FR Safety: Your General Duty

28 Nov

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Make no mistake—keeping FR on their backs falls squarely on your shoulders. In the United States, the responsibility for worker safety rests solely on the employer. In 1970, the OSH Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and established the “general duty clause,” which delegated authority to OSHA to set the rules for implementing the standard.

The General Duty Clause states:

(a) Each employer –-

(1) shall furnish to each of his or her employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;

(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.1

When OSHA was first established in 1970, existing private professional organizations had already begun publishing safety standards and best practices specific to their industries and/or hazards. So, rather than trying to address every possible scenario in which an employee could be hurt and how to manage each, OSHA looked to these well-established entities to define the specifics. In fact, many of OSHA’s permanent standards originated as national consensus standards developed by organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

The General Duty Clause requires employers to be aware of all actual and potential workplace hazards and to take necessary precautions to protect their employees. The only problem is, it doesn’t tell employers how they are supposed to do it.

Therefore, it falls on the employer not just to follow the rules, but also to determine the rules that apply to them and to enforce those rules.

Overall, employers are responsible for:

  1. Referring to the industry consensus standards that meet OSHA requirements
  2. Determining which standards are applicable
  3. Reading and understanding the standards
  4. Finding the right PPE suitable to meet the standards
  5. Ensuring PPE is compliant
  6. Ensuring employees know how to—and do—use and care for their PPE properly.

So, if you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders—you’re not so far off. That’s why Bulwark arms you with FR training and expertise to help ease the pressure and keep your guys safe.

For more information on building an effective safety program, read our blog post “The ABCs of PPE” or get in touch with a Bulwark representative.

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The ABCs of PPE

28 Sep

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Building a PPE program that meets all safety requirements and meets your personal needs is no easy task. You must select the right garments based on the unique hazards of your industry, in addition to important 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 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. 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/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 your particular hazards. We 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, and the best way to cite these standards is by industry. For the main industries Bulwark serves, the hazards and standards are as follows:

Oil & Gas, which includes exploration, drilling, field services, refinement, and chemical, faces 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. This includes 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 CAT2 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 & 1926.960, which state that power utilities are required to wear arc-rated clothing which matches the potential threat as determined by a proper hazard analysis.

 

Training
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 about the information employers must provide to their employees.

 

Maintenance
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 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 fabric and findings that match the protection level of the original garment.

 

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

Breaking Bug: The Rules For Insect Repellant And FR.

17 Aug

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With every new bug season, come swarms of new questions as to how to properly use insect repellent while wearing FR garments. Here are Bulwark’s “do and don’t” details. Make that, DEETails.

 

DEET is the active ingredient in many well known, and often used, insect repellents (liquids, lotions, sprays, wristbands, etc.) It is used to ward off biting pests such as mosquitoes and ticks – insects that may or may not be carrying far peskier diseases like West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease.

 

The problem for those who work outdoors in oil & gas and electric utility? DEET is HIGHLY flammable. Especially in concentrated form. Any flame resistant clothing sprayed with it has the potential to ignite and continue to burn if exposed to an ignition hazard.  Your guys don’t need that kind of fuel source.

 

Bulwark’s best advice: DEET should be sprayed directly on the skin, and never on your FR.  So stay, and spray, safe as warm weather is here.

ATPV 101

17 Aug

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What is ATPV, and how is it used in your hazard assessment?

Put simply, ATPV—Arc Thermal Performance Value—is the most commonly reported test result of the effectiveness of FR clothing. It measures the amount of incident energy that your FR garment can protect you from before the onset of a 2nd degree burn. And the FR garments in your safety program must meet or exceed the Incident Energy required based on your hazard assessment. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.

To better understand ATPV, let’s start with an overview of two main concepts: The Stoll Curve and Arc Ratings.

The Stoll Curve

The Stoll Curve is the predictive model used to measure the probability of burn injury. It quantifies the heat levels and exposure times that result in a second-degree burn, including high temperature exposure for a short time and low temperature exposure for a much longer duration.

Arc Rating

An arc rating is the protection level afforded by an FR fabric when exposed to an electric arc. The arc rating of a fabric is determined by exposing the fabric to a staged electrical arc. In real life, arc behavior can be unpredictable, so the testing requires samples be exposed to a “controlled” arc utilizing the ASTM 1959 standard.

ATPV

That brings us to ATPV (Arc Thermal Performance Value), which is a type of arc rating. The ATPV of an FR garment indicates that you have a 50% chance of the onset of a 2nd degree burn if exposed to an electric arc with the same calories of incident energy. The fabric will usually not break open unless exposed to incident energy levels higher than the arc rating.

So why is ATPV important? Think about it this way:

Let’s go back to what ATPV measures:

The amount of incident energy that your FR garment can protect you from before the onset of a 2nd degree burn.

Why is that important?

  • By definition, second-degree burns cause a blistering, blisters can break the skin (that’s why the test is designed around 2nd degree burns).
  • One of the pathways to infection is broken skin.
  • One of the causes of death in burn victims is infection.

When you think about it that way, matching the ATPV of the FR garments in your safety program to the value required by your hazard assessment is not just a matter of meeting the standards. For your guys, it can be the only thing that stands between them and a potentially life-threatening burn hazard.

To learn more about ATPV and Arc Ratings, download our whitepaper: Understanding Arc Ratings

Beat the Heat: Cover All Your Bases and Base Layers.

27 Jul

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Summer is in full swing, and the question on everyone’s mind is: “How do I help my guys stay cool in the hot summer months?” In fact, it may be the #1 question we at Bulwark receive this time of year, every year. That’s why we’re here to help guide you with some cold, hard facts.

 

1. Remember the 3 Rs: Rehydrate, Rest and Recognize

Rehydrate: Drink cold water consistently throughout the day—even before you feel thirsty.

Rest: Take breaks in shaded/air-conditioned areas:

  • Especially in mid-afternoon, when daytime temps hit their peak and the sun is at its strongest.
  • Shorter, more frequent work/rest cycles are best.

Recognize: Learn to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness in yourself and others:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle or abdominal cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Pale skin
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat

 

2. NEVER Cheat In The Heat: Wear It Right

Keep sleeves rolled down, shirts buttoned all the way up, and tucked in. Remember: FR clothing can only protect you if you wear it correctly.

 

3. The Right Base Layers Boost Comfort

  • Wicking base layers pull perspiration off the skin, encouraging faster evaporation and increased comfort.
  • FR base layers add protection and can even allow for a lighter weight shirt without sacrificing your arc rating.
  • ALWAYS select an FR base layer.

OSHA 1910.269 Q&A Fact Sheet

18 Jul

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OSHA 1910.269 is the federal regulation regarding employee safety in the electric utility industry. Do you fully understand the requirements the standard presents? Are you confident your crew has the right FR apparel to match the hazards they face? Let Bulwark get you regulation ready with our condensed version of this long and complex document. Download our Q&A Fact Sheet for your quick reference.

Download Fact Sheet

If you still have questions, please contact a Bulwark sales rep by clicking here.

Top 10 FR Laundry Tips

25 Apr

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As most of us know all too well, there’s no such thing as wash-and-go when it comes to caring for your PPE. Proper care and maintenance of FR/AR clothing is essential to its effectiveness. Most industry standards recommend following compliant garment manufacturers’ instructions, while others offer more specific guidance. To keep it simple, we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 tips to maximize your PPE’s FR protection, wash after wash.

Read on to see our Top 10 Laundry Tips:

1. Do not use any kind of bleach or peroxide

2. Do not use any additive that could build up and impede FR performance such as fabric softeners or starch.

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 washing and drying temperatures to reduce the impact of shrinkage

7. For tough stains, soak garments in liquid detergent or non-bleach, non-peroxide pre-wash stain removers before laundering.

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

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

10. Rewash garments with lingering odor

What’s in a Label?

25 Apr

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When it comes to FR, the answer is: more than you might think. Even after assessing hazard risks and selecting the appropriate FR clothing, it also falls on the employer to ensure that each garment truly matches the hazard it’s designed to protect against. That’s why it’s especially important to identify proper labeling on the part of the manufacturer as an indicator that the garment is, indeed, fully compliant.

Read on to learn what to look for on your FR labels.

NFPA® and ASTM labeling requirements are strict, but not everyone follows the rules. Fraudulently labeled FR garments can often be identified by their violation of the standards.

According to ASTM F1506 6.3, FR garments must be labeled with the following information:

6.3.1 Meets requirements of Performance Specification F1506

6.3.2 Manufacturer’s Name

6.3.3 Fabric Identifier

6.3.4 Garment Tracking and Identification Code

6.3.5 Size and other associated standard labeling

6.3.6 Care instructions and fiber content

6.3.7 Arc rating (ATPV) or arc rating (Ebt)

6.3.7.1 When garments are made with a different number of fabric layers in different areas of the garment, the arc rating for each area shall be designated. Pockets, trim, closures, seams, labels, and heraldry shall not be considered as extra layers.

That’s a lot of label, but it shows specific compliance, as opposed to labels that are misleading or omit critical information.

NFPA 2112, Chapter 4 provides clear requirements for shirts, pants, coveralls and outerwear. In addition to bearing the mark of the 3rd party certifier, the following words and the edition of the standard must appear on the label of a certified garment:

“This garment meets the requirements of NFPA 2112, Standard on Flame-Resistant Garments for the Protection of Industrial Personnel against Flash Fire, 2012 Edition.  NFPA 2113 requires upper and lower body coverage.”

Beware of subtle changes in wording on the label that claim to meet a portion of the standard, but do not meet all requirements. For example, the following language does not meet the requirements of NFPA 2112:

“This garment meets the performance requirements of NFPA 70E-2009, ASTM F1506-02ae1, NFPA 2112-2007.”

There’s one more way to be sure your FR gear is fully compliant: Visit the UL website, where you can query to ensure that the garment has, in fact, been certified by UL.

While it may seem nitpicky, these standards for FR labeling are very important. They are designed to protect the FR provider and FR wearer from purchasing and wearing fraudulent FR garments, which do not meet the minimum requirements of FR safety.

Make a habit of reading your labels. Because when it comes to protecting yourself and your crew from the hazards associated with the job, you can never be too careful.

AR and FR—What’s the Difference?

23 Mar

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Arming your crew with the appropriate FR gear is a feat in itself. Navigating the ever-changing sea of standards? Now that’s another beast entirely. Bulwark is here to help you choose the right FR program by ensuring you have a thorough grasp on the standards and what they mean for you—and your crew.

When the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) introduced the term “Arc-Rated” or “AR” in its 2012 revision to NFPA 70E, it was a bit of a head-scratcher. The question on every safety manager’s mind was: what’s the difference between AR and FR? According to Bulwark’s Technical Training Manager, Derek Sang, the most basic and important thing to know when it comes to AR and FR is that all arc-rated clothing is flame resistant, but not all flame resistant clothing is arc-rated.

For a piece of clothing to be considered flame resistant, the fabric used to make the garment must withstand ignition and/or rapidly self-extinguish in order to protect the wearer from the dangers of flash fire, arc flash, molten metals and other hazards. In the event of a flash fire or arc flash, the FR PPE worn must resist catching fire, melting, and continuing to burn after the initial flash to act as a barrier between the wearer and the hazard.

The fabric used to create arc-rated clothing is subject to additional tests, above and beyond fabric labeled simply “FR.” Primarily, it is exposed to a series of arc flashes to determine how much energy the fabric is able to block before it would likely cause the wearer to obtain a 2nd degree burn, 50% of the time. The result of this test, expressed in calories, is known as the Arc Thermal Performance Value (ATPV).

Current standards for arc flash protection, detailed by NFPA 70E, state that all PPE clothing must also be flame resistant to qualify for an arc rating. In other words: all AR clothing is FR, but not all FR clothing is AR. This is because, based on the results of the series of tests outlined above, equipment rated FR may not always provide the adequate level of protection for workers who are at risk of encountering arc flashes. These employees—general industry electricians (70E)— must wear the appropriate level of AR clothing for the hazard, in order to reduce their risk of serious injury or death caused by an arc flash.

Calculators, Comfort and Compliance: Bulwark’s 2015 in Review

22 Dec

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For safety professionals, the job of making FR compliance a shared priority is a mighty task. You have an ever-changing sea of standards to navigate, and stay ahead of. The people under your watch don’t always understand the right way to wear, or care for, their flame-resistant apparel. And the apparel itself has historically been so bulky, itchy and hot that it’s resulted in wearers taking totally gettable, but potentially catastrophic shortcuts just in an attempt to improve their comfort.

 

In 2015, we doubled-down on our efforts to arm you with a total FR solution. We created the world’s first online Arc Rating Calculator so you can quickly, and easily determine the correct FR layered system Arc Rating. We continued to expand our revolutionary iQ Series® as means of helping dramatically improve wearer comfort on the job site – even offering free wear trials (get yours here). We even developed an array of new tools ranging from FR care & maintenance fridge magnets to “Wear It Right” posters to remind you and your crews to follow the Do’s and Don’ts of FR safety. All as means of helping you build that culture of compliance.

 

Though covering you is always our first priority, it was hard to miss the press covering us in 2015. First, the USA Today followed Kevin Hartigan, an Arizona Public Service lineman responsible for keeping the lights on at the Grand Canyon. Throughout the story Hartigan was compliantly clad in Bulwark FR. In October, NBC’s The Today Show featured a Halloween science experiment segment where each of the program’s morning anchors was safely outfitted in Bulwark a lab coat. Finally, in November, we were seen sponsoring the Veteran’s Day Classic at the Kern County Raceway. The race was a great opportunity to connect with our Oil & Gas community in Bakersfield, CA.

 

All in all, 2015 was one for the books. But rest assured our focus at Bulwark is always fixed on the future. Looking for any new way imaginable to arm you with the right apparel, insights, tools and technologies to deliver what you covet most: confidence – on every level.