NFPA 70E, a national consensus standard that establishes safety guidelines for workers exposed to electrical hazards, is a prime example. 70E has driven changes across numerous businesses and facilities where employees access electrical systems and energized components. Many sites contain a variety of electrical work hazards, illustrating the increasing call for FR clothing.
When it comes to FR, you have to ask two questions:
1) Does my company have employees who need to be in FR?
and if the need is established . . .
2) How do we comply with industry regulation or standards?
The Importance of FR for Those Exposed to Workplace Hazards
FR clothing protects the wearer through the following attributes:
Self-extinguishes or resists ignition
Does not melt onto skin
Provides thermal insulation from heat
Resists breaking open and exposing skin
Reduces burn injury and increases chances of survival
Some sobering statistics reinforce the importance of FR:
Most severe burn injuries and fatalities are caused by non-FR clothing igniting and continuing to burn.
More than 2,000 people are admitted to burn centers annually with severe arc flash burns.
Every single day in the United States, an arc flash explosion occurs in electrical equipment that sends a victim to a burn center.
Even with safety regulations and standards such as NFPA 70E in place, accidents still occur. Working de-energized is always the recommended practice, but that is not always possible. In those cases, wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment is very important in reducing injuries.
As you just read, the word reducing was used, not the word eliminating. Some people think wearing FR clothing means there is no risk of burn injury. That is not the case. flame resistant clothing is designed to keep predicted body burn area (second degree or higher) under 50 percent. Keeping burn injury below this threshold has been reported to improve survival rates significantly, as the following chart from the American Burn Association shows. In an arc flash event, flame retardant clothing provides helps to mitigate the extent of injury overall. In a flash fire, it also provides needed escape time.