How It’s Tested: Episode 1 – The Hierarchy of Safety Standards

There are many AR/FR standards, each directing key guidelines for safety. Understanding how they work together to inform and support employee safety is important. Collectively, the testing standards as a whole resemble a pyramid, starting at the top with standards from OSHA. Join us as we break down the hierarchy of these safety standards.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA was created to ensure safe working conditions for men and women, guiding employers to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards. And, if employers are unable to 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, action is required. For example, workers exposed to arc flash or flash fire hazards must wear AR/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.

To better understand the testing hierarchy, let’s watch Tyndale’s Vice President of Technical, Scott Margolin as he shares the testing hierarchy, and key information to know about each testing standard.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

NFPA and other organizations create consensus standards primarily through the work of 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, and NFPA 2113, Standard on the Selection, Care, Use, and Maintenance of Flame Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire provides minimum requirements for the design, construction, evaluation, and certification of FR garments, shrouds/hoods/balaclavas, and gloves for use by industrial personnel.

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

ASTM and ANSI are organizations committed to bringing together technical experts who understand how to test and 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 assembles experts on how to test and evaluate different fibers, fabrics, and other protective materials.

How It’s Tested is our ongoing series exploring safety standards and test methods for AR/FR garments and PPE. Whether you are a seasoned professional or just starting out, follow along with this series to make sure you are up to date on the latest information. If you’ve missed it, our first episode can be found here. Stay tuned for much more content and helpful resources!

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