All the Buzz: Multi-Hazard PPE

Author: Hugh Hoagland, Stacy Klausing
Publication: ArcWear, August 2015
Sponsored by: National Safety Apparel | (800) 553-0672

Multi-hazard PPE is the new buzzword in the FR marketplace. We first heard the term "multi-hazard protection" in 2013 when DuPont Nomex MHP was launched -- a fabric designed and marketed to protect against multiple industrial threats like electric arc, flash fire, and molten metal.

Also in 2013, a TIA for NFPA 2112 went into effect which removed the 10% shrinkage requirement for cold-weather insulation. This meant modacrylic used as cold-weather insulation could meet the flash fire rated standard; consequently, more winterwear was certified and began entering 2112 marketplace. This TIA did not apply to single layer fabrics, so Modacrylic vests (the most common flame resistant high vis vest) were still not meeting the standard. Additionally, NFPA 2112 was originally a coverall standard and requires the fabric to allow no more than a 50% body burn. This is necessary in a shirt, pant, or coverall but it may not be necessary in a vest; the company will need to decide.

Then, in 2014, the final rule of OSHA 1910.269 addressed winterwear and rainwear by requiring the outer layer of clothing worn by a worker to be FR under certain conditions. Industrial workers are exposed to numerous threats on the job and as the industry evolves, multi-hazard PPE is becoming more popular. Manufacturers have worked to create, test, and certify PPE that is comfortable, affordable, and suitable for exposures to several hazards and elements. Having one garment suitable for all threats in the workplace is a desirable characteristic, as it's convenient and economical. Further, having multi-hazard PPE on the shelves can help employers to simplify their PPE program while following federal law.

So, what's new?

Products marketed for compliance with both NFPA 2112 and ASTM F1506 have now been on the market for years. The newest products on the market include shirts, vests, and outerwear that have been certified for a triple threat: ANSI 107 for high visibility, NFPA 2112 for flash fire, and ASTM F1506/NFPA 70E for electric arc. There are also lines of multi-hazard rainwear available that meet the requirements of ASTM F1891 (rainwear for electric arc), ASTM F2733 (rainwear for flash fire), and ANSI 107 for high-visibility (which includes special requirements for rainwear or flame-resistant products).

There are several fiber blends (both inherent and treated) on the market suitable for compliance with ASTM F1506 and NFPA 2112. Making flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) materials compliant with ANSI 107 has historically been a challenge as there are strict color and brightness requirements, including requirements after exposure to light. Previously, products in the market that use a modacrylic blend have been used for FR compliance with ANSI 107. Today, newer products are using a compliant cotton/nylon blend and another inherent blend of Modacrylic, Lyocell and Aramid, which leaves options open for the end-users. Both Modacrylic blends and FR cotton blends have a lot to offer in terms of protection, comfort, and durability.

What are all of these numbers?

NFPA 2112 Standard on Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel against Flash Fire lays out criteria for the design and performance of garments intended to be used in the event of a short-duration thermal exposure. Compliance with NFPA 2112 requires third-party certification. This certification is performed by an ISO/IEC 17065 accredited entity with legal means to back their mark, and manufacturers must show product compliance through testing (on an ongoing basis) and auditing of facilities and quality management systems.

ASTM F2733- Standard Specification for Flame Resistant Rainwear for Protection against Flame Hazardsimilar to NFPA 2112, ASTM F2733 requires large scale flash fire manikin testing and has a tighter body burn requirement (<40% body burn to pass versus <50% in NFPA 2112). The standard is used for rainwear and has additional testing requirements for flame, tear strength, and leak resistance.

ASTM F1506 (used for material compliance with NFPA 70E) is a specification for clothing used by workers with exposure to the thermal hazards of an electric arc. ASTM F1506 is a self-certification specification that requires a large scale electric arc test (output is an 'arc rating' that is used to match the hazard in the workplace).

ANSI 107 Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel applies to any worker requiring conspicuity in daytime and at night (to be seen where there are moving vehicles or equipment). Applicable to workers with low visibility (construction, utility, emergency response workers, etc.), the standard outlines requirements for the background material (brightness, strength, and durability requirements), combined performance material, retroreflective trim, and garment design.

Where is this clothing applicable?

The hazard assessment (required to be performed by the employer per OSHA 1910.269) could determine that more than one hazard exists in the workplace; A PPE program should be put into place after a hazard assessment is completed. PPE is used to provide a last resort of protection with the intent of reducing risk of injury when other means are not possible. Determining a PPE program requires matching PPE to the hazard while also considering design, comfort, and cost. If it is determined that there are multiple risks in the workplace (for example, a construction worker with struck by hazards and a risk of electric arc exposure), outfitting the worker in multi-hazard PPE is a cost-effective and convenient way to protect workers.

Do you need to switch your high-vis vest if your workers have an exposure to arc flash or flash fire?

  1. If you currently use an FR polyester, the answer is YES. There is really no such thing as FR polyester. Using the NFPA 701 curtain textile test or ASTM D6413 test method as your only FR criteria is unwise, and it does not meet ANSI 107 or any applicable FR standard.
  2. If you currently have an ASTM F1506 vest but think you want to consider flash fire as an additional potential hazard, you may feel very comfortable that the vest will not increase injury in the event of an arc flash or a flash fire. These multi-hazard vests are also available in mesh which is non-contributory and will give you a very cool vest compared to the NFPA 2112 compliant vests.
  3. If you are considering a multi-hazard protection strategy and want a coverall, shirt, or pant to meet the ANSI 107, ASTM F1506, AND the NFPA 2112 standards you will definitely want to consider one of the newer materials.

Due to changes in federal law and increasing demand, the multi-hazard PPE market is expanding, and more options are available than ever before. Choose the PPE that works best for your hazard and work environment.