February 6, 2013
After a debate that spanned several months, the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced on February 4, 2013 that all workers within 75 feet of an oil or natural gas well bore in Wyoming must dress in flash fire resistant clothing.
You can read more about the ruling by clicking this link from the Casper Star Tribune.
A primary concern from many smaller and mid size drilling companies that oppose the ruling, is that the cost of flame resistant clothing is too high. Larger drilling companies, for the most part, have policies that mandate the use of FR clothing already.
While the financial cost of FR clothing is substantially higher than non-FR work wear, companies should also consider factors such as comfort. Increased weight and inability to wick sweat from the skin are common downfalls to less expensive FR garments. These comfort deficiencies can lead to increased levels of heat stress, and in turn can possibly cause lost time accidents and lost production time. Furthermore, lack of comfort breeds non-compliance. Workers who aren't comfortable have a tendency to "cheat" - rolling up sleeves, unbuttoning shirts, or simply taking their FR off completely. When considering flame resistant clothing for your company, research products that provide a high level of comfort and compliance - and you'll easily provide a greater return on your investment.
TECGEN SELECT® Flame and Flash Fire Resistant Shirts and Coveralls are 5.5oz/sq yard and are NFPA 2112 and NFPA 70E HRC 2 certified (ATPV = 8.9 cal/cm2).
-The TECGEN Talker
January 8, 2013
At TECGEN SELECT®, our team works with many companies who are looking to replace their current flame resistant clothing, and also are equipping their crews with FR clothing for the first time. Here's some quick answers to some common questions we've received:
How long does the protection in a flame resistant garment last?
The only way to gauge the exact protection level in a FR garment is by testing per ASTM standards. Unfortunately, these types of tests destroy the garment in the process. Choose FR manufacturers that label their clothing properly and guarantee the protection for the life of the garment.
Can I use insect repellent on my FR clothing?
DEET-based insect repellents have been shown to increase the duration of a flame when applied to arc rated and flash fire resistant clothing. Therefore, TECGEN SELECT® does not recommend the use of DEET-based repellents on our arc rated clothing.
FR clothing is way too hot, what can I do to reduce heat stress?
The most effective ways to reduce heat stress include taking regular breaks, drinking plenty of water, and seek shade or cool areas whenever possible. In addition, utilizing FR clothing that offers lightweight fabric, high breathability, and moisture-management capabilities can also help reduce the risk of heat stress. TECGEN SELECT® is a fantastic option for those seeking cooler FR clothing alternatives.
How should my flame resistant clothing be cleaned? Can I do it at home?
Generally speaking, most flame resistant garments should be washed separately, and without chlorine bleach or fabric softeners. "Normal" detergents are typically okay to use at home. TECGEN SELECT® provides each of our customers with proper laundering instructions, as do most reputable manufacturers. There are also many commercial laundering solutions available and these companies are thoroughly trained on the proper care for FR garments.
Do you have any specific questions for us? The TECGEN SELECT® team is comprised of flame resistant clothing experts with decades of combined experience. Just click here and let us know how we can help!
-The TECGEN Talker
November 1, 2012
Per usual, this entry refelcts upon some insight I gained while on the road. I visited the National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expo which was held last week in Orlando, FL. This event is a great venue for distributors, suppliers, and partners to learn about new products, create ways to increase brand awareness, and build business within the industrial safety industry. It's a large expo, and of course nearly all the prominent U.S. based flame resistant clothing manufaturers were present.
Also present was a very, very large contingent of foreign fabric and garment manufacturers. There's no doubt that in today's age of globalization, many of our everyday products are manufactured overseas. FR Clothing is no exception. For instance, TECGEN SELECT® Brand Fabric is 100% USA made, however our garments are assembled in the Dominican Republic. Our product label reflects this.
This brings me to the point of today's blog. Labeling on Flame and Flash Fire Resistant Clothing - as well as Arc Rated Clothing, should explain to you the certifications the garment has acheived so you can be sure wearers are protected from the particular hazards they face. As I was checking out some of the garments made from unknown manufacturers from China, I noticed "NFPA Certified" was printed on the label. This type of labeling is misleading, and frankly dead wrong. "NFPA Certified" is a way to mislead a buyer as there are a myriad of NFPA certifications that pertain to work clothing. If I were a safety director, I would be extremely hesitant to allow my workers to wear clothing that is so poorly labeled. Here's a basic rundown on what you should be looking for as it pertains to FR Clothing labels:
ASTM F 1506: The Standard Performance Specification for Flame Resistant Textile Materials for Wearing Apparel for Use by Electrical Workers Exposed to Momentary Electric Arc and Related Thermal Hazards.
NFPA 70E: The standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace contains the hierarchy of hazard risk categories (HRC) ranging from 0-4. These categories are dependent upon the ATPV (arc thermal protection value) of a particular gament. TECGEN SELECT® currently boasts the lightest weight fabric (5.5oz per square yard) to achieve HRC 2 certification with an ATPV of 8.9 cal/cm2.
NFPA 2112: This Standard on Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire specifies the minimum performance requirements and test methods for flame-resistant fabrics and components and the design and certification requirements for garments for use in areas at risk from flash fires.
Whether your company is interested in protecting workers from electric arc flashes, flash fire, or combustible dust hazards, looking for these well-known certifications on the product label of your FR clothing selections will ensure an investment is made in protection, and not a mystery.
-The TECGEN Talker
October 15, 2012
I just got back from Kansas City as TECGEN SELECT® exhibited at the International Lineman's Rodeo, held last week in Overland Park, KS. What a fantastic show, the unique thing about ILR is the large number of true end users I got to speak with. Electric utility linemen face a number of dangerous work activities on a day to day basis. As opposed to other wearers of FR Clothing, not only do lineman face the risk of arc flash that can lead to serious injury - they also have to work in confined, elevated space. Lastly, these hard working guys (and gals) work every day in natural elements like heat, wind, rain, hail, snow, hurricanes... you get the drift. These added risks add up to a very tough job indeed.
An interesting dynamic about this segment of the flame and flash fire resistant clothing market - many of the organizations that employ lineman offer these wearers a choice in the flame resistant clothing they wear. What seems to be the prevalent arc rated clothing program is referred to as a "choice" program. Linemen are given an annual allowance for their FR clothing, and a variety of distributors manage this allowance by offering a wide range of fabrics and garment styles for the wearers to choose from. If a wearer exceeds his or her yearly allowance, they pay the difference. This offers some benefit in a number of ways to all parties involved. The employer puts the responsibility of wearing the proper arc rated clothing on a daily basis on the wearer. The fact that linemen can choose their clothing eliminates many complaints about fabric choices and garment styles. It also frees up the employer's cash flow to not make large investments in FR clothing - employees can order what they want, when they want in most cases, from a variety of manufacturers. It's a tangible benefit offered by the employer to allow their employees make the choice of flame resistant clothing on an every day basis.
The best part of the entire event was showing our lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking FR clothing line. TECGEN SELECT® was launched in May of 2010, so our brand is still somewhat new to several of these wearers. Many times I heard linemen comment on how they'd like to have our products added to their choice program, as a way to stay dry and comfortable in the winter, and cool in the summer. Even better was visiting with the guys that currently wear TECGEN SELECT®. It's truly exciting to hear a wearer tell you how your product has helped them on a day to day basis, especially when they have such a tough job to begin with. As the lightest weight HRC 2 fabric on the market per NFPA 70E standards, TECGEN SELECT® is really making an impact in the electric utility industry, which uses NESC as a guide to choosing FR clothing.
The week wrapped up with the awards banquet held Saturday evening. Congratulations to all that competed in the various contests held throughout the day. And an extra "cheers" to all the winners. TECGEN SELECT® proudly sponsored the beer tent at the awards ceremony, giving all in attendance another reason to get excited about our company being there. After competing in wet and dreary conditions throughout the day, cold refreshments were definitely in order! Thanks to IRL for hosting such a well-run event, and of course thanks to all the guys that keep our homes comfortable, our businesses running, and our streets well-lit. We'll see you in 2013.
-The TECGEN Talker
September 25, 2012
I've been speaking recently with many folks in the apparel distribution business who have heard of FR Clothing, but don't sell it. There's three primary reasons for a uniform distributor to consider dealing flame resistant clothing: growing needs, growing awareness, and growing revenue.
Growing Needs. Since 2010, OSHA has levied fines in the oil & gas industry on companies who encounter accidents and whose employees aren't outfitted in flash fire resistant clothing. When considering that the US Department of Labor is expecting 10% growth in jobs that require NFPA 2112 protective clothing, and the expansion of oil and gas drilling from North Dakota to the Gulf Coast - the market needs are growing at a steady rate.
Growing Awareness. The other growing segment of the flame resistant clothing market is manufacturing. Manufacturing companies outfit their electrician, engineering, and maintenance personnel in FR, sometmes mistaken as "flame retardant" clothing. Here, the safety concern is arc flash protection against momentary blasts of electricity that cause severe burns and in some cases, death. NFPA 70E illustrates five levels of protection that FR clothing can provide. A voluntary standard, it's been estimated that only 60% of the market is in compliance. However, the awareness of arc rated clothing has increased steadily among safety personnel over the last several years and the remaining number of facilities out of compliance presents another opportunity for apparel dealers.
Growing Revenue. Compared to medical apparel, hospitality, and non-FR work clothing flame resistant clothing is a much higher-end product in terms of cost. To produce this clothing, manufacturers must invest heavily in testing to ensure fabrics meet the various standards. US-based fabric, like TECGEN SELECT®, also brings higher cost due to using world-class facilities within our own borders. With that said, dealers that are well-educated in FR clothing and can bring their expertise to the customer often have the most success earning larger revenue dollars per unit while still maintaining profitable margins. A distributor intrested in selling FR clothing should learn as much as possible from manufacturers and their own resources alike. Afterward, the market will take care of the rest!
TECGEN SELECT® provides expert flame resistant clothing education and training with a team of experts that have decades of combined experience in the FR clothing market.
-The TECGEN Talker
August 29, 2012
Last week I traveled to Anaheim, CA for the VPPPPA National Conference. It's always great to get out the west coast, and it's always great to talk about flame resistant clothing with many different people!
It's interesting to see how much more informed safety professionals have become over the years in regards to FR clothing. For instance, there's a long-standing misconception that FRC is described as flame retardant clothing. Flame retardant describes something that actually "retards" or eliminates the flame. Flame resistance, on the other hand refers to our clothing which very briefly ignites yet self-extinguishes, thus protecting the worker. At the show, I noticed many of our visitors were using the proper terminology. In fact, several folks even used the term "arc rated clothing," per the 2012 revisions to the NFPA 70E standard! Very impressive.
Another observation is the questions we received about treated versus inherently FR clothing. Our guests at the booth seemed very knowledgeable about the advantages an inherently flame resistant garment like TECGEN SELECT brings as opposed to the very commonly found treated, cotton-based, FR garment. They appeared very reassured that our USA-made TECGEN(r) Fabric does not shrink like 88/12 cotton/nylon and 100% cotton-treated FR blends do.
Lastly, one of the more common complaints we received from safety professionals is in regards to compliance. It's hard to enforce compliance for flame and flash fire resistant clothing when it's hot, bulky, and uncomfortable. On the other hand, the existing TECGEN customer we did speak with had exellent reports of increased compliance, just like this customer.
As the exposure to NFPA 2112 and NFPA 70E has grown, so has the knowledge of safety professionals as it pertains to FR clothing. Of course, our team at TECGEN has over 100 years of combined experience in advising safety personnel on the differences of flame resistant clothing. Just give us a shout if we can help!
-The TECGEN Talker
August 13, 2012
Here at TECGEN®, Our mission of exceeding compliance standards and quality expectations for flame-resistant garments is woven into the TECGEN® fiber itself. The patented, bi-regional inherently flame-resistant fiber has a high density carbonaceous shell that absorbs incredible heat, yet allows the comfortable inside fiber to remain untouched. It also contains an acrylic core that allows the fiber to maintain good textile properties. The beauty of TECGEN® fiber is that the fiber can be blended or spun into normal textiles.
It started with TECGEN XTREME® non-structural turnout gear. Dual certified for NFPA 1951 (technical rescue) and NFPA 1977 (wildland firefighting), TECGEN XTREME® garments allow your body to maintain cooler temperatures, decreasing the likelihood of heat stress and heart attacks on the job. With three times the THL of turnout gear, XTREME protective apparel combats heat-related fire-fighting risks while providing the same protection as heavier gear.
Through our unwavering commitment to 'Advancing the Science of Safety', we expanded to offer garments to other relevant industries. Industrial fire resistant and flame retardant wear is classically regarded as bulky and uncomfortable; however, it is mandated wear in the electric, oil, and gas industries. So we put our premier fire-resistant fiber to work and wove a new blend that is changing the way every day wearers perceive personal protective gear. By combining light weight, fast moisture wicking technology and exceptional breathability, TECGEN SELECT® product lines are the next generation in quality industrial FR wear.
TECGEN SELECT® flame resistant clothing products are known for their low fabric weight, high garment breathability, and fast moisture wicking capability. The lightest product on the market dual certified for NFPA 70e HRC 2 arc flash protection and NFPA 2112 flash fire resistance, our apparel exceeds protective standards by utilizing the same high quality inherently flame-resistant fiber found in XTREME gear.
-The TECGEN Talker
August 3, 2012
Flame resistant (FR) clothing has become a product category which many safety and health professionals are very familiar with. EHS managers in a wide variety of industries are now educated about this type of protective clothing as the adoption of standards set forth by NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)70E, NFPA 2112, and NESC (National Electric Safety Code) have drastically increased in the last two decades. The good news for industrial safety professionals is there are more options in FR clothing today than ever before to comply with these standards. This leaves a simple question: which FR clothing option is best for a specific company? The only way to determine the optimal FR clothing choice for any facility is to administer a proper wear trial. This article will discuss best practices to ensure a wear trial results in the best flame resistant clothing choice for industrial workers.
Evaluate Protection Levels Needed
FR Clothing varies greatly in the protection levels provided, from fabric to fabric and from garment to garment. The first step in the process is to clearly understand the hazards workers face in a particular facility or working environment. NFPA 70E, the code for electrical safety in the workplace, classifies these hazards in five Hazard Risk Categories (HRC), ranging from 0-4. The Arc Thermal Protection Value (ATPV) of a particular garment determines which HRC level the garment falls into. A thorough arc-flash analysis will indicate which arc-rated garments qualify to provide the safety protection workers must have in a particular facility. NFPA 2112 on the other hand is the guide for which EHS Managers in Oil, Gas, and other flash-fire prone industries use to determine their FR clothing options. This standard is much more straightforward, as a garment either passes or fails the standard depending on the predicted body burn percentage a worker is exposed to while wearing the clothing. There are a myriad of resources and services available to S&H Professionals to help narrow the FR clothing choices for a wear trial based on safety requirements.
Evaluate Working Environment and Tasks
Once the required protection levels are established, the next step in narrowing choices for a FR clothing wear trial is to evaluate the environment and tasks of the workers required to wear the garments. Are the conditions hot and are workers exposed to heat-related illness? If so, seek lightweight and breathable fabric options to minimize the risk of heat stress. Do workers require several tools or devices to complete tasks? Research garment options that offer utilities such as deep pockets, loops, and easy access. What durability is needed? A maintenance worker who performs welding and grinding duties has different durability needs than an electrician performing his or her tasks in the same plant. It's common to see different needs based on environment and tasks within the same facility. EHS Professionals can administer wear trials with garments that meet all needs if the safety requirements are met by researching all FR manufacturers.
Determine Best Employees To Participate In The Wear Trial
Once FR clothing options are funneled based on protection level, working environment, and tasks required by the wearers, choose the best workers to participate. The ideal participants have experience wearing flame resistant or arc-rated clothing, are knowledgeable about all tasks and varying environments their co-workers are faced with, and are known for providing valuable feedback to management on a variety of topics. They are opinionated and don't hesitate to give their sincerest points of view. These veterans have experience and are respected by management and co-workers alike for the work they do and the leadership they provide. These types of individuals are the best candidates to provide unbiased results for Safety Personnel to evaluate at the conclusion of the wear trial.
Administer The Wear Trial In An Unbiased Fashion
Once garment selections and participants are set, produce the most accurate wear trial results by establishing a few parameters. Choose a timeline as an example a drilling contractor in South Texas should run the wear trial in the intense heat of July instead of the cold month of January to evaluate the comfort of workers in high temperatures. If durability is a great concern, choose to do the wear trial during a plant turnaround when heavy mechanical duties are required. Make the timeline succinct by establishing a specific wear trial start and end date. The participants chosen should wear the garment selections one day at a time and should wear and wash each garment choice the same number of times within the given timeframe. It's important that each participant wears all garment choices if employee A wears one garment and employee B wears another, accurate results cannot be achieved. Lastly, select a measurement device. Most reputable U.S.-based FR manufacturers should provide a standardized survey which allows management to evaluate the results. Otherwise, develop an internal survey that gives precise metrics based on a specific working environment. Combine these metrics with subjective feedback from the participants to gather the end results.
Decide On The Product Of Choice
The results provided by the wear test survey, combined with the verbal feedback provided by the participants will reveal the best FR clothing options for an industrial company. Safety Management and Purchasing should then evaluate the final selections' total cost of ownership for a period of several years by taking garment replacements, employee turnover, and longevity of the garments into consideration. The cost of FR clothing can vary greatly depending on fabric, comfort value, and garment life. The flame resistant clothing choice a company ultimately makes, however, depends on the value it places on the safety, comfort, and feedback of its employees.
-The TECGEN Talker
July 5, 2012
For those involved in the FR world, whether on the manufacturing, distribution, or end-user sides, word has quickly spread regarding the recent federal court ruling deeming the memo issued by OSHA in 2010 as "improper rule making."
Here's a quick history of what has led up to this ruling:
The General Duty Clause under the Occupational Health & Safety Act of 1970 requires employers to provide a workplace that is "is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees."
In 2010, according to OSHA, 16% of fatalities in oilfields resulted from fire and explosions. In March of that year, CFR 1910.132 was created to remedy the "inconsistent use" of FRC in drilling operations. It was issued in the form of a memo.
Several companies in the industry raised objections to this memo, stating that FRC was expensive, hot, and bulky to wear - especially in the hot climates in which most oil & gas is produced.
On October 14, 2010, a flash fire occured at a Petro Hunt facility in Northwestern North Dakota. The fire was extinguished and nobody was hurt. However, upon OSHA inspection the following day, a citation and a fine were issued because the company did not require flash fire resistant clothing and the employees did not have protective clothing during the time of the incident.
After appeals were made by Petro Hunt, which demonstrated a proper hazard assessment was made prior to the incident, a federal judge sided with Petro Hunt, stating that OSHA cannot require FRC without conducting the promper rulemaking process.
The final ruling: OSHA "cannot 'require' anything more than what is authorized by the regulations. If [OSHA] wishes to specifically require that FRC be worn in all instances at oil and gas operations, then [it] must resort to the required notice and comment rulemaking process." As a result, "the FRC memo does not have the force and effect of law."
So, where does this leave the oil & gas industries as it pertains to the use of flame-resistant clothing? It remains an unknown at this point. Perhaps OSHA will conduct the formal rule making process and enact a law that reflects upon the memo issued in 2010. Or, maybe the ruling will stand as the last word when it comes to this issue. Regardless, employers will still need to determine if FRC is needed on a day-to-day basis by conducting a proper and formal hazard analysis.
My opinion: the use of flame retardant coveralls, FRC, flame resistant clothing, or however you choose to use the term - has become engrained in the safety culture of these industries. Many of the companies we speak with in the drilling industries have built budgets for the expenditure, their employees have accepted protective clothing as a part of their daily PPE, and these end users are now seeking FR technology that will provide an advantage in comfort compared to the FRC they were forced to purchase two years ago.
-The TECGEN Talker
June 14, 2012
This week I attended the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Conference in Las Vegas, NV. Initially, I thought it is somewhat ironic that such a massive industry is dedicated to protecting all of us against one of man's all-time greatest tools: fire. We use fire, flame, and heat to manufacture, keep us comfortable, cook our food, and all of the other uses each of us know well. Fire can be also very destructive and unfortunately, fatal. We are all taught this from a very early age.
As I walked the expo floor, it seemed the common theme among all the different vendors was automation. Automatic flame detection, automated systems to reduce arc-flash threats, sophisticated automation in sprinkler systems. Technology has certainly been adopted and widespread in this industry - and it makes sense. In the devastating circumstance in which a fire, arc-flash, or flash fire can occur, every single second counts. Automation can alert us and give us the precious time to escape and save our homes, belongings and even our lives.
That brings me to my final thought: how can clothing provide automation? In an industrial environment, the only conclusion I could arrive at was comfort and unifomity. If clothing fits a wearer well, less time is spent adjusting constantly throughout the day. If clothing makes a wearer look professional and feel good, the "dress for success" psyche takes over and gives a person confidence. If clothing is lightweight and breathable in a hot working environment, the wearer cools down faster, takes shorter breaks and thus is more productive. If a team of workers is uniformly dressed, supervisors and customers can automatically identify them - just ask the folks at UPS if a uniform has helped their company.
An abstract, silly thought? Perhaps. But clothing costs in business will never go away. And decision makers looking to provide the highest levels of automation in clothing should seek newer technology to maximize comfort, productivity, and bottom-line value.
- The TECGEN Talker