearing FR Clothing
1. Outer Layer Clothing Is Not Flame-Resistant
It might be tempting to wear a fashionable outer layer to keep yourself in style or as added protection against cold weather. But, a non-FR outer layer can still easily catch fire.
Even though your inner clothing may be flame-resistant, non-flame-resistant outer clothing can still ignite and burn, thus putting you in danger. Thus, it’s important to invest in flame-resistant outer clothing for colder months, such as FR parka jackets. Such type of clothing is worth buying because it provides required protection both from cold weather and burns.
2. Inner Layer Clothing Is Not Flame-Resistant
Shirts can protect you from sweat, especially during the warmer months. However, it’s important to ensure that you wear FR clothing for your undershirts or nothing at all.
Even if you’re wearing a flame-resistant outer layer of workwear, non-flame-resistant underclothes can still catch fire. This can expose you to burns since garments of polyester or other synthetic materials can quickly ignite and burn when in contact with fire. These materials can also melt onto your skin.
3. Rolling Up Your Sleeves
Want to beat the heat by rolling up your sleeves? If we’re talking safety, then that is not a good idea. Rolling up your sleeves will expose your hands and arms to flash fires, welding splatters, or other potential dangers.
To remain comfortable while also ensuring your safety, make sure to wear flame-resistant clothing that is lightweight and moisture-wicking.
4. Leaving Your FR Clothing Unbuttoned or Unzipped
Just as you should avoid rolling up your sleeves, you should also avoid leaving your flame-resistant clothing unbuttoned or unzipped. Leaving your PPE unbuttoned or unzipped is like placing your safety glasses on top of your head and not wearing it properly to protect your eyes. It can expose your skin to life-threatening hazards.
Always ensure that you wear your flame-resistant clothing and other PPE properly.
5. Leaving Your Shirt Untucked
Always make sure that your inner shirts are tucked in. Heat and flame can go through it and that may result in serious injury. Consider buying flame-resistant clothing designed to have long shirttails that you can tuck into your pants.
As aforementioned, always remember to use flame-resistant clothing.
What are the Types of Explosive Hazards?
Below are some of the explosive hazards that every worker must learn to recognize:
- Electrical arc flash: It is a continuous discharge of electrical energy that results in a massive electrical explosion with temperatures reaching 20,000 degrees Celsius. Among those at risk are electricians and utility workers.
- Flash fire: It is a short-duration fire that spreads by means of a flame front rapidly through a diffuse fuel, such as dust, gas, or the vapors of an ignitable liquid, without the production of damaging pressure. Among those at risk are pharmaceutical, chemical, and refinery workers.
- Combustible dust: Also known as "explosive dust." It is any fine solid particle that has the ability to disperse in air and catch fire and explode when exposed to an ignition source. Among those at risk are workers in food processing plants, the paper and pulp industry, etc.
Fire and explosives present a significant risk to any business as they can kill or seriously injure workers. As a result, it is critical to strictly enforce the use of flame-resistant clothes during working hours. It is also vital that this FR apparel meets the requirements in order for it to be effective.
Plus, don't forget to wear FR outerwear, avoid synthetic under layers, roll down FR workwear sleeves, zip it up, and tuck it in.