Many organizations now require FR clothing as part of an employee’s standard uniform. They’re beginning to realize how often their employees need that kind of protection. Workers in these organizations wear coveralls on a daily basis. But what about when they have to work outdoors? That’s where FR jackets come in.
Flame-Resistant jackets serve two purposes. They prevent cold stress health issues. And they prevent burns and injuries.
Preventing Cold Stress
Working in cold weather can be tough; bitter cold temperatures, wind, and snowfall. All of these are less than ideal working conditions. But it’s common in certain regions and industries. So workers need to learn how to protect themselves from cold stress hazards.
Hypothermia is a serious condition where a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This happens when an employee works outdoors for long periods of time. Prevent hypothermia by wearing warm layers of clothing. Staying dry will also reduce your risk for developing this cold stress condition. FR jackets and coats will help to keep workers warm and dry.
Frostbite occurs when deep layers of the skin and tissue freeze. Cold temperatures and windy conditions can lead to frostbite. Protect workers by giving them warm, dry clothing. FR jackets will warm a person’s core body temperature. Accessories such as hats and neckwarmers will protect other exposed areas.
OSHA has a helpful Quick Card Guide from OSHA. It offers additional information on how to prevent and treat cold stress illnesses.
How Layers Can Help
There’s one other way to reduce your chances of developing a cold stress illness: bundle up with layers. Don’t underestimate the benefits of wearing multiple layers. It’s actually one of the most efficient ways to stay warm and dry.
So what kinds of layers should your employees wear?
Workers should always wear a moisture-wicking garment for their base layer. They help regulate body temperature by removing perspiration away from the skin. This allows you to dry more quickly. Staying dry protects workers from hypothermia and frostbite.
Cotton garments absorb moisture, and can contribute to too much cooling. The sweat gets trapped between the skin and clothing. That makes the employee’s body temperature drop… leading to hypothermia and other cold stress conditions.
Do keep in mind that base layers should also be made from FR materials. A person’s base layer is the last line of defense from fire and arc flash hazards. If there is a strong thermal event, it could burn through outer protective garments. Base layer protection can also be used to achieve the Hazard Risk Category (HRC) and Arc Thermal Performance Value (ATPV) ratings. The NFPA sets minimum requirements for levels of protection against arc flash hazards.
There are two ways to meet the minimum requirements. Either achieve the proper rating by wearing one heavy-duty garment. Or use multiple layers that add up to the total ATPV ratings. Layering isn’t required, but it’s often a good idea. It helps to keep workers warm and dry. And it adds additional protection from fire and arc flash hazards (so long as they are FR rated of course).
Related Post: FR Clothing: Choosing Base Layers
Preventing Burns and Injuries
Most workers in the oil and gas industry want something that is heavy-duty. They want clothing to be durable so it can withstand the environment. But they don’t want it to be too bulky or uncomfortable.
It’s entirely possible to keep your employees warm without compromising their safety.
There have been a lot of recent advancements in cold-weather FR apparel. Workers now have access to FR jackets that are comparable to any other work jacket out there. You can hardly tell the difference in most of them.
The second purpose of FR jackets is to protect employees from burns and injuries. The jackets have flame-resistant properties. So, they can protect against fire and arc flash hazards.
FR clothing protects workers from hazards like flash fires, sparks and slag from welding operations, and more. Flame-resistant clothing is not fire proof, so it will catch fire if ignited. But, it’s designed to self-extinguish. The clothing will not continue to burn.
The purpose of FR clothing is to minimize the extent of burn injuries. And to reduce the number of workers who are affected by fire-related hazards.
Arc Flash Hazards
Arc flash hazards are not the same as fire-related hazards. An arc flash is a sudden, violent release of heat and energy. It happens where there is a fault or failure in electrical equipment. AR clothing protects workers from electrical arc hazards.
Remember the ATPV ratings we talked about earlier? That pertains to arc-rated clothing. Most FR jackets are also arc-rated. But always check the label of your garments to make sure.
Related Post: The Difference Between AR and FR Clothing
More About FR Jackets
Employees will appreciate the comfort that insulated clothing gives them. They are soft, warm, and easy to work in.
Having comfortable options might make your employees more willing to wear their PPE. Without the proper FR clothing, workers could get seriously burned or even killed. So it’s worth it to invest in FR jackets that are comfortable.
See if you can get some samples from your supplier. If you have something to feel and try on, it’ll make your purchasing decision that much easier. With samples in hand, you’ll get to see how truly comfortable some of these garments are.
Just make sure you get something that will adequately protect employees.
Related Post: How to Choose the Best FR Coveralls
In addition, you should train employees to remove their outer and middle layers during break time. It’ll prevent overheating, and will allow any dampness to evaporate. Workers should change into dry clothes whenever necessary.
Remember, the outermost layer must always be FR or AR material. This layer is the first exposed to hazards. So it’s essential that winter jackets are capable of sufficiently protecting employees.
Limitations of FR Jackets
There’s one thing you need to think about with FR jackets. Be careful with jackets that have a hood. It’s best practice not to wear loose fitting clothes near rotating parts and machinery. Do your employees work next to these kinds of hazards? If so, avoid jackets that have hoods.
Not all jackets come with a hood anyway. And if they do, sometimes they’re removable. Just be sure to take this into consideration before you buy any jackets or coats.
Many oilfield workers like to wear extra layers. Especially when working outdoors. There are plenty of FR jackets and coats to choose from that will help keep them safe and warm. Talk to your employees. Get their input on the various options. Order them something that they will be comfortable wearing.
Want more information on FR clothing? Check out more of our recent blog posts. Give us a call and let us know what you’re looking for. Our team is here to help.