The Hierarchy of FR Clothing Standards

There are a lot of FRC safety standards out there. Understanding how they work together to inform those who are required to be in compliance with them is important. In this post – and the brief video below – we break down the hierarchy of these safety standards, starting with OSHA.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA was created to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women. Simply put, OSHA tells employers that they shall provide a workplace free of recognized hazards. And, if they can’t eliminate a hazard, they shall provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to mitigate the hazards’ impact on workers. The word “shall” is proscriptive language; where shall is used, that action is required, not a choice. For example, workers exposed to arc flash or flash fire hazards must wear FR clothing to protect them from injury when all other engineering and safety measures cannot eliminate the possibility of an incident.

So, OSHA helps us understand what we shall do, but not how to do it. To understand how to protect against hazards, we need to refer to standards like NFPA.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

NFPA and other similar standards are created with input from industry experts who understand how to protect against specific hazards. NFPA is specifically devoted to eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards.

For example, NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, addresses electrical safety requirements necessary 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. NFPA 2112, Standard on Flame-Resistant Clothing for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Short-Duration Thermal Exposures from Fire, provides minimum requirements for the design, construction, evaluation, and certification of FR garments, shrouds/hoods/balaclavas, and gloves for use by industrial personnel. It’s intended to ensure these items do not contribute to the burn injury of the wearer, providing a degree of protection to the wearer, and reducing the severity of burn injuries resulting during egress from or accidental exposure to short duration thermal exposure from fire.

This is all very important information to understand how to protect against hazards but the industry experts behind NFPA standards, like those above, are not experts on the technology of the fibers, fabrics, or testing of the appropriate PPE, which is where ASTM and ANSI standards come in.

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

The ASTM and ANSI organizations are committed to bringing together technical experts who understand how to test and how to rate performance of various protective materials, garments, products, systems, and services. These experts work together to create test methods and performance standards, providing the final, crucial piece of the puzzle for understanding compliance with safety standards.

To take a deeper dive into the various ASTM and ANSI standards related to arc flash, flash fire, and other hazards, visit the Standards and Test Methods page in our online FR Safety Library.

In summary, OSHA tells us what we shall do, but not how to do it. NFPA standards tells us how to do hazardous jobs safely, but not how to evaluate PPE. And, ASTM standards provide a level field on which to test and rate PPE.

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