A serious workplace injury or death has the potential to change hundreds of lives forever. Occupational injury can not only provoke a major family crisis and financial burden. It is an employers responsibility to create and maintain a safe working environment to prevent injury, protect people, avoid copious medical and legal costs.
Nowadays, there are thousands of safety standards and testing methods which can differ all around the world. To further complicate things; complying with these regulations can also vary across different industries, jobs and working environments.
Safety standards are a set of regulations and testing methods used to create a universal understanding of what is, and what is not considered “Personal Protective Equipment”. There are usually a number of standards set for any type of hazard. Clothing safety standards are diverse but can typically broken down into water, thermal, visibility and fire protection.
Today we will discuss the prominent US and EU safety standards applied to Fire Resistant (FR) Clothing.
Fire Resistant Standards & Testing Methods – USA
There are 4 main US Fire Resistant Standards:
NFPA® 2112: 2018
Used to specify the minimum performance requirements and tests used for that determination. Tests are designed to evaluate the effectiveness of FR clothing in use of areas at risk of flash fires. Typically required for use within the pharmaceutical and oil & gas industries.
For a garment to meet the NFPA® 2112: 2018 standard, the garment must pass the following six tests:
- ASTM F2700 – Heat Transfer Performance Test -Measures the unsteady heat transfer properties of garment materials
- ASTM D6413 – Vertical Flammability Test – Tests how easily a fabric will ignite and continue to burn after ignition.
- Thermal Shrinkage Resistance Test -Measures the fabrics resistance to shrinkage once exposed to heat
- Heat Resistance Test -Tests how a fabric reacts to the extreme heat that would occur during a flash fire
- ASTM F1930 – Thermal Manikin Test – A mankin is equipped with a standardized coverall of the fabric. – The test provides an overall elevation of how to fabric performs after 3 seconds of thermal exposure.
- FTMS 191A – Thread Melting Resistant Test -Tests if the thread used in the FR garments can withstand temperatures of up to 500°F
NFPA® 70E: 2018
This standard is used to address electrical safety related to work practices and requires employees working in or near energized parts to be equipped with appropriate FR clothing that meets ASTM F1506 specification.
NFPA 70E provides guidance for selecting the appropriate PPE according to risk level in a particular job.
Risk levels are categorized by expected level of incident energy in the event of electrical arc.
- ARC 1 – Individual must wear an arc rated FR shirt, and FR pants, or FR Coverall with an arc rating of at least 4 cal/cm².
- ARC 2 – Individual must wear an arc rated FR shirt, and FR pants, or FR Coverall with an arc rating of of at least 8 cal/cm²
- ARC 3 – Individual must wear an arc rated FR shirt and pants or FR Coverall. AND Arc flash suit selected so that the system arc rating meets the required minimum of 25 cal/cm²
- ARC 4 – Individual must wear an arc rated FR shirt and pants or FR Coverall. AND Arc flash suit selected so that the system arc rating meets the required minimum of 40 cal/cm²
This standard applies to garments which can be used by electrical workers exposed to momentary electric arcs and other related hazards. The garment must meet the following requires for ASTM F1506-10A certification.
- Thread and components used in FR clothing shall not contribute to the severity of injuries of the wearer in the event of electric arc and related thermal exposure
- Must meet minimum performance specifications for knit and woven fabric including strength, colorfastness, fire resistance before and after washing as well as Arc Test results.
- Must pass the ASTM D6413 – Vertical Flammability Test.
- When tested with the ASTM Test Method F1959, the fabric must not have more than 5 seconds of flame
- The garment must be labeled with the following:
- Tracking Code
- Proof of meeting F1506 Standards
- Manufacturer name, size info
- How-To-Care instructions and fiber content
- ARC Rating (ATPV) or (EBT)
ASTM® F1959/F1959M-12: 2013
This standard/testing method is used to determine the ARC rating ( ATPV or EBT ) of a fabric or material. This is a fabric only test and is the EXACT SAME testing method used in europe; known as the IEC 61482-1-1 Test Method.
Fire Resistant Standards & Testing Methods – European
There are 4 main European Safety Standards and Testing Methods:
IEC 61482-2: 2009
A standard which specifies the requirements and testing methods used to determine the protection levels provided by a garment or fabric against electric arcs or thermal events.
There are two international test methods used to provide accurate information on how well a garment or fabric resists the effects of thermal activity and electric arcs.
In order to comply with the standard, at least one of the following tests have to be performed
Open Arc Method – EN 16482-1-1
This test method aims to establish the ATPV (Arc Thermal Performance Value) or EBT (Energy Break-open Threshold) of a fabric. Both ATPV and EBT is expressed in calories to cm² (Cal/cm²).
The test involves exposing a garment to a 8kA current arc.
- The ATPV is the amount of energy required to cause 2nd degree burns through the material prior to breaking open.
- The EBT is the amount of energy required to break open the material. This is usually the upper limit of what the garment can handle prior to damaging the fabric and the material losing strength
When trying to determine if your garment meets the required ATPV or EBT, always remember that layering is an effective way of hitting minimum requirements. Layering works well because the level of protection is always greater than the sum of two garments ATPV/EBT ratings; since air provides and additional layer of protection.
Box Test Method – EN 16482-1-2
During this test method, a garment is exposed to an electric arc in a specific box with a specific arrangement of electrodes. Garments are given a classification of either Class 1 or 2.
- Class 1 garments have to ability to withstand arcs of up to 4kA Currents.
- Class 2 garments can withstand up to 7kA Currents.
EN ISO 11612: 2015
The performance requires set out in this standard are applicable to garments which could be exposed to a variety of hazards and used to perform multiple tasks.
This standard is used to test a garments ability to limit fire spread, and protect against exposed, radiant, convective or contact heat as well as molten metal splashes.
This standard specifically tests for each of the following:
A: Limited Flame Spread
This test consists of applying a flame to a fabric sample for 10 seconds. To past the test, after flame and formation of holes must be within the tolerances set in the standard.
- A1 – Surface Ignition – Flame is applied horizontally.
- A2 – Edge Ignition – Flame is applied vertically.
B: Protection Against Convective Heat
Convective heat is the heat that is passed through the garment when set ablaze. The sample is held above the flame and the rise of temperature is measured with a calorimeter. The length of time the sample can remain exposed before the temperature rises above 24°C determines its 11612B ranking;
- B1: 4 – 10 Seconds
- B2: 10 – 20 Seconds
- B3: 21 Seconds or more
C: Protection Against Radiant Heat
The fr clothing sample is exposed to radiant heat (infrared rays). The temperature on the unexposed side is measured with a calorimeter. The length of time the sample can remain exposed before its temperature rises above 24°C determines its 11612C Ranking.
- C1: 7 < 20 Seconds
- C2: 20 < 50 Seconds
- C3: 50 < 95 Seconds
- C4: 95 Seconds and longer
D: Protection Against Molten Aluminum Splash
A membrane with similar properties to human skin is attached to the fabric sample. Rising quantities of molten aluminum are splashed onto the sample. The quantity of metal which causes the membrane to deform determines the 11612D Ranking.
- D1: 100 < 200 grams of molten aluminum
- D2: 200 < 300 grams of molten aluminum
- D3: 350 grams of molten aluminum or more
E: Limited Flame Spread
A membrane with similar properties to human skin is attached to the fabric sample. Rising quantities of molten iron are splashed onto the sample. The quantity of metal which causes the membrane to deform determines the 11612D Ranking.
- E1: 60 < 120 grams of molten iron
- E2: 120< 200 grams of molten iron
- E3: 200 grams of molten iron or more
F: Limited Flame Spread
A new test supplementing EN 531): contact heat.
- F1: 5 < 10 seconds
- F2: 10 < 15 seconds
- F3: 15 seconds or more
EN ISO 11611: 2015
Specifies the minimum basic safety requestments nad test methods for protecting clothing used in welding and similar processes.
- Tensile Strength
- Tear Resistance
- Bursting Strength
- Seam Strength
- Dimensional Change
- Requirements of leather
- Limited Flame Spread (A1 + A2)
- Molten droplets
- Heat Transfer (Radiation)
- Electrical Resistance
This standard specifies two classes with specific performance requirements:
- Class 1 Garments provide less protection against hazardous welding techniques and situations, causing lower levels of splatter and radiant heat.
- Class 2 Garments provide more protection against hazardous welding techniques and situations, causing higher levels of splatter and radiant heat.
EN 1149: 2008
Determines the fr clothing ability to defend against the danger caused by static electricity.
Consists of three tests to determine eligibility:
- EN 1149-1: 1996 – Tests surface conducting fabrics
- EN 1149-3: 2004 – Charge decay test method for all fabrics
- EN 1149-5: 2008 – Tests Performance Requirements
Safety standards protect lives, save money and optimizes company resources. All three of the previous points can be achieved by figuring out which fr clothing safety standards apply to you, find which garments are needed to comply with these standards and then find a vendor who can help you meet these needs.