Flame resistant (FR), arc-rated (AR) personal protective equipment (PPE) is an important part of establishing a well-rounded safety program. Before donning their FR/AR PPE, however, employees need to be educated about their PPE garments so they can properly guard themselves against workplace hazards such as arc flashes or flash fires. Understanding how to wear PPE, what their PPE will help protect against, and how to care for their PPE is essential for end users’ safety. We rounded up five important reasons to train employees about their PPE.
To prioritize safety
The most important reason to educate employees about their FR/AR PPE is to ensure their safety. A company’s most valuable asset is its employees, so it only follows that every precaution should be taken to protect them. Training employees about their FR/AR PPE will help ensure they understand the safety benefits of properly wearing their PPE and can clearly distinguish what their PPE will and will not protect them from.
To ensure compliance
OSHA requires employees to wear protective clothing to help mitigate injuries from any hazards identified in the risk assessment. If an employee is unaware of workplace rules surrounding proper PPE, he or she may not fully adopt those protocols. It is the employer’s duty to educate and train employees about the importance of wearing their FR/AR apparel properly, which helps the company comply with OSHA regulations, namely CFR 1910.132 (f) Training.
To establish proper wear practices
Wearing FR/AR clothing correctly is imperative to ensure the best protection possible. Sleeves must be rolled down, shirt tucked in, buttons fastened, and a proper fit are all important factors to communicate to wearers. If PPE is not worn correctly, wearers may be at an elevated risk of injury in the event of a short-term thermal exposure. Garments that are too loose, too short, or too tight may pose additional safety risks.
In addition to wearing daily wear FR/AR garments correctly, employees need to know when to don their task-based FR/AR PPE. Outlining when to wear their FR/AR PPE is an important step to help ensure protective apparel is worn at the right times. If an employee wears daily wear PPE when primary PPE is required for the task, the employee is at risk of sustaining potentially life-threatening injuries as the daily wear may not provide the required level of protection to successfully mitigate injuries. When an employee understands how and when to wear their appropriate PPE properly for the task involved, they are less likely to be under-protected in the event of a thermal incident.
To understand what the garments will protect against
It is important to note that FR/AR garments are not a suit of armor; instead, they are a final layer of defense in the event all other safety precautions fail. FR/AR PPE will not eliminate hazards, but they can help mitigate the impact when worn correctly. Knowing how their PPE works in the event a short-term thermal exposure happens will help employees better connect with how PPE supports them in various situations throughout the workday.
To ensure proper care
Although daily wear garments may look and feel like streetwear, they must be cared for according to the garment care tag instructions to retain their protective properties. When FR/AR garments are not maintained properly, the FR properties may be compromised, putting the wearer at risk in the event of an arc flash or flash fire. In general, garments should be washed in warm water with other FR/AR garments and should not encounter bleach, softeners, dryer sheets, starch, or hydrogen peroxide. Additionally, using only FR materials to patch and repair garments and knowing when to retire garments should be communicated to employees to ensure their safety. Having this knowledge can help extend the serviceable life of the garment.
When a well-rounded safety program is in place, employees will be better protected against the hazards they may be exposed to in the workplace. Providing training for their FR/AR PPE will give them the tools they need to take ownership of their safety.