AR and FR—What’s the Difference?

23 Mar


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



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.

Is Your FR Program Overlooking Undergarments?

24 Aug

bulwark base layer

When you think about establishing a successful FR clothing program, what “check list” items immediately spring to mind? Generally speaking, the first two mental steps people in this industry take are: 1.) Evaluating the thermal hazard you are providing protection for; and 2.) Selecting the appropriate FR garments for that hazard.

Rightly so.

But for your FR program to be fully effective, you need to look beyond just choosing the right gear for the environment you and your crew are working in. You need to examine every layer closely, beginning with your base layers.

Fact is, an FR clothing program is not fully defined if it does not place restrictions or set guidelines on clothing to be worn under the FR uniform. In the worst circumstances, lack of guidance on base layer clothing can leave an employee at risk for injuries. Consider, for a moment, the extent of an injury that could be sustained by someone wearing a t-shirt made of synthetic fibers under their FR clothing. Sure, the outermost FR layer will self-extinguish in a thermal event. But enough thermal energy could transfer to the t-shirt underneath, causing it to melt to the wearer’s skin.

One simple way to manage this issue is to mandate that all undergarments be made of 100% cotton or other natural fiber. However, this option places the responsibility of choosing compliant clothing squarely on the employee. And, it will require additional “policing” on your behalf.

In our opinion, the most comprehensive approach is for the employer to specify and issue the appropriate FR base layers to be worn under the company’s FR uniforms. By doing so, not only are you taking the choice of undergarments out of the hands of your employees, and the questions of whether or not they have the right fiber content against their skin out of the equation. You will also be providing a second layer of FR protection should they inadvertently leave a shirt unbuttoned or untucked in a moment of complacency. (A layer that, believe it or not, can also provide greater comfort; most FR undergarments pull sweat away from the body to help keep workers cool and dry.)

In the case of protection against electric arc exposure, only FR layers can contribute to a composite ATPV rating, so issuing an FR base layer to be worn under an FR shirt may increase ATPV and possibly increase protection.

So, there you have it. Your base layer basics, compliments of the world’s #1 FR brand. Next time you’re evaluating your FR program, please keep these tips top of mind. And don’t let your undergarments become an oversight.

Click here to view our base layers.

How To Beat The Heat Hazard

7 Aug

The standards say you need to dress for total body flame-resistant coverage. The catch? Total body coverage, in FR, can become insufferable – especially come summertime. As the world’s #1 FR education resource, Bulwark is here with a simple infographic to help you reinforce what to do, and how to dress, to remain cool, comfortable AND compliant when working in the midday sun.

beat the heat- topbeat the heat bottom

Heat Stress: By The Basics, And The Base Layers.

27 Jul


“How do I help my guys stay cool in the hot summer months?” That may be the #1 question we at Bulwark receive this time of year, every year. The world’s #1 FR brand is here to help guide you with some cold, hard facts.


    1. Remember the 3 Rs: Rehydrate, Rest and Recognize
      Drink cool water often and before you feel thirsty.
      Take breaks in shaded/air-conditioned areas:
      Especially when daytime temps are at their peak.
      Shorter, more frequent work/rest cycles are best.
      Learn to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness in yourself and others; and report concerns immediately.

    3. NEVER Cheat In The Heat
      Keep shirts buttoned, sleeves rolled down, and tucked in.
      FR clothing can only protect you if worn properly.

    5. The Right Base Layers Boost Comfort
      – Wicking base layers move perspiration from the skin outward, to allow for faster evaporation, and constant comfort.
      – An FR base layer adds protection and might even allow for the use of a lighter weight shirt without sacrificing ATPV/ Protection.
      – ALWAYS select a base layer that is flame resistant or at least 100% cotton


    Spray Safe: The Rules For Insect Repellent And FR Clothing

    29 Apr

    Spray Safe

    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 where there are arc flash and flash fire hazards? DEET is HIGHLY flammable. 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: Do NOT put DEET on your FR clothing.  Ever. So stay, and spray, safe as warm weather approaches.

    OSHA Revises 1910.269 Compliance Dates

    25 Mar


    In April of 2014, OSHA revised CFR 1910.269 mandating that certain employers must provide their employees with protective clothing that will not melt, drip, or ignite and that will not contribute to injury. Given the challenges the market is having adapting to this sizable regulatory shift, OSHA has released new 2015 compliance milestones.

    Even though OSHA is being sensitive to the challenge the market is experiencing by extending the compliance dates, we at Bulwark are still fielding a number of questions from our customers. Please reach out to your Bulwark representative with any questions you may have. In the meantime, here are answers to our most common 1910.269 inquiries


    1910.269 FAQs

    Will I be able to comply with the new law by layering FR garments? Yes, layering is allowed and is one way to achieve an arc rating greater than or equal to the incident energy that a worker could possibly be exposed to.
    NOTE: The total arc rating of a layered clothing system must be arc tested as a composite; simply adding the arc ratings of separate clothing layers is not enough. Bulwark has one of the largest databases of outer layers over base layers.  Click here to view our Layering Summary

    How do I know I am specifying the right clothing for my employees? If clothing is labeled as meeting the requirements of ASTM F1506-10a (or ASTM F 1891 for rainwear) and has an arc rating sufficient to protect against the incident energies identified in your hazard/risk assessment, you can feel confident about your selection.

    Do the changes in OSHA 1910.269 include jackets and rainwear? Yes. The final rule requires that the outermost layer of clothing be flame resistant/arc rated. Compliant jackets/outerwear must meet the requirements of ASTM F1506-10a; compliant rainwear must meet the requirements of ASTM F1891.

    Do the changes in the regulation affect my contractors? All requirements mandated by the revised OSHA 1910.269 regulation apply to contractors who must wear PPE that meets the level of performance indicated by the results of the host employer’s hazard/risk assessment.

    My linemen are in FR shirts and non-FR jeans now. What do we need to do to comply with the new law?  Non-flame resistant/non-arc rated pants are no longer acceptable under the new regulation, even if they are made of heavy weight natural (non-melting) fibers. Workers are now required to wear flame resistant/arc-rated clothing – which should cover the entire body.

    Is it possible that I won’t have to make any changes in my FR clothing program? Yes, if an organization has already completed a hazard/risk assessment and has outfitted its employees in flame resistant clothing with an arc rating greater than or equal to the incident energy identified in your assessment, you may not need to make any changes.

    NFPA 70E 2015: The New Terms Of Electrical Safety

    24 Feb


    As the standard for electrical safety in the workplace, NFPA 70E is designed to help you, your workers and your organization properly identify potential workplace hazards, better understand and assess those risks, and determine which PPE is appropriate for which task. In the NFPA 70E 2015 edition, there are several significant updates, including a very important change in the terminology around PPE classifications.

    Specifically, the industry’s long-used HRC (Hazard Risk Category) designation has been eliminated and replaced by the term “PPE Category”. This was done in an effort to simplify the selection of which PPE is appropriate for any given task, and to be more reflective of PPE’s defining purpose – personal protection.

    You’ll also notice that “HRC 0” has been removed from the table of arc-related clothing requirements, as it was decided that the table should only be reserved for requirements where arc-rated clothing was necessary. Please note that PPE Categories 1, 2, 3 and 4  (formerly HRC 1, HRC 2, HRC 3 and HRC 4) will maintain the same requirements and minimum arc ratings as they had before.

    As means of reflecting this change in terminology, please note that Bulwark will be replacing “HRC” with “CAT.” Given this development, we will be adjusting to the industry’s new requirements language on a rolling basis. For the foreseeable future, however, you’ll see either “HRC” or “CAT” labels on our garments, along with their respective arc ratings.

    OSHA 1910.269: Are You         Regulation Ready?

    19 Jan


    It’s a New Year. And with it comes a new update to two OSHA regulations that experts say will save nearly 20 lives, prevent 118 serious injuries, and result in monetized benefits of $179 million annually: 29 CFR 1910.269 and 29 CFR Part 1926, Subpart V.

    As the world leader in flame resistant apparel, training and education, Bulwark is here to help you drive compliance – by offering a little clarification. Here are the basics of this seismic regulatory shift:

    • The final rule was published in the Federal Register on
      April 11, 2014.
    • The updated standards for general industry and construction include new or revised provisions for host and contract employers to share safety-related information with each other and with employees, as well as for improved fall protection for employees working from aerial lifts and on overhead line structures.
    • In addition, the standards adopt revised approach-distance requirements to better ensure that unprotected workers do not get dangerously close to energized lines and equipment. The final rule also adds new requirements to protect workers from electric arcs.
    • The new provisions for protection from electric arcs include new requirements for the employer to
      • Assess the workplace to identify employees exposed to hazards from flames and from electric arcs
      • Make reasonable estimates of the incident heat energy to which the employee would be exposed
      • Ensure that the outer layer of clothing worn by employees is flame resistant under certain conditions
      • Generally ensure that employees exposed to hazards from electric arcs wear protective clothing and other protective equipment with an arc rating greater than or equal to the estimated heat energy

    Here are a couple of key dates to mark on your calendar for 2015:

    January 1, 2015: Companies regulated by OSHA 1910.269 have to complete a hazard assessment of their electrical equipment.

    April 1, 2015: Employees have to be wearing Arc Rated clothing equivalent to the hazard determined by the hazard assessment completed in January.

    If you still have questions, please contact a Bulwark sales rep by clicking here. Or for more information on this topic, click here to view our Bulwark OSHA 1910.269 Q&A. Feel free to download it so you always have OSHA 1910.269 answers in hand.

    iQ: The Year In Review

    15 Dec


    In 2014, Bulwark – the world’s #1 FR apparel brand –broke the industry from the shackles of its bulky, itchy, sweaty past. With the introduction of the Bulwark iQ Series™, the world’s first performance FR. And the most comfortable FR apparel ever made, by any measure.(see iQ products here).
    The reception to this revelation has been astounding. Even earning the design and technical team here at Bulwark, and our co-development partners at Milliken, recognition as a Top 100 Innovator by R&D Magazine (an honor often regarded as the “Oscars of Invention.”) Read the article here. But as nice as the hardware is, it’s the words of the communities we so proudly, and purposefully, outfit that provide us the greatest sense of achievement.