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Flash Fire Compliance Versus Protection

When it comes to protecting workers, sometimes compliance takes the spotlight in corporate decision making. If you’re in compliance, your workers are protected, right? This is not necessarily true, particularly when purchasing flame resistant clothing (FRC) for flash fire protection.

Compliance with NFPA 2112 ensures the protection you’re providing to your workers meets a minimum threshold of performance that enables survival, but there is a critical difference between surviving and being effectively protected.

Scott Margolin, Vice President of Technical, explains:

As we have seen, the bar for passing the “manikin test” (ASTM F1930) – the key performance specification cited in NFPA 2112 – is 50% body burn after a three-second exposure. The standard sets 50% body burn as the upper limit for passing because 50% is considered the threshold for survival (above 50% total body surface area, or “TBSA,” survivability rates decline noticeably).

A garment can pass the standard with anywhere from 50% body burn to a body burn percentage in the single digits – a substantial range! This can be the difference between a worker barely surviving an incident versus returning home virtually unharmed. This is especially true when age is taken into consideration; generally, survival rates decline with age—especially when the worker is around or above 45 years of age.

Note that it’s impossible to record 0% body burn in the manikin test because the coverall specified in the testing doesn’t cover the face and neck. Accordingly, a body burn result of 7-8% means no burn through the coverall, and is typically considered the best performance level achievable on the test. Similarly, hands and feet aren’t covered as part of the test, but these parts of the manikin do not feature sensors so body burn in these areas is not measured or factored into the overall body burn percentage calculated.

As an employer specifying FRC for your workers, it’s important to require garments that meet the minimum performance specifications. That’s what ensures compliance. But it’s also important to take your research one step farther and ask for the specific body burn percentage for a protective garment you are considering buying. That’s what ensures effective protection.

The garment may pass, but with what body burn percentage? Ask your supplier!

Does the garment you’re considering pass with 49% body burn, or 8%, or somewhere in between? Both 49% body burn and 8% body burn comply with the minimum performance specification of the standard, but these levels of body burn have very different outcomes when it comes to recovery and quality of life following a flash fire incident. Which garment would you want to be wearing in the event of a flash fire?

The moral of the story is to ask for the data. Luckily, you can go past compliance to solid protection – often within the same price point, simply by examining body burn data when comparing FRC options.

Want to learn more? Browse our blog posts for more helpful information about protecting workers with FRC and the answers to other frequently-asked questions. Plus, find out about FRC product options and how our managed program can help you maximize compliance and protection while enhancing service and satisfaction.

Have additional questions? Schedule a complimentary 15-minute technical session with Scott Margolin, Tyndale’s Vice President of Technical. Simply complete the form below and Scott will contact you at a mutually agreeable time to speak one-on-one:

About Scott Margolin:

Scott Margolin has over 30 years of experience in the arc-rated/flame resistant (FR) clothing industry. Scott has conducted thousands of arc flash and flash fire tests aimed at understanding PPE performance in real world scenarios. He travels and presents globally to share his research and learnings on flash fire, arc flash, and combustible dust hazards to improve worker safety and the fibers, fabrics, and garments used to protect against these hazards. Scott is also an active member of several ASTM committees and has served as Subject Matter Expert to OSHA, NFPA, NJATC, ASSE, NECA and others on a wide variety of FR, PPE, and thermal hazard issues.

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