Have you ever had to purchase FR coveralls? Many employees in the oil and gas industry have to wear them on a regular basis. It’s standard uniform for many companies. Employers are responsible for providing them to their workers.
But with so many options to choose from, finding the right coverall can be difficult. You have to understand the exact hazards your employees are exposed to. You also have to consider things like comfort and durability. But the first step is to understand the difference between AR and FR clothing.
Coverall Use: AR or FR?
The purpose of AR clothing is to protect workers from electrical arc flash hazards. Arc flash is a sudden, violent release of heat and energy. It happens when there’s a fault with electrical equipment.
Electricians often need to wear AR coveralls. They have the highest potential to be affected by arc flash hazards. AR clothing helps to protect these workers. The coveralls are built to resist ignition. They won’t burn or catch fire.
FR clothing is designed to protect workers from fire-related hazards. FR clothing doesn't resist ignition like AR clothing does. FR will catch fire if exposed. But it’s designed to self-extinguish. So it won’t continue to burn after the initial event.
AR and FR clothing are very similar. The difference is that AR clothing gives you a higher level of protection. All AR clothing is flame-resistant. But not all FR clothing is arc-rated.
When purchasing an FR coverall, you need to find out if any of your employees will need an AR level of protection. Because arc flash hazards definitely exist in the oil and gas industry.
The NFPA categorizes hazards into four different levels of risk.
Category 1 is usually low-risk work that only needs basic protection. Most of the time, standard FR clothing will be sufficient. You’ll have to check the specs of the FR clothing to be sure, though. Categories two through four require additional protection. This is where AR clothing comes into play.
It’s up to the employer to decide which hazard category employees fall into. If you are unsure how to best categorize your work, you may want to hire a consultant. Find a professional engineer who’s familiar with NFPA 70E and electrical arc flash hazards. They can help you determine what level of protection your employees need.
FR Garment Material
Once you’ve established a baseline, you can start to think about garment material. For instance, you can purchase FR coveralls in two different styles: flame-resistant and flame-retardant. The other thing you’ll want to consider with garment material is the maintenance requirements.
Flame-Resistant vs. Flame-Retardant
Flame-resistant material is inherently designed to resist flames and embers. Flame-retardant on the other hand, has been chemically treated to resist them. Both kinds of material can sufficiently protect employees. You may not even notice the difference between the two.
Check out our post “FR Clothing Requirements for Oil & Gas” here to learn more.
Often times the maintenance and laundering requirements will vary, depending on the type and garment material. Usually the treated, flame-retardant material will only be good for a certain number of washes. Be sure to check the labels and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
When looking at different coverall options, don’t overlook the maintenance side of things. You want to get your money’s worth with these garments. And that means taking care of them the right way. So don’t forget to factor in the maintenance costs.
Comfort and durability are two additional features you’ll need to consider. Check with your supplier to see if you can get a sample garment delivered. Handling and trying on the coveralls will give you a better idea for both of these considerations.
If you’re going to require employees to wear a specific set of clothes, they’d better be comfortable. Back when FR clothing first came out, options were limited. And not many of them were real comfortable to wear.
These days, they’re made with high quality material. You can hardly even tell the difference between the coveralls and your normal clothes. Of course, comfort will still vary. It depends on the brand, size, material, and a number of other factors. That’s why it’s nice to have some samples to compare.
Again, you want to get your money’s worth here. So if you’re going to require FR coveralls at your jobsite, keep in mind the durability factor. Make sure you purchase a coverall that’s going to withstand the elements of the oil and gas industry.
Of course, you’ll have to replace them eventually. But it might make sense to spend a little more upfront if it’s going to save you money in the long run.
This is a pair of standard FR Coveralls. It’s a full-body suit that protects workers from fire-related hazards. This particular set is also Arc-Rated for Category 2 hazards. It has an ATPV rating of 11 calories/cm².
A set like this is a great starting point. It’s sufficient enough to protect workers from most FR and AR hazards. And in situations where additional protection is needed, you can simply add layers underneath or on top of this one.
Cold Weather Gear
When employees have to work outdoors, they need an extra layer for warmth. But they still need to be protected from fire-related and arc-flash hazards.
This bomber jacket is FR and AR rated. It’s approved for Category 4 hazards, with an ATPV rating of 43.3 cal/cm².
FR Coveralls aren’t always enough to sufficiently protect your workers. Sometimes they need additional items, such as head gear and other advanced equipment. These items are required for some jobs but not for others. It all depends on the work your employees are doing. Check with your supplier to see what else they might recommend.
Wrapping It Up
Making sure workers are equipped with the proper PPE is crucial. Especially when it comes to FR and AR coveralls. These garments can save countless workers from serious burns, injuries, and even death.
Choosing the right FR coverall can be a daunting task. There’s a lot to consider. But don’t assume you have to make these decisions alone. Reach out to us at RMI. We’ve helped a lot of companies find the garments that work best for them. Let us do the same for you.