NFPA 2112 is the industry standard for FR garments designed to protect wearers against exposure to flash fire and provides a starting ground from which safety managers in oil, gas, chemical, and petrochemical industries can build effective FR PPE programs to address the specific risks they face daily. (Westex by Milliken photo)

Six Important Changes Reflected in NFPA 2112-2018 Updates

From cold weather insulation guidance to labeling, these are the changes you need to know to be well informed when specifying an FR PPE program designed for flash fire hazards.

When working on job sites that present unexpected flash fire hazards, industrial workers need to be assured that their flame-resistant (FR) personal protective equipment (PPE) will perform as claimed in the event of an incident. NFPA 2112 is the industry standard for FR garments designed to protect wearers against exposure to flash fire and provides a starting ground from which safety managers in oil, gas, chemical, and petrochemical industries can build effective FR PPE programs to address the specific risks they face daily.

According to NFPA 2112 1.2.1, the purpose of the standard is to "provide minimum requirements for the design, construction, evaluation and certification of flame-resistant garments, shrouds/hoods/balaclavas and gloves, for use by industrial personnel, with the intent of not contributing to the burn injury of the wearer, providing a degree of protection to the wearer, and reducing the severity of burn injuries resulting during egress from or accidental exposure to short-duration thermal exposure from fire." In 2018, NFPA revised the standard to reflect important updates that make the standard more robust for today's workers.

Know these six changes to NFPA 2112 to be well informed when specifying an FR PPE program designed for flash fire hazards.

1. New flash fire terminology
The terminology "flash fire" has been changed globally to "short-duration thermal exposure from fire." Perhaps the biggest change in the NFPA 2112-2018 updates, the terminology is now reflected within the standard title, "Standard on Flame-Resistant Clothing for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Short-Duration Thermal Exposures from Fire."

This new terminology is a more descriptive representation of the overall hazards that the standard addresses. Flash fires are a type of short-duration fire—one that spreads by means of a flame front rapidly through a diffuse fuel without the production of damaging pressure. Short-duration thermal exposure from fire is 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, solids fires, and warehouse fires.

2. Cold weather insulation guidance
Previously not included in NFPA 2112, guidance is now given for FR cold weather insulation. The requirements for FR cold weather insulation garments are the same as textile body materials, with respect to a few exceptions. Flame resistance test (as received and after 100 high-temperature industrial laundries) is performed in a modified fashion by folding face cloth over the bottom edge of a specimen prior to testing. Similar to other FR garments, the ASTM D6413 Vertical Flame Test method is used, and the NFPA 2112 performance criteria require the fabric to self-extinguish, not melt and drip, result in a char length of fewer than 4.0 inches, and have an after flame of fewer than 2.0 seconds once removed from the direct flame.

Thermal shrinkage and the ASTM F1930 Thermal Manikin Test, however, are not tested for cold weather insulation materials.

3. Requirements for head and hand FR protection
FR PPE for head and hand protection, including shrouds, hoods, balaclavas, and gloves, are now specifically addressed in NFPA 2112-2018. The updated standard details how each piece of gear should perform under specific tests.

Fabric for shrouds, hoods and balaclavas shall not melt and drip, separate, or ignite during the heat resistance test and should also comply with the following requirements: Spaced method Heat Transfer Performance (HTP) > 6.0 calories per centimeter, and Contact method HTP ≥ 3.0; char length (as received and after 100 industrial laundries) ≤ 4.0 inches; after flame time (as received and after 100 industrial laundries) ≤ 2.0 seconds; and thermal shrinkage ≤ 10.0%.

FR gloves shall meet all of the aforementioned criteria, as well as not exceed 5.0% of the specimen’s original weight in consumed material.

The ASTM F1930 Thermal Manikin Test is not required for fabrics for use in shrouds, hoods, balaclavas, and gloves.

4. Changes to ASTM F1930 instrumented Thermal Manikin Test
The ASTM F1930 Thermal Manikin Test determines the percent body burn of an FR fabric. The methodology requires the use of a specific size and cut FR garment to be placed over 100% cotton t-shirt and briefs on an instrumented manikin with more than 100 sensors.

Standardizing this test helps ensure the ability to reproduce thermal exposure, with the only variable in the garment performance being the specific fabric tested.

NFPA 2112-2018 includes three changes to ASTM F190 Thermal Manikin Test, which improve standardization. Most notable, the approved garment design for the test is now a slightly larger, looser-fitting coverall that may lead to lower percent body burn. A larger garment also mimics what should be worn in the field, providing insulating air gaps that better prevent heat transfer to skin. The updated standard also includes changes to better correlate test results between different test labs. NFPA 2112-2018 now requires all labs to test reference garments made from specified 4.5-ounce and 6.0-ounce aramid based fabric, resulting in specified predicted body burn percentage ranges at 3.0-second exposures for both fabric weights. Similarly, manikin systems must now be calibrated over three heat flux exposures: 4,000 W/m2, 8,000 W/m2, and 12,000 W/m2. These new requirements for base test reference garments and manikin calibrations enable the various testing labs to demonstrate reproducibility.

5. Changes to ASTM D6413 Vertical Flame Test
The ASTM D6413 Vertical Flame Test method determines the char length of FR fabrics. The char length is a basic starting indicator of performance, representing the extent to which a fabric might burn upon flame exposure. ASTM D6413 is the test method used for basic flame resistance. NFPA sets the test results' performance criteria.

NFPA 2112-2018 now references the latest version of ASTM D6413 from 2015, which changed the way that tear weights are chosen to determine char length. The test method has remained the same: a 12-inch strip of FR fabric exposed for 12.0 seconds to a flame that must result in fewer than 4.0 inches in char length to pass NFPA 2112 requirements. The measurement method of the char length, however, has evolved. Now, after the flame exposure, the tear weight chosen to attach to the exposed fabric, which determines the char length, could possibly change. The previous method was based on a fabric's "basis weight," or the fabric weight prior to applying any FR engineering or coating. The new method determines tear weight based on the finished weight of the fabric. Moreover, fabrics between 6.0 and 15.0 ounce per square yard, commonly used in FR daily wear, will be tested using the 0.2-kilogram weight versus the 0.1 kilograms previously used.

Moving to a heavier tear weight could potentially affect some FR manufacturers, as it will cause fabrics that previously passed the test to now possibly fail, especially those with cotton-rich base materials. This should not be an issue for FR fabrics from reputable manufacturers, however, and can even perhaps further support their performance.

6. Revised garment labeling
Requirements for garment labeling have expanded to account for all FR items specified in NFPA 2112, including the newly added shrouds, balaclavas, and hoods. Now, labels must clearly state: "This clothing item meets the requirements of NFPA 2112-2018. NFPA 2113 requires upper and lower body coverage."

NFPA 2112 5.1.9 also now includes key information regarding garment manufacturer and specific fabric in reference. Critical information, such as manufacturer’s garment identification number, lot number, or serial number, helps with the traceability of FR fabrics to ensure they are from quality lots.

The following information has been updated for clarification and is required to be legibly printed on FR product labels:

(1) Model name, number, or design

(2) Manufacturer's name, identification, or designation

(3) Manufacturer's address

(4) Country of manufacture

(5) Manufacturer's garment identification number, lot number, or serial number

(6) Size

(7) Fiber content for each primary fabric layer, including cold weather insulation materials but excluding interlinings and labels

(8) "DO NOT REMOVE"

With all its updates, it is still important to know that NFPA 2112 specifies the minimum performance requirements of FR items. Any FR fabric that provides less than 50% body burn can be certified to the standard, and that leaves a large variance in passing body burn percentage results for common FR fabrics (7% and 49% both pass, for example). Trusted manufacturers will provide NFPA 2112 third party certification via garment labeling and can provide, upon request, the actual certification report along with body burn percentage data for that specific certified FR garment.

Changes to NFPA 2113, the companion standard to NFPA 2112 with guidance on the selection, care, use, and maintenance of FR garments, are expected to be published in 2020.

This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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