FRC Safety During COVID-19: Do Industry Standards Incorporate FR Face Masks?

Emergent Standard Updates Present a Path to ASTM- and NFPA-compliance for Face Masks

Normal life today looks a bit different than it did a few short months ago, as face masks have become an important way to curb the spread of COVID-19. Correspondingly, as utility, energy infrastructure, and other vital workers who face arc flash and flash fire hazards push forward to keep our country going, arc-rated and flame resistant (AR / FR) face masks are now important COVID-19 PPE because they do not pose a flammability hazard.

But do industry standards incorporate performance specifications for AR / FR face masks, and what do they say?

Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, industry standards did not incorporate provisions for this type of face mask. However, unprecedented times have called for unprecedented measures, and industry standards-writing organizations are pursuing emergency updates to incorporate AR / FR face masks alongside AR / FR clothing and PPE for arc flash and flash fire protection. In fact, a path to ASTM- and NFPA-compliance for AR / FR face masks is currently being reviewed by the standards-writing community, and is expected to be in place by early fall 2020.

Watch this short video for a complete update from Scott Margolin, Vice President of Technical, on emergency standard changes underway for ASTM F1506 and NFPA 2112:

  • Arc Flash – ASTM F1506: This standard includes very strict labeling requirements that are too detailed to fit on a small item like a face mask. As a result, as AR / FR face masks are incorporated into the standard, they are likely to be exempted from the labeling requirement. An official decision is expected late summer, early fall.
  • Flash Fire – NFPA 2112: This standard includes an explicit rule against “component compliance” – that is, claiming or presuming an item meets the standard because it is made from components that meet the standard. Alternately, under normal circumstances, a finished item must be tested to be deemed compliant. Because COVID-19 is so emergent and workers require immediate protection from the virus, time constraints do not allow for a separate mask standard to be written or tested. Alternately, a proposed temporary interim amendment (TIA) that would exempt face masks from the component compliance rule – thereby allowing FR face masks to be considered NFPA 2112-compliant if made from NFPA 2112-certified FR fabric – is under consideration. The standards council will make a final decision late summer.

Don’t forget: AR / FR masks are arc rated and flame resistant, but are NOT intended to replace your normal AR / FR head, face, and neck protection – like balaclavas, neck gaiters, and face shields. Here’s why. Instead, they are COVID-19 PPE without posing a flammability hazard.

Do your workers need AR / FR masks to stay safe from both COVID-19 and arc flash/flash fire hazards on the job? Since COVID-19 began spreading in the US, we heard the call and moved quickly to design and manufacture AR / FR face masks. So far, we’ve shipped more than 1 million AR / FR masks! Contact a National Account Executive today to review product options and complete details.

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