In a survey of 500 people working in fields exposed to arc flash and flash fire, 38 per cent did not wear flame resistant (FR) clothing for work. The most prominent reason was that the clothing was not provided by their workplace (38 per cent), with other reasons including being expensive, uncomfortable, or too hot.
Those who did wear the safety clothing did so primarily because they believed safety was paramount, with industry regulation and company policy also listed as important reasons.
Another common misconception that lead to workers not protective clothing was the lack of knowledge about flame resistant fibres, with cotton the most commonly mistaken as a FR fibre.
This lack of knowledge is blamed for the rate of onsite injuries and near-injuries, as the report also found that 56 per cent of participants admitted to having experienced a near miss injury as a result of arc flash or a flash fire. Nearly half of those were injured and needed time off work.
First degree burns were the most prominent form of injuries, followed by third and second degree burns respectively. Damage to the respiratory system was also cited as a result of not wearing FR clothing while working.
The areas most at risk of injury were hands, followed by arms, legs and face.
The report also found that nearly half of those injured were required to take more than one week off work, with 17 per cent receiving medical bills exceeding $10,000.
Those wearing FR clothing at the point of injury were less likely to take a day off work or seek medical care.
Electrical and energy workers are most at risk of arc flash (41 per cent) followed by those in mining (39 per cent) and manufacturing (35 per cent). The highest risk to flash fires are those in emergency services and the oil and gas industry.
Brad Shefelbine, Hard Yakka ShieldTEC FR product manager said, “While the research was conducted to better understand industries’ understanding of flame-resistant clothing, it’s alarming to see the significant number of people who don’t sufficiently protect themselves at work, and subsequently the injuries they’re exposing themselves to.”