Many employers depend on flame-resistant, arc-rated (FR/AR) workwear and PPE (personal protective equipment) to keep their workers safe, but there can often be confusion about using FR/AR appropriately. Using too much or too little can pose an active danger to wearers, restricting mobility or giving them inadequate protection.
Westex®: A Milliken Brand, is a world-renowned producer of FR/AR garments for high-risk industries such as Oil & Gas. PCIAW® has reached out to Westex® to share its expertise in FR/AR and how to use it effectively.
How can an employer determine when FR/AR protection is required for their workers?
Enlist the services of a qualified safety professional for a thermal hazard analysis and risk assessment to determine if appropriate FR/AR clothing is worn by electricians and utility line workers to protect against catastrophic burn injury, burns of which will likely occur if non-FR workwear is worn and ignites.
PPE through secondary protective apparel (FR/AR clothing) is designed for continuous wear for protection against intermittent short-term thermal exposures such as flash fire, arc flash or molten metal/welding slag. For assistance with workplace hazard analysis of potential short-duration thermal exposures from fire (flash fire) hazards, see NFPA 2113, Chapter 4.2 Workplace Hazard Analysis.
For electrical arc flash hazards, consult a qualified safety professional and a qualified electrical engineer familiar with your electrical system to perform the arc flash risk assessment. See NFPA 70E, Article 130.5 – Arc Flash Risk Assessment for guidance in determining the need for additional protective measures, including the selection of appropriate arc-rated clothing/PPE for the task/work environment.
Common roles and environments which require FR/AR
In the refining, chemical and oil/gas drilling industries, FR/AR clothing is commonly needed and worn by workers in proximity to flammable materials during process operations. Potential job tasks performed in these work environments could increase the possibility of flammable material release from a mechanical failure.
A line could break, resulting in released fuel in the air, and when coupled with a spark from a dropped tool or another ignition source it could expose the worker to a flash fire. See NFPA 2113 for assistance in determining which job roles and work environments could require FR/AR PPE.
For arc flash protection when working on energised electrical equipment, which can occur in general industry as well as the utility industry, appropriate FR/AR clothing is worn by electricians and utility line workers to protect against catastrophic body burns if non-FR/AR workwear is worn and ignites.
Appropriate FR/AR clothing will protect not only against garment ignition but it will also provide insulation protection against second-degree burns through the fabric. See NFPA 70E for general industry or OSHA CFR 1910.269 for utility line workers for more information on how to select the appropriate FR/AR clothing for the arc flash hazard.
Steelworkers and welders typically wear FR/AR cotton-rich garments for protection against molten iron splash and welding slag from ferrous metals.
How Westex® protects workers
Westex® offers a wide range of FR/AR fabrics grouped into three main categories:
- 1) Versatile, cotton-rich fabrics
- 2) Lightweight TENCEL™ Lyocell* /FR modacrylic/aramid blends
- 3) Aramids (made with Nomex® IIIA fibres)
Additionally, when selecting FR/AR fabrics for your organisation’s protective clothing program think: P, C, V, V.
P- Protection: What thermal hazard(s) are you protecting against, and what consensus (NFPA, ASTM) standards should the fabric meet?
C- Comfort: Comfort = Protection. If the fabric is too heavy, doesn’t breathe or wick moisture, it may not be worn.
V- Value: Is the FR fabric durable? Does it shrink excessively? Bonus: does the FR/AR fabric blend have fibres from recyclable and/or renewable sources?
V- Versatility: Does the protective fabric provide protection against multiple hazards: arc flash, flash fire, molten metal/welding slag and visibility?
Westex®-branded FR/AR fabrics are guaranteed flame resistant for the life of the garment (when the garment is maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions) and the fabrics exceed consensus industry standards such as NFPA 2112.
Staying at the forefront of FR/AR innovation
Westex® utilises regional market managers in key market segments to find out what end users are looking for in terms of thermal hazard protection and comfort. Westex® as a part of Milliken & Company, has numerous PhD researchers that develop, with the help of end-user feedback, the latest FR/AR technology to provide comfortable, durable, multi-hazard protective textiles for use in ‘want to wear” FR/AR clothing.
*(TENCEL™ is a trademark of Lenzing AG)
**(All Imagery provided by Westex®)