Treated vs. Inherent FR

19 Jun

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There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to the terms “treated” and “inherent” FR. What’s the difference? And, more importantly, does one offer better protection than the other? In short, the answer is no. But in order to understand why, we must start by understanding what these terms mean and why they were applied to FR fabric in the first place.

 

Definition & Engineering

“Inherent” FR refers to a fabric that has FR properties—defined by the fabric’s ability to self-extinguish when the ignition source is removed—by its very nature, as a core property. In other words, a fabric is FR without any additional finishing. “Treated” FR on the other hand, refers to a fabric that has been engineered with flame-retardant chemistry to have FR properties that were not present prior to the treatment.

 

There are 3 levels at which FR properties can be achieved:

  • The Molecular Level – Synthetic derivatives are engineered at the molecular level to be FR (e.g., Nomex, Kermel, Twaron, Kevlar, etc.)
  • The Fiber Level – At this level, flame-retardant chemicals are added to the process prior to the fiber being extruded (e.g., FR Modacrylics, FR Rayons)
  • The Fabric Level – FR properties are permanently imparted into flammable fabrics through a combination of chemical and mechanical processes (e.g., FR Cotton, 88/12)

 

History

When these terms were adopted by the FR world over 30 years ago, they reflected the durability of flame resistant technology at that time. Back then, the intent was to imply that “Inherent” was superior to “treated.” Why? Because at one time, it was true. Cotton and other cellulosic materials are naturally flammable, so they do have to undergo a chemical process, or “treatment,” to impart FR properties. And these early “treated” garments did lose their FR properties over time and after repeated washings. Treated fabrics, prior to 1987, could not compete with aramids as a durable FR alternative.

 

Evolution


Over the past 30 years, however, we’ve made dramatic advancements in FR technology that have blurred the lines between these two terms. “Inherent” and “treated” have become so common and so misused that the terms now create more confusion than clarity. Most popular FR fabrics today are blends of several different fibers, and this has created confusion on where and when to apply the current labels. Because “inherent” and “treated” refer to single fiber types, they fail to accurately represent today’s complex blends—which sometimes combine all 3 engineering levels. For example, what should we call a fabric that is 35% Aramid (engineered at the molecular level) and 65% FR cotton (engineered at the fiber level)? When a fabric is a combination of both inherent and treated FR fabrics, and with no rules in place about how to apply the terms, they become more confusing than helpful.

 

Conclusion


FR technology has come a long way. The fabrics in use today are far superior to those of just a generation previous, and the terms we use to discuss them must make the same evolution. The bottom line is, when it comes to selecting FR fabrics, the most important considerations should always be protection, comfort and durability. No matter which fabric you select, be sure that you can count on the FR properties to last, wash after wash. Bulwark offers an FR guarantee for the lifetime of the garment, on all of our products. To ensure your safety program does what it’s supposed to do: keep you and your guys safe.

To explore Bulwark’s FR fabric selection and learn more about our lifetime guarantee, get in contact with one of our sales reps today.

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FR Glossary

25 May

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AR, FR, ATPV, OSHA. The list goes on and on. If there’s one thing that’s true about FR safety, it’s that there are a lot of terms to memorize. It’s not always easy to keep the various words and acronyms straight, but when it comes to building and implementing an effective safety program, knowing your FR vocabulary is important. Here, our FR experts have compiled the most important of those terms in a handy alphabetized glossary so you can create a culture of compliance.

 

Arc Flash
An arc flash is a type of electrical explosion where temperatures can reach or exceed 35,000 °F. The Arc Flash hazard affects all who work in and around energized electrical equipment. This can include general industry electricians, maintenance workers and operators, as well as our electric utilities, including transmission, distribution, generation and metering.

 

Arc-Rated (AR) Protective Clothing
Arc-rated protective clothing protects from arc flash and electric arc hazards. AR garments are measured in cal/cm². The total AR clothing system must meet or exceed required arc protection levels. Remember, all AR is FR, but not all FR is AR.

 

Breakopen
Breakopen is the formation of holes in the fabric during arc rating testing. This is the point of failure of FR protective garments.

 

EBT
Energy Break-Open Threshold is an alternative measure to ATPV when that measure cannot be used due to breakopen.

 

Flash Fire
A rapid moving flame front that can be caused by a diffuse fuel, such as dust, gas, or the vapors of an ignitable liquid, without the production of damaging pressure. Flash fire is the primary hazard in the Oil & Gas industry, which includes exploration, drilling, field services and refining.

 

Hazard Risk Assessment
The first step in the creation of any PPE program is the Hazard Assessment. Federal regulations require employers to assess the workplace to determine if hazards that require the use of personal protective equipment are present or are likely to be present. These include impacts, combustible dust, fire/heat, and chemical hazards, among others.

 

HRC (Hazard Risk Category)
Hazard risk categories are defined by NFPA® 70E and assigned based on risk associated with electrical safety and arc flash. HRC levels determine the appropriate ATPV of flame resistant clothing for a given task.

 

PPE Category
Replaces HRC in 2015 edition of NFPA 70E, the “0” category was eliminated in NFPA 70E 2015. The minimum ATPV’s for PPE Category 1 through 4 are the same as they were for HRC, and the new PPE table only specifies PPE for work within the arc flash boundary.

 

CAT 2
HRC 2 rated garments have an arc rating between 8 cal/cm² and 25 cal/cm² and are often referred to as “daily wear.”

 

CAT 3
HRC 3 rated garments have an arc rating between 25 cal/cm² and 40 cal/cm².

 

CAT 4
HRC 4 rated garments have an arc rating equal or greater than 40 cal/cm². These high ratings are achieved with a layered FR system. Download our FR Layering Fact Sheet to learn the do’s and don’ts of layering for FR.

 

Inherently Flame Resistant
Inherently flame resistant fabrics are engineered to be flame-resistant at the fiber level, and do not require any additional finishing.

 

NFPA®
The National Fire Protection Association is an agency whose task it is to promote and improve fire protection and prevention. They publish National Fire Codes.

 

NFPA® 2112
Refers to NFPA’s “Standard on Flame Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire.” NFPA® 2112 is the “go-to” industry consensus standard that addresses flash fire. It defines the testing methods and performance requirements for flame-resistant fabrics for this hazard.

 

NFPA® 70E
The “Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace,” NFPA® 70E is meant to protect those working around potential arc flash hazards. Note that NFPA® 70E applies only to general industry electrical safety, not to electric utility workers.

 

OSHA
Founded by the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) mission is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” Their general duty clause ensures a safe workplace for all employees and is the basis for all industry consensus standards. OSHA determines regulations and standards related to personal protective equipment.

 

OSHA 1910.269
The regulation states that power utilities make reasonable estimates of the incident heat energy to which their employee would be exposed, and that employees exposed to hazards from electric arcs wear AR clothing and other protective equipment with an arc rating greater than or equal to the estimated heat energy.

 

ANSI
Founded in 1918, The American National Standards Institute coordinates and develops voluntary standards for products, services, and systems. The organization’s goals include performance consistency and product safety. It is the U.S. member body to ISO and IEC.

 

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
Personal protective equipment is specialized safety gear worn by an employee for protection against a hazard. Flame resistant/arc rated garments are a form of personal protective clothing worn against thermal hazards.

 

Moisture Wicking
Moisture wicking fabrics pull moisture (sweat) away from the body and dry quickly, keeping the wearer cooler, dryer, and more comfortable. Bulwark iQ Series® FR Comfort Knits and Wovens are among the best moisture wicking FR garments available.

 

Breathability
Breathability refers to how well a fabric allows air to be transmitted through the material. The more air that passes through, the cooler the wearer stays. Bulwark iQ Series® Endurance Collection is the first of its kind to offer high level FR protection in a material that is extremely breathable and durable.

Top 10 Things To Consider Before You Buy FR

26 Jan

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It’s likely you know a thing or two about FR. You know that FR clothing protects your guys against severe burn injuries and even death as a result of thermal incidents on the job. You know it’s also required by law in many different industries, under many different regulations. But all FR is not created equal. Do you know all the factors to consider when making your FR purchase?

To help you make this important decision, the FR experts here at Bulwark have put together a list of their top 10 things to consider when buying FR. Read on to ensure the FR clothing you choose will keep your guys safe and compliant, no matter what the job throws at them.

 

TOP 10 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING FR CLOTHING:

 

  1. PROTECTION

Your number one priority should always be ensuring that your FR clothing offers the correct level of protection against your hazard, whether it’s electric arc, flash fire or combustible dust.

 

  1. GUARANTEE

Your FR clothing’s stated protection level should be guaranteed for the life of the garment. No exceptions.

 

  1. COMPLIANCE

Your FR clothing must meet, or better yet exceed, the safety and performance standards required by your industry, such as OSHA 1910.269 for Electric Utility and NFPA® 2112 for Oil & Gas.

 

  1. COMFORT

Your selected FR clothing should be comfortable to wear (cool, lightweight, moisture-wicking, breathable, fit properly) so it doesn’t interfere with job performance or cause additional safety concerns.

 

  1. MOISTURE MANAGEMENT

To avoid discomfort, FR clothing should be made from fabrics that provide moisture control, with sweat-wicking and fast-drying properties.

 

  1. FIT RETENTION

Your FR clothing should retain its size, shape and fit with minimal shrinking when laundered.

 

  1. FABRIC DURABILITY

Your FR clothing should be made with durable fabric that is strong enough to resist tears, rips and holes.

 

  1. GARMENT STRENGTH

The construction of your FR clothing should be sound, including strong seams and reinforced fabric in high-stress areas.

 

  1. COLOR RETENTION

Your FR garments should not lose their color after laundering.

 

  1. VENDOR SUPPORT

FR safety regulations are complicated. The company you buy from should offer the tools you need to better understand FR, navigate changing industry standards, build your business, and—above all else—create a culture of compliance.

 

 

2017: Keeping FR Safety Top of Mind

13 Dec

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It’s hard to believe, but 2017 is already coming to a close. It was a busy year for us here at Bulwark. We asked you to share your burning FR questions with us and answered them throughout the year in the form of blog posts, webinars, infographics, whitepapers and more. Click through the topics below to see the top stories of the year.

Give Your FR Some TLC

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Even the best safety programs will fail if the FR garments do not receive the proper care and maintenance. You can ensure your FR’s compliance and extend the life of the garments by adhering to the guidelines for washing, repairing and caring for your FR. Bulwark’s free FR Care & Maintenance posters break these rules down in simple terms to help you create a culture of compliance.

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Arc Ratings Whitepaper

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You know your crew needs to wear FR clothing that meets a certain arc rating. But do you understand what that protection level means or how FR fabric gets its arc rating? Our new whitepaper addresses the arc flash hazard, a brief history of the arc rating system and how it all comes together in the form of arc-rated FR fabrics to keep you and your crew compliant.

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Wear It Right

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Is your undershirt FR? Are your coveralls zipped up? Keeping track of the many elements of FR compliance can be a daunting task, but its importance can’t be overstated. To help keep safety top-of-mind, Bulwark is offering FREE “Wear it Right” FR safety posters illustrated with the complete Do’s and Don’ts of FR compliance.

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Get Your FR Questions Answered

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We want to hear from you! So this year, we introduced a new feature to help ensure the safety of every person in FR. You send us your FR questions, and our Bulwark team of experts provides an answer. We’ll also be featuring some of our favorite questions in our monthly newsletters. Take a moment to submit your most burning FR questions.

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Layer it on

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You know that layering your FR is the key to staying warm and compliant. But FR layering can get tricky. However, there are a few hard-and-fast rules to keep in mind. Our Bulwark University experts have compiled them in an FR layering fact sheet, to keep your layered system comfortable and compliant.

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The Lowdown on FR/AR Layering

16 May

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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.

Calculate Your Total System Arc Rating >

Shop FR Base Layers >

NFPA® 2113 vs. 2112

18 Apr

 

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NFPA® 2112 is the well-known and often quoted safety standard to those who work in the Oil & Gas Industry — no matter where they fall in the stream. And while 2112 is an important standard on how to specify the minimum performance requirements and test methods for flame-resistant fabrics and components, it does not provide any guidance for the selection, use, care, and maintenance of FR clothing. NFPA® 2113 is your go-to safety standard in regard to building your FR clothing program.

NFPA® 2113 walks safety professionals through their hazard assessment, explains how to specify clothing based on the requirements of NFPA® 2112.  NFPA 2113 is where you will find proper care and maintenance addressed. NFPA® 2112 lays out the minimum performance requirements and test methods that FR garments must meet in order to enter the market, while NFPA® 2113 focuses on minimizing the health and safety risks by choosing the correct garment based on the proper selection criteria and how to properly wear FR garments in the field.

In addition to proper care and maintenance, NFPA 2113 stipulates the training guidelines that help ensure your program is in compliance with OSHA 1910.132, the often cited regulation when FR clothing programs fail to meet OSHA requirements.

Even though NFPA 2112 may get all the headlines and recognition as a safety professional NFPA 2113 is your go-to standard.

Get in touch with a Bulwark representative.

Know Your Hazards

23 Mar

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Depending on the line of work you’re in, there are any number of dangers you may encounter on the job. From slip-and-fall hazards to those due to working at height, there’s PPE to help keep you protected. When it comes to thermal hazards, your FR clothing protects you against two main hazards: Flash Fire and Arc Flash.

 

Flash Fire

A flash fire is a rapid moving flame front that can be caused by a diffuse fuel, such as dust, gas, or the vapors of an ignitable liquid, without the production of damaging pressure. In the Oil & Gas industry, which includes exploration, drilling, field services and refining, flash fires are the primary hazard FR protects against.

 

NFPA® 2112 and NFPA® 2113 are the “go-to” industry consensus standards that address flash fire. Once safety managers have identified they have a flash fire hazard, FR is necessary. Selecting the appropriate FR garments for your safety program should be based on a number of factors such as protection, comfort and durability.

 

Arc Flash

An arc flash is a powerful and dangerous occurrence where an electric current leaves its anticipated path and travels from phase to phase, or phase to ground. The resulting explosion produces extremely high temperatures, acoustic energy and concussive force. When a person is in close proximity to the arc flash, serious burn injury and even death can occur.

 

The Arc Flash hazard affects all who work in and around energized electrical equipment. This can include general industry electricians, maintenance workers and operators, as well as our electric utilities, including transmission, distribution, generation and metering. As employers, it is your responsibility to ensure that all employees exposed to the hazard are protected with arc-rated flame-resistant clothing.

 

No matter which hazard your FR clothing is designed to address, the success of any program is dependent upon the proper selection, use, care and maintenance of your FR program. For more information on how to select the right FR for your needs and tips on implementing a FR clothing program, get in touch with a Bulwark FR expert.

What’s the Underlying Danger of Non-FR Undergarments?

24 Jan

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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.

Shop FR Base Layers >

Calculate Your Total System Arc Rating >

2016 in Review

16 Dec

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2016: Asked and Answered

No matter how you slice it, 2016 was one for the books. Here at Bulwark, we dedicated the year to providing you with new FR knowledge every month of 2016. Through blog posts, webinars, infographics and whitepapers, we answered your most burning FR questions. Click through the topics below to see our original content.

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What’s the difference between AR and FR?

According to Bulwark’s FR Safety Expert, Derek Sang, the most basic and important thing to know when it comes to AR and FR is that all arc-rated clothing is inherently flame resistant, but not all flame resistant clothing is arc-rated.  Read the full blog post to understand why.

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Can I use insect repellent on my FR?

DEET is the active ingredient in many insect repellents, including liquids, lotions, sprays and wristbands, and it is highly flammable. So, for FR wearers, it’s better to play it safe: Don’t use DEET on your FR apparel. Check out the blog post for more info.

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What’s the deal with Hi-Vis FR?

In 2015, ANSI/ISEA 107 underwent an extensive overhaul. The new version merges ANSI/ISEA 107-2010 and ANSI/ISEA 207-2011 into a single document that considers all occupations faced with low-visibility hazards, including public safety workers. Download the whitepaper to learn how the changes to ANSI/ISEA 107 affect your safety program.

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What about combustible dust (CD)?

NFPA® 652 is the new standard regarding combustible dust (CD), and it’s the first to provide a complete set of safety requirements across all industries. To make sure you’re covered, read our CD whitepaper.

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How do I detect counterfeit FR?

Fraudulent FR garments can usually be identified by their violation of labeling standards. To safeguard yourself and your crew, read up on the labeling requirements laid out by the NFPA® and ASTM.

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The iQ Endurance collection

We also introduced you to the strongest, most durable spin on comfort ever: the iQ Endurance Collection. This new breed of ultra-rugged performance wear stands up to the demands of extreme wear and industrial wash—all while allowing you to feel lighter, be cooler and stay drier throughout the workday.

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Picking Up The Pieces After Hurricane Harvey

1 Dec

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To our friends and partners who’ve braved the storm in the Gulf Coast Region, we want to help you stay safe as you pick up the pieces and head back to work. So we’re offering 50% off Bulwark FR at Munro’s and FR Depot locations to help replace anything you may have lost during the storm.

This offer is in-store only, but if you’re buying for a team/organization, please contact the nearest location. Stay safe, and our thoughts are still with you.

Munro’s Locations

FR Depot Location