For worksites where short-term thermal hazards are present, flame resistant (FR), arc-rated (AR) personal protective equipment (PPE) is a critical component in providing protection in the event of an unexpected incident, like arc flash, flash fire, or dust combustion. While key, however, it is important to note that when designing your safety program, daily wear FR/AR PPE is one of many parts of a comprehensive thermal hazard mitigation program.
According to the NFPA 70E hierarchy of risk controls, the first line of defense—and the most effective method of protecting employees—is eliminating hazards that can injure them. While some tasks cannot eliminate known hazards completely, the hierarchy of risk controls runs through safety precautions in order of importance: elimination, substitution, engineering controls, warnings, administrative controls, and finally, wearing FR/AR PPE. Together, these steps help create a well-rounded safety program.
As the final layer of protection and defense, FR/AR PPE—particularly daily wear FR/AR garments—enhances your safety program in four meaningful ways.
- Supports workplace safety
Safety should always be the first priority in the workplace. Incorporating trusted daily wear FR/AR PPE garments into your safety program will help lessen potential injuries should other risk mitigation efforts fail. Providing employees with adequate safety garments sets the tone for the job site and reinforces the company’s overarching emphasis on safety. Educating employees on when, how, and in what circumstances to wear their daily wear or task-based FR/AR PPE is an important safety procedure.
Daily wear FR/AR PPE should be worn at all times on the jobsite where thermal hazards may exist. Daily wear is designed for continuous wear in an environment where short term thermal hazards are possible and help to mitigate the risk of second- or third-degree burns. These protective garments mirror everyday workwear and can be worn all day as an added safety precaution. With advancements in flame resistant technology, daily wear FR/AR pants and shirts are comfortable and can be almost indistinguishable from street clothing.
Task-based FR/AR garments can be worn in addition to daily wear to achieve a higher level of FR protection. Task-based FR/AR PPE is heavier and less breathable to achieve a higher ATPV rating, so it should not be worn for extended periods to help protect the wearer from the impacts of heat stress. Task-based PPE includes, aluminized suits, face and head protection, and gloves.
- Reduces the impact of human error
According to NFPA 70E, risk assessments must take human error into account and its potential negative consequences on people, processes, and the work environment. Annex Q addresses human performance in relation to electrical safety and that managing human error is a unique control that is complementary to the hierarchy of risk controls. No risk control is infallible and all controls of the hierarchy are subject to errors in human performance. Human error can include many factors like forgetfulness, over confidence or complacency, stress, and misinterpretation. Because even the most experienced worker is at risk of human error, wearing daily wear FR/AR garments provides a consistent level of protection, and as a result, help reduce the consequences human error may cause.
- Meets industry regulations and consensus standards
OSHA requires employees to wear protective clothing to guard against any and all hazards identified in the risk assessment. If a thermal hazard is present and a company does not provide employees with adequate FR/AR PPE, they are at risk of being fined and compromising their employees’ safety and well-being. Meeting consensus NFPA standards, like 70E, 2112, and 2113, for various thermal hazards provide direction on how to comply with relevant OSHA regulations. These key standards provide excellent guidance on how to reduce the likelihood of incidence occurrence and if an incident were still to occur, lessen the severity of the injury.
- Company liability
A company is responsible for injuries an employee sustains on the job. While upfront costs of a daily wear FR/AR program may seem daunting at first, the costs associated with worker injuries, like second- and third-degree burns or worse, can accrue quickly and can end up outweighing the cost of a daily wear FR/AR program.
When incorporated into a holistic thermal hazard mitigation program, daily wear FR/AR garments form a necessary foundation, safeguarding workers in the event all other risk measures fail.