Abstract

NFPA 2112 and 2113 are the first comprehensive North American standards to provide guidance on minimum material performance specifications for selection, care, use and maintenance of flame resistant clothing to protect workers against industrial flash fires. An instrumented manikin flash fire test specifying a limit on predicted body area burn injury is among the NFPA 2112 requirements. The level of body area burn injury is discussed as a key indicator for victim survival. The level of predicted body burn injury for various types of flame resistant clothing systems over a range of flash fire exposure levels is discussed. Basic guidelines for wearing flame resistant clothing are provided.

Introduction

Workers in the petroleum, petrochemical, chemical and related industries in North America have only recently gained the benefit of comprehensive standards to provide guidance on material performance, selection, use, care and maintenance of flame resistant clothing for protection against flash fire hazards. A new requirement regarding instrumented thermal manikin testing of flame resistant (FR) clothing provides an assessment of the protection level of fabrics used in FR clothing systems in terms of predicted body area burn injury. Body area burn injury is a key predictor of victim survival from a flash fire incident, and the protective performance of flame resistant clothing systems over a range of flash fire exposure levels can be used to match protective clothing systems to identified flash fire hazards. Following guidelines on garment wearing procedures can maximize the protection offered by the selected FR clothing system.

Flash Fire Hazards

Historically, flash fire hazards were viewed as fairly rare incidents from which workers in the affected area would attempt to escape to avoid life-threatening injuries. In some cases, the presence of multiple exposure conditions in a flash fire incident, i.e., hazardous chemicals, toxic fumes and/or off gases has complicated protective clothing and equipment strategies. After a number of very serious incidents involving the ignition of conventional work clothing which resulted in multiple burn injury fatalities and serious nonfatal burn injuries, the petroleum, petrochemical and chemical industries began to broadly adopt FR clothing in order to increase worker survival in the event of an industrial flash fire incident. Generally these adoptions involved the use of FR coveralls or FR shirts and FR pants by all employees and contractors exposed to flash fire hazards on a specific industrial site. This provided workers with a few extra seconds of escape time and resulted in reduced body area burn injury levels and increased the chance of surviving a flash fire incident. Table 1 provides typical exposure parameters for industrial flash fire hazards.

Table 1. Typical Industrial Flash Fire Exposure Parameters (available in full paper)

Ignition of Conventional Clothing by Flash Fire Exposure

Conventional work clothing is typically made of 100% cotton fabrics or fabrics made of polyester/cotton fiber blends or nylon/cotton fiber blends. All of these fabric types are flammable, and in addition, the nylon and polyester fibers can melt onto the skin aggravating the burn injury.

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