Putting the most effective FR PPE program in place for your workforce is a process where corners simply can’t be cut. It requires the diligent assessment of risks and the provision of suitable protection.
The NFPA 2112 is the industry standard for FR garments, providing you with a starting point from which your PPE garment selection process can commence.
To keep your workers safe against flash fires, you must be meeting the minimum requirements for the design, construction, evaluation, and safety of FR garments. This blog will teach you how NFPA 2112 ensures those minimum requirements are met.
Why NFPA 2112 certified garments are important
An industry standard level of protection ensures that workers in high-risk industries and environments are protected against the risks they face on a daily basis.
To ensure objectivity, NFPA 2112 certification requires third-party testing to evaluate the fire resistance of the final garment as a whole. The standard tests whether garments can protect against burns and reduce the severity of possible injuries while ensuring that the garment itself does not contribute to the risk of injury.
Garments are put through a series of four tests to see if they can withstand similar thermal environments as those that wearers may encounter in the industry.
Due to the broad risk spectrum found in various industries where FR garments are required, the tests also need to cover a broad spectrum of use cases.
The four NFPA 2112 tests
- Test 1: The Manikin Test
A stationary manakin wearing the garment is positioned in a burning chamber for 3 seconds. During the test, sensors are placed on the garment and head of the manikin to measure 2nd and 3rd-degree body burn percentages.
- Test 2: The Thermal Shrinkage Test
A pre-washed fabric specimen is secured in a 500°F oven for 5 minutes. If the fabric does not melt, separate, or ignite during heat exposure, the amount by which the fabric shrank is measured.
- Test 3: The Vertical Flame Test
A controlled flame is positioned directly beneath a strip of fabric suspended vertically in the air. The flame is removed after a 12-second exposure period, following which both after-flame and char length are measured.
- Test 4: The Heat Transfer Performance Test
A fabric specimen is positioned horizontally, with heat sources below and a heat sensor above. Once the heat sources are engaged, the sensor measures the temperature that is transferred to the opposite side (where the wearer’s skin would be).
These tests aim to ensure that the fabric provides the wearer with optimal protection when exposed to fire and thermal events.
What do NFPA 2112 certified garments protect against
NFPA 2112 certified garments are designed to protect wearers during short-duration thermal exposures.
According to the standard, short-duration thermal exposures are defined as:
“A period of egress from or accidental exposure to thermal events, including but not limited to, vapor cloud fires, jet flames, liquid fires (pool fires or running liquid fires), solids fires (fires of solid materials or dust fires), or warehouse fires.”
These events are also called flash fires.
Flash fires only last for only a short duration as they quickly consume all of the available fuel (i.e. oxygen) in their environment. The biggest risk lies in the fact that the source of the ignition can also be set alight during the flash, increasing the risk exponentially.
This increased risk is also why the highest degree of protection is needed in FR PPE garments, to protect against worst-case scenarios, not merely expected daily risks.
Industries in need of NFPA-certified workwear
Flash fires pose a daily threat to workers in various industries due to the flammable nature of the materials they work with. As such, NFPA 2112 certification is required for several PPE programs in the following industries:
- Oil & Gas industry
- Chemical plants
- Pharmaceutical plants
- Pulp and Paper processing
- Food processing
- Metal fabrication
Due to the highly combustible nature of the materials which are worked with every day in these industries, flash fires are a constant risk.
In many of these plants, combustible dust is also created, which exacerbates the risk of flash fires. Combustible dust provides a conduit for fires to spread to highly combustible materials, such as chemicals or gasses, making FR protection paramount.
The relationship between NFPA 2112 and NFPA 2113
When used collectively, NFPA 2112 and NFPA 2113 offer a comprehensive standard for flame-resistant PPE programs.
The NFPA 2112 focuses on the fabrics and grants themselves, covering the minimum performance requirements and testing methods of FR garments.
The NFPA 2113, on the other hand, is designed to help decision-makers by providing valuable selection criteria and outlining how garments should be worn effectively in the field.
Why making the right choice is important
While the NFPA 2112 provides HSE managers and PPE manufacturers with an industry standard for FR protection, a hands-on approach is always necessary when it comes to protection.
To illustrate the importance of diligent decision-making, just look at the requirements of the manikin test. To pass the test, only a 50 percent body burn rate is required. So while one garment may have a 7 percent body burn rate (where only the exposed head and neck of the manakin sustained burn damage), another may have a 49 percent burn rate and still pass. This leaves a lot of maneuvering space for NFPA 2112-certified garments to move in.
It is impertinent to understand the level of risk workers are exposed to and investigate fabric and garment choices beyond certification.