January 11, 2009
The National Electric Safety Code’s (NESC) newly regulated policy to make it a standard practice for electrical utility workers to wear protective Flame-Resistant (FR) clothing, effective January 1, has found many workers and employers in a state of panic.
The revised NESC codebook was launched in section 410 A 3, requiring companies to do a fault analysis, or a position hazard assessment, to determine what the potential exposure hazard is to an electric arc for employees who work on or near energized parts or equipment.
The NESC states that if the assessment determines that employee exposure is greater than 2cal/cm2, the employer shall require its employees to wear FR clothing or a clothing system that has an effective arc rating not less than the anticipated level of arc energy.
Since FR is one of the fastest growing clothing categories in many workwear apparel lines, it’s not a surprise to see several new emerging FR apparel lines. But many FR assortment offerings existed prior to the launch of the new regulation from well-known brands . There are manufacturers who carry a complete assortment of products ranging anywhere from knits, twills, jackets, lighter weight T-shirts and various bottom options; a crucial necessity since the NESC requires that the worker is compliant in FR clothing from top to bottom.
Trends & techniques
With workwear needs changing from once a “basic want” to now a “necessity required for a job site,” workers will be looking for clothing options that closely resemble their current favorite styles and comfortable fits.
Research indicates that manufacturers are now focusing on providing light-weight FR products that are still compliant to protection standards, but minimize potential heat stress.
As FR fabrics and standards evolve, workwear manufacturers have been afforded the flexibility of bringing more options to the table for their consumers that meet or exceed Arc Thermal Protective Value (ATPV) ratings. Because of this, new FR-treated fabric technologies and inherent FR fabrics have evolved to give consumers more garment options to choose from that cover all applications and environments.
Compliance to FR clothing standards on the job does not have to mean discomfort and does not mean that a single heavy FR garment must be worn to be compliant with safety standards. Taking a layering approach will allow comfort and ease of movement on the job, while allowing you to stay cool and safe. And wearing multiple layers of FR clothing will provide more protection than a single layer. The effect of the combination of these multiple layers can be referred to as the effective arc rating.
The need to meet the new NESC mandated FR law will take a bit of getting used to. Do your homework to find manufacturers that will meet all of your FR needs.