Benchmark flame resistant utility wear
Industries that need FR apparel

Overview

If a person is in an environment where there exists the potential for an electrical arc-flash or a flash fire they should wear flame resistant personal protection equipment that is appropriately matched to the threat.

Each year hundreds, even thousands of workers are injured by electrical arcs and flash fires. Often times a survivable injury becomes a life threatening ordeal because once the incident is over, the clothing worn continues to burn, melt and smolder – many times while the wearer is unconscious or in a state of shock. In an effort to reduce the number of fatalities, numerous standards, codes and work methods were developed which require the continual use of flame resistant garments.

OSHA states: “The employer shall ensure that each employee who is exposed to the hazards of flames or electric arc does not wear clothing that, when exposed to flame or electric arcs, could increase the extent of the injury that would be sustained by the employee. OSHA 1910.269

Arc flash:

An arc flash is a short circuit through the air. The temperature of an arc is the hottest naturally occurring source of heat on the planet, with temperatures reaching more than 35,000° F. An enormous amount of radiant energy explodes outward from the electrical arcs, spreading hot gases, melting metal, causing severe radiation burns, ignition of flammable materials and creating pressure waves which can send pieces of equipment, tools, and other objects flying thus injuring anyone standing nearby.

Five people a day are submitted to burn centers because of arc flash burns. Electrocution is the fourth leading cause of industrial fatalities in the US after traffic, homicide and construction. Often the extent of the injury could have been reduced if the victim had been wearing clothing which self extinguished and controlled the spread of flame. While flame resistant garments will not completely protect the wearer in the immediate area from shock, burn or trauma, it can reduce the extent of the injury and, in many cases, save a persons life.

Flash fire:

The primary threat to oil, petrochemical and mine workers is flash fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association and the Canadian General Standards Board, a flash fire typically lasts just three seconds or less.

Defined by CGSB 155.20-2000 and NFPA 2113 as: “A rapidly moving flame front which can be a combustion explosion. Flash fire may occur in an environment where fuel and air become mixed in adequate concentrations to combust…flash fire has a heat flux of approximately 84 kW/m² for relatively short periods of time, typically less than 3 seconds.”

Imagine a three second flash fire, in which your face and possibly your hands have received severe burns. There may have been an explosion which had the ability to render you unconscious. Hopefully you are wearing flame resistant garments and your clothes have both resisted ignition and self extinguished. Perhaps you received burns to your body – but how badly? Your chances of survival depend directly on the percentage of the total burned surface area of you body. Benchmark FR garments self extinguish, reduce the extent of an injury and give the workers a few extra seconds of escape time.

Explosion & IED (Improvised Explosive Devices):

While it is impractical to fully shield soldiers and police from all thermal energy released during an explosion there are practical ways to boost the level of protection while maintaining comfort. Explosive devices have the potential to render a solder unconscious during an explosion. While Benchmark FR will not guard them completely from physical trauma we can offer additional layers of protection which will help control the spread of fire. For example we developed 2nd Skin to offer 5 cal/sq-cm of protection (note that 1.2 cal/sq-cm causes 2nd degree burns), along with the ability to self extinguish. It reacts to protect by A) resisting ignition, B) blocking thermal energy and C) self extinguishing which helps control the spread of flame.

Benchmark has donated all recent stocks of excess 2nd Skin to the US Marines fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Utilities & communications:

Utilities involved with electrical transmission & generation have historically taken the stance that they were exempt from complying with national standards which addressed flame resistant PPE. With the absence of a “how to guide” many utilities have developed successful programs for PPE; unfortunately others have been sporadic, partial and dangerous in their approach to protecting workers. In response to the inconsistencies within the transmission and generation industry the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.) developed the NESC 2007 (National Electrical Safety Code 2007) which provides practical work rules to safeguard employees and the general public from injury. The scope of this code covers work rules to be followed in the instillation, operation, and maintenance of electric supply and communication systems.

After state OSHA’s and the Public Utility Commission adopts the NESC 2007 utilities, lineman and communication workers have until January 1, 2009 to become compliant. Flame resistant PPE will no longer be a “good idea” or optional, instead it will be required.


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