In this explosive series, we turn our attention to a potentially deadly hazard prevalent in, but not limited to, manufacturing and processing industries: combustible dust. The series explains what combustible dust is, how the risks are quantified, what a dust hazard analysis entails, and how to mitigate the hazard and protect workers. We hope this information can be used to minimize the risk of a combustible dust flash fire or explosion in your facility.
As we learned in Part 4 of this series, both NFPA 652, Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust, and OSHA’s Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) clearly state that flame resistant (FR) clothing is required to be worn where a combustible dust hazard has been identified. We also touched on considerations when selecting flame resistant garments. Now we’re taking a deeper dive into key characteristics of NFPA-compliant flame resistant clothing to protect workers against combustible dust hazards.
As the current principal standard on combustible dust, NFPA 652, in Section 22.214.171.124, identifies several factors to consider when selecting flame resistant clothing to protect workers from combustible dust hazards. The standard also states in Section 126.96.36.199 that clothing “shall comply with the requirements of NFPA 2112,” and Section 188.8.131.52 goes on to state, “Flame-resistant garments shall be selected, procured, inspected, worn, and maintained in accordance with NFPA 2113.” In light of these three standards and Tyndale’s 40+ years of experience providing managed FR apparel programs, we are providing an overview of the main things to look for when selecting flame resistant clothing that is compliant with these three NFPA standards:
NFPA 2112 establishes a minimum threshold of performance for the fabric as well as the finished garment, which cannot support after-flame burning. Flame resistant clothing compliant with the stringent requirements of NFPA 2112, must be tested for 17 different properties, including Heat Transfer Performance (HTP), flame resistance, thermal shrinkage, colorfastness, and other criteria. Test methods for each are either outlined within the standard or other test methods are cited for use. For example, the test method for heat resistance is outlined within NFPA 2112 to ensure materials and components will not easily ignite, melt, drip, or separate; however, NFPA 2112 specifies ASTM F1930 as the manikin test method to provide a body burn prediction, which must be 50 percent or less. NFPA 2112 compliance must also be certified by a third party, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
What to look for: Garments compliant with NFPA 2112 are conspicuously labeled “2112” or “NFPA 2112,” making spot checks easy. It’s important to procure such garments from a reputable supplier with a stringent vetting process to evaluate their product manufacturers and tier 1 suppliers. This eliminates the chance of purchasing counterfeit FR clothing, which could contain fake labels and not provide adequate protection from a combustible dust incident. The supplier should also have strict quality control measures in place and take additional testing and inspection steps to ensure fabric and garments meet performance specifications.
This standard requires organizations to conduct a dust hazard analysis to determine the requirement for wearing flame resistant garments. If FR clothing is required, Section 4.3 of the standard first and foremost specifies that garments comply with NFPA 2112. This section then lists factors to consider when selecting FR clothing, including thermal protective and physical characteristics, garment construction, avoidance of static charge buildup, garment design and comfort, cleaning and maintenance requirements, and the conditions under which the garments will be worn. The standard also states that garments shall be selected covering both the upper and lower body and flammable underlayers as completely as possible, along with additional requirements. Requirements for the use, care, and maintenance of FR clothing are outlined in Sections 5, 6, and 7 of the standard.
What to look for: In addition to providing workers with NFPA 2112 compliant garments, organizations are required to provide users with instructions on the use, care, and maintenance of FR garments. Tyndale’s Dangers of Improper Wear blog series covers many of the specifications found in NFPA 2113 on how to wear the clothing for complete protection – for example, wearing shirts tucked in and collars closed. Proper wear can sometimes lead to a question of comfort, so offering workers a broad choice of garments that can be properly and comfortably worn increases compliance and safety. Regarding garment care, opt for clothing with a warranty to maintain flame resistance throughout the useful life of the garment.
As we learned in Part 4 of our series, Section 8.6 of NFPA 652 specifies 1) that FR garments comply with NFPA 2112 requirements, 2) only flame resistant or non-melting undergarments be used, and 3) only flame resistant outerwear should be worn over FR daily wear. NFPA 652 additionally lists considerations regarding the selection of flame resistant garments, including thermal protective characteristics, physical characteristics, construction, design, fit, durability, comfort, and other criteria.
What to look for: Since a combustible dust incident can occur anytime without warning, it’s important to outfit workers exposed to this deadly hazard with daily wear FR clothing versus task-based protective clothing. This will ensure they are always outfitted with the protection needed to prevent severe burns and fatal outcomes.
Full compliance with all three of these standards governing FR clothing is made much easier by choosing a supplier with a core competency in this area. Their experience and expertise can ensure that this last line of defense against combustible dust hazards – compliant and comfortable FR clothing – is provided for your workers’ protection. Stay tuned for Part 6 of this series, where we’ll discuss the top factors to consider when selecting such a supplier.
Make sure you have all the facts about the potential dangers of flash fires or explosions due to combustible dust. Access all posts in this series which explains what combustible dust is, how the risks are quantified, what a dust hazard analysis entails, and how to mitigate the hazard and protect workers.