Posted by Melissa Hall in #YHSafetyTips, Jul 17, 2019
Flame resistant (FR) clothing is PPE that should be provided at no cost to employees who are at risk of exposure to flames or electric arcs.
Electric arcs are a serious safety hazard, especially in the electric power industry. Arc blasts or flash hazards include very high temperatures over fractions of a second, hot gases, and an intense pressure wave from the explosion that is equivalent to having a hand grenade explode only inches away. Shrapnel from vaporized and molten metal particles may also be present. Arc related injuries could include minor or severe burns, blindness, hearing and memory loss, broken bones, and even death. If a worker is exposed to an arc, the lack or presence of FR clothing may play a role in the severity of a possible injury.
Updated in April 2014, the “269” standard, OSHA 29 CFR1910.269 states:
“The employer shall ensure that each employee who is exposed to the hazards of flames or electric arcs does not wear clothing that, when exposed to flames or electric arcs, could increase the extent of injury that would be sustained by the employee. This apparel standard applies to all apparel worn by an employee exposed to the hazards of flames or electric arcs.” The 2014 update also shifted the thoughts from “FR should do no harm” to “FR clothing is personal protective equipment.”
What is FR Clothing
FR clothing is not made from synthetic materials including acetate, nylon, polyester, or rayon, but is instead made from natural fibers that have been engineered to be fire-resistant. Two common FR fabrics include 100% cotton and a blend of 88% cotton / 12% nylon.
Other fabrics and fiber blends to look for when selecting your FR clothing include:
FR clothing comes in a variety of styles and apparel including coveralls, shirts, base layers, safety vests, high visibility clothing, hoods, and gloves.
OSHA states that clothing made from 100% cotton or wool may be acceptable as long as it is an appropriate weight for the flame and electric arc conditions to which a worker may be exposed, but 100% cotton can burn if exposed to an ignition source.
OSHA 20 CFR 1926.95(a) outlines that PPE “shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition.” Employers may provide laundering services for FR clothing or they may train employees in proper laundering procedures and inspect clothing on a regular basis to ensure clothing is not in need of repair or replacement.
FR clothing is divided into category 1 – category 4 based on job task and the level of protection needed. Category 1 is low risk and has a required minimum arc rating of 4 while category 4 is high risk and requires clothing that has an arc rating of 40.
Laundering FR Clothing
OSHA 29 CFR 1926.95(a) states that protective equipment “shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition.”
If employers expect employees to launder their own FR clothing, then the employers must train employees on proper laundering procedures, inspect clothing on a regular basis, and inform employees with their clothing when it needs repair or replacement. If employers are not willing to follow these steps the employers take responsibility for laundering FR clothing.
Investing in FR clothing to ensure workers who are properly outfitted for their jobs helps lessen the risk of severe or potentially fatal injuries on the job.
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