When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released Enforcement Policy for Flame-Resistant Clothing in Oil and Gas Drilling, Well Servicing, and Production-Related Operations in March of 2010, the Memorandum was intended to clarify OSHA's policy for citing the general industry standard for personal protective equipment (PPE), 29 CFR 1910.132(a). Safety managers in the oil and gas industry were suddenly faced with a new challenge: to provide flame resistant (FR) clothing for employees exposed to flash fire hazards. Despite this notification, there were some delays in the adoption of FR clothing in the oil and gas industry. Some hindrances to full adoption of FR clothing across the industry included:
Less mature understanding of the importance and adoption of FR clothing (compared to other industries like electric utilities and oil refining), and in turn,
Confusion over selecting and specifying FR clothing
This paper provides guidance for safety managers charged with protecting their employees against flash fire hazards. This paper will examine the role of FR clothing as part of a comprehensive safety program, and highlight the consequences of flash fire, with an emphasis on the importance of using garments certified for the hazard. You will understand why specifying National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 2112 compliant garments are important to you as a safety professional, even beyond compliance with OSHA. We will explain the difference between laboratory testing and real world performance. Finally, we will review the steps for instituting or upgrading an FR clothing program and highlight some common traps safety managers may encounter.
Simply put, FR clothing can make the difference between life and death. When workers are exposed to flash fires while wearing "everyday" fabrics, those fabrics can ignite, melt and continue to burn which in turn increases the injury and could lead to death. This includes common fabrics like:
Most severe burn injuries and fatalities are caused by non-flame resistant clothing igniting and continuing to burn. In fact, the body area under non-FR clothing is often burned even more severely than exposed skin.