Wearing AR/FR Clothing: A Story of Survival and Protection

Arc-rated and flame resistant (AR / FR) clothing is indispensable for workers facing arc flash, flash fire, or combustible dust hazards due to their brief and directional nature. Unlike flammable clothing that can ignite and continue to burn, AR / FR garments prevent ignition and offer vital insulation against thermal hazards. In the video shown below, Scott Margolin, Vice President of Technical, underscores that survivability hinges on wearing AR / FR clothing. Choosing AR / FR gear is not just a matter of compliance; it’s a life-saving decision that eliminates the risk of clothing becoming fuel and provides essential protection from burns. In hazardous environments, the switch to AR / FR clothing is a direct investment in safety and well-being, ensuring workers are shielded from catastrophic outcomes.

 

Survivability in Burn Situations

As Scott elaborates, in instances where someone is exposed to an arc flash, flash fire, or combustible dust hazard, and end up in the hospital, the question often becomes whether that person will survive. Two factors that impact that outcome are age and total body surface area (TBSA).  Older individuals are less likely to survive similar injuries due to slower healing, while the extent of TBSA with second- or third- degree burns also plays a crucial role in determining survival chances.

Second- and third- degree burns are critical indicators of survival and significantly affect quality of life. Second-degree burns form blisters on the skin, while third-degree burns cause skin death that cannot regenerate and necessitates grafting – transferring healthy skin from an area of the body to repair the damaged skin. With a larger surface area affected by these burns, there’s a higher risk of infection due to more pathways for infectious agents, prolonging hospital stays and recovery.

What Percentage of Body Burn is Considered Catastrophic or Fatal?

Burns exceeding 50% of body surface are typically catastrophic or possibly fatal. The average adult’s upper body skin area is around 60% of the body’s surface area, making ignition related burns that cause over 50% body burn especially concerning or even fatal.

Assessing Respiratory Dangers

It’s crucial to understand that heat rises, posing a serious risk if clothing ignites. Breathing fire due to burning clothing can lead to fatal consequences like esophageal swelling or lung damage, hindering oxygenation. If clothing ignites, the wearer of that clothing is going to breathe fire because the fire continues to burn. That’s why it is so important to wear AR / FR clothing – don’t wear fuel!

There are nuanced variations between the arc flash standards ASTM F1506, ASTM F1959, and the flash fire NFPA 2112 standard in their criteria for acceptable AR versus FR clothing. ASTM F1506 establishes minimum performance requirements for flame resistance, arc rating, and mechanical durability. On the other hand, NFPA 2112 requires clothing to achieve a 50% or less predicted second- and third- degree body burn in the manikin test. However, it’s crucial to consider what exactly constitutes a pass.

Go beyond the standard to protect employees by providing AR / FR clothing that is not just compliant but is also comfortable.

We also cover this topic in part of our Proud to Protect Canada series. If you’re a Canadian company or worker interested in learning more, we encourage you to check it out.

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