Protective clothing and safety apparel can benefit workers in a variety of industries, so it is important to understand the risks and specific industry hazards employees face at their jobs. While both an electric arc flash and flash fire can be fatal, the duration and temperature at which these two events happen, as well as the language used around protection against such incidents varies significantly.
In the table below, we outline the circumstances and standards around two industry hazards: flash fires and electric arc flash, followed by more detailed explanations of each event.
Approx. 3 seconds
Less than ½ second
|Hazard Temperature (F)||
Body Burn Percentage
Hazard Risk Category (HRC)
Among the many industry hazards oil and gas workers face, flash fire explosions pose one of the most threatening risks. Explosions and flash fire account for 15% of the fatalities in the refining and drilling industries (1).
“Flash fires spread rapidly through a diffuse of fuel, such as dust, gas or vapors of an ignitable liquid, without production of damaging pressure.”
A flash fire typically lasts only three seconds or less, but is fast-moving and intense and can reach temperatures of 1,200 degrees F. The severity is contingent on situational factors such as the fuel available and the efficiency of combustion.
An industry memo was issued March 19, 2010, “intended to clarify OSHA’s policy for citing the general industry standard for personal protective equipment (PPE), for the failure to provide and use flame resistant clothing (FRC) in oil and gas well drilling, servicing and production-related operations. (2)”
NFPA 2112 specifies the minimum design, performance, certification requirements, and test methods for flame resistant garments for use in areas at risk from flash fires. NFPA 2112 establishes specific criteria for testing garments using the ASTM F1930 test method and the ASTM D6413 test method. Under ASTM F1930, a pass/fail criteria of 50% body burn (fabrics that achieve 50% predicted body burn or less) can be said to pass the performance requirements of 2112.
Electric arc flash is one of the most dangerous industry hazards employees in electric utilities face. An electric arc flash is the passage of substantial electrical current through ionized air, created by an electric fault. Typically lasting less than ½ second, electric arc flashes exceed temperatures of 20,000 degrees F.
There are many safety standards implemented to protect against arc flash, as outlined in the table above and explained below:
NFPA 70E addresses electrical safety requirements needed to safeguard employees during activities such as the installation, operation, maintenance and demolition of electric conductors, electric equipment, signaling and communications conductors and equipment, and raceways. It is important to note that NFPA 70E is a voluntary standard purposely geared toward workers and employers to understand and implement safety precautions. NFPA 70E sets forth hazard risk categories (HRC) and required minimum arc ratings of PPE (or personal protective equipment).
OSHA 1910.269 is the only federally enforceable law that requires FR clothing for protection from arc flash. It pertains to electric utility workers involved in generation, transmission and distribution. NESC (National Electrical Safety Code) sets the ground rules for practical safeguarding of persons during the installation, operation or maintenance of electric supply and communication lines and associated equipment.
Finally, ASTM 1506 is the governing ASTM standard for flame resistant clothing for protection from arc flash. A garment that meets ASTM F1506 complies with OSHA 1910.269, NESC and NFPA 70E.
Understanding these two industry hazards, even at a basic level, will help workers choose the right type of protection. Using this information, the oil and gas industry and electric utility industries are making strides today toward better employee protection.
References for this blog post were accessed August 2013: