Important work is sometimes dangerous. Chief among the many daily hazards faced by oil and gas workers is the ever-present risk of fire.
Industries take great care in preventing fires and explosions because they expose workers to extremely hazardous conditions. OSHA indicates
that it is now recognized as practice to require flame-resistant clothing in the chemical and refinery industries. In fact, stepping foot onto an oil and gas operation site, such as a refinery, without proper flame-resistant PPE is virtually unheard of today.
Several stats worth noting:
- Fires and explosions are the 3rd most fatal work injuries within the oil and gas industry.
- 16% of all oil and gas fatalities are the result of exposure to fires and explosions, which cause devastating burns.
- Since 2003, there have been more than 1,500 fatal occupational injuries in the oil and gas extraction industries.
- In 2017 alone, there were 23 fatal occupational injuries due to fire or explosions in the construction of or support activities for oil and gas extraction.
With the statistics shared above clearly showing fire as a concern for oil and gas workers, wearing proper PPE should not be taken lightly. While it is impossible to eliminate the risk of fire, the proper use of flame-resistant PPE can minimize injuries and save lives.
S1T FR Work Shirt worn in a refinery
Below, we provide deep insight into everything you need to know about the flame-resistant PPE options offered by MCR Safety. We provide the opportunity to educate consumers about the differences in protection options, including distinguishing between products that are labeled as having “limited-flammability” vs. true “flame-resistance”. You can never be too well prepared when it comes to understanding the protective products available.
30 Years Since the Devastating 1989 Pasadena Explosion
October 23rd, 2019, will mark the 30th anniversary of the plant disaster in Pasadena, Texas, where 23 people died after a series of explosions caused from an ethylene leak. Inadequate safety procedures and cuts in necessary refinery maintenance work were determined to be contributing factors of the explosions.
Click on the images above for ABC13 Houston’s video coverage of the explosions
In a report revised in March of 2011, FEMA outlined
lessons learned from the tragic Pasadena explosions.
Concerning worker safety, the Pasadena incident marked a major change in the PPE requirements across the oil and gas industry. During a recent refinery visit, a worker told us that prior to the Pasadena explosions, workers wore whatever clothing they liked to work and very little of it was safety rated. After witnessing workers’ clothing engulfed in flames and literally melting onto their bodies, however, the industry recognized that changes were needed to keep workers safe and to minimize the risk from fires or explosions.
When a major accident like the Pasadena explosion occurs, there are typically positive outcomes that transpire in the aftermath, once adjustments are made. In the case of PPE, workers now wear higher-quality flame-resistant garments and PPE. As a result of this horrible incident, there are now industry-wide flame-resistant clothing programs in place.
Flame-resistant apparel plays an important role for oil and gas workers because it mitigates burn injuries and provides insulation against second-degree burns. Yet safety managers and workers often overlook a key component: the material used. Generally speaking, flame-resistant clothing is either made from fabric whose fibers are inherently flame retardant or by chemically treating fibers in order to reduce flammability. Not all protection is the same, though.
“Limited-flammability” garments are, strictly speaking, not fire-resistant; they may melt or burn when they come in contact with an open flame. Items that are considered to have “limited-flammability” have been chemically treated and tested to method ASTM D-6413
to observe the materials’ reaction to an open flame.
Video showing ASTM D-6413 Open Flame test
ASTM D-6413 is not a standard. Let us repeat one more time: ASTM D-6413 is not a standard. It is only a test method that determines a textile’s response to a standard ignition source. LF is highlighted by MCR Safety to show how the garment will self-extinguish within a matter of seconds, once the source of the flame is removed.
This type of clothing is best suited for workers who may have incidental contact with heat, heated objects, or flames, working in a capacity where short-term protection is needed. Originally, limited-flammability gear was developed for welders in the form of a protective vest, as welders required material that would not immediately catch fire from the flying sparks generated while welding.
Limited-Flammability apparel was initially developed for Welders and Cutters.
By self-extinguishing, LF materials help reduce the potential of burn injuries when compared to straight PVC and polyester products not chemically treated with any flame-resistant properties.
Due to the oil and gas industry’s demand for this product, MCR Safety’s limited-flammability product line has expanded since that original CL2MLPFR
vest was added for welders. We now offer multiple high-visibility vests
, rain suits
and reflective polyurethane/cotton suits
, all produced using chemically treated materials and offering limited-flammability. The 5182
garments have been an oil and gas industry favorite for well over a decade now. Below are some of our most popular LF styles.
The 5182's stretch PU material provides ultimate mobility and comfort.
Limited-flammability products are considered a cost-effective flame apparel solution. With that said, a company needs to carefully evaluate the hazards employees encounter before choosing this type of protection. As outlined above, explosion, fires, and burns are serious injury hazards faced by workers in the oil and gas industry.
Remember, LF garments are not intended for protection against flash fires. This fact is worth repeating and is further explained in the next section. LF garments are not intended for protection against flash fires.
Why True FR Protection Is Required in Oil and Gas: Flash Fires
Plant explosions, like the Pasadena disaster, are not the fire incidents that affect workers on a daily basis. Flash fires are much more common and are the hazard that concerns oil and gas workers most due to the serious thermal injuries a worker’s body may sustain as a result.
A flash fire is a sudden, intense, rapidly moving flame that occurs in an environment where fuel, vapors, dust, and air combust. The vapors or particles that ignite and explode pose a serious threat to workers, causing extensive harm to both equipment and people. As OSHA points out
, the intensity of a flash fire ultimately depends on the size of the gas or vapor cloud that ignites.
Because a flash fire quickly consumes fuel, it lasts only 3 seconds or less. In that short time, though, temperatures may reach 1000-1900°F.
The potential likelihood of a flash fire rises during upstream drilling
activities once drilling hits formations of hydrocarbons and gas. However, keep in mind that flash fires are present at all times across midstream
oil and gas operations. Bringing well fluids to the surface by separation and storage poses a flash fire hazard for workers. Here are some general areas where flash fires and general fires are a definite concern:
- cylinder and fuel storage areas
- equipment openings, such as valve changes
- motor generator areas
- heat source that sparks fire
- hot surfaces
- hot work, such as welding or using spark-producing tools
- increased static electricity
- maintenance operations
- operating a degasser
- operating electrical tools
- tank heating
- using open flames
- well servicing – cementing, fracturing, plugging abandoned wells, wireline operations, etc.
- working with open flames
- working around electrical systems
To combat flash fires, true flame-resistant clothing is an essential requirement for workers in the oil and gas industry. Non-FR clothing, such as PVC rain suits and even “limited-flammability” apparel, can ignite and provide an additional fuel source, dramatically increasing burn injuries.
Flame-Resistant (FR) Protection Meeting Industry Standards
Actual “flame-resistant” garments resist burning and withstand heat, thereby providing greater protection than limited-flammability garments. For oil and gas workers, true flame-resistant garments offer the best protection against flash fires because they will not ignite and continue to burn after a flash fire has ended. “Limited-flammability” garments will ignite, and should therefore be avoided if flash fires are a concern.
Flame-resistant garments are engineered with either inherently flame-resistant fibers that have flame-resistance built into the material’s chemical structure, or are chemically treated with higher quality flame-resistant materials. MCR Safety’s inherent FR materials include Nomex® material and modacrylic/aramid blended fabrics. Acrylic fibers are a poor conductor of heat and are difficult to ignite.
The National Fire Protection Association
(NFPA) is a leading resource on fire, electrical, and other related hazards. They set codes and regulations that define flame resistance standards. The NFPA 2112 Standard
sets 17 different tests for garments to meet the flame-resistant protection standards for flash fire. These include tests for the following:
- ASTM F1930 manikin testing
- label legibility
- tensile strength
- tear strength
- thread melting
The most recognized test is ASTM F1930
, the Manikin Test. This test is conducted at 3 seconds with a pass/fail rate of 50% total body burn.
All of MCR Safety’s Max Comfort™ coveralls
, and bib pants
are tested to NFPA 2112. Big Jake 2 rainwear
is tested to even more stringent flame-resistant standards for FR rainwear, meeting ASTM F2733. When a worker is exposed to potential flash fires, only the best-rated, highly tested PPE should be worn!
Burn Injuries: Playing the Numbers
Burn injuries are described in terms of the percentage of the body’s surface area that is burned. When a body burn percentage is below 25%, there is a 90% chance of survival. If the body burn percentage reaches 50%, the odds of survival drop considerably but are still optimistic. A burn requirement of 50% of the test manikin or less is required for a FR garment to meet NFPA2112.
The American Burn Association reports the primary causes of burn injuries as fire-flame, scalds, contact with a hot object, and electrical and chemical burns. The graph below shows the chances of survival from a burn injury.
Once the body burn percentage exceeds 50%, survival rates drop precipitously, especially for older individuals. Workers in their 50s, with burns over more than half their body, have less than a 20% chance of surviving. Clearly, the best way to survive a job-site fire is to protect as much of the body as possible.
MCR Safety’s Max Comfort FR 7 oz. cotton/nylon coverall provides wearers with maximum protection and is rated to minimize body burns to as little as 11%. With performance levels like this, Mighty Max Comfort material may the best way of viewing MCR Safety coveralls.
Before Test After Test
A worker wearing an MCR Safety coverall, which is treated with flame-resistant properties or is inherently flame-resistant, stands an excellent chance of surviving flash fires and burn injuries.
New Flame-Resistant (FR) Safety Gear
MCR Safety is recognized for having one of the widest PPE selections for the oil and gas industry. As you can imagine, we have a multitude of FR options to choose from and we are continuously adding new styles. Here are some of the newest additions to MCR Safety’s FR product line.
Big Jake 2 FR rainwear is tested to the stringent ASTM F2733 standard specification for flame-resistant rainwear. MCR Safety also manufacturers inherent modacryclic/aramid FR safety vests. Click on any image below to learn more.
Don't forget, we also manufacturer flame-resistant gloves, like the MU3624GFR
with a Nomex® back.
For a look at all of MCR Safety’s FR safety gear, click here
The Right Products to Protect Your Workers
MCR Safety is dedicated to producing the personal protection equipment workers require in hazardous working conditions. Workers go into harm’s way every day and risk their life against potential flash fires. Don’t they deserve the best protection available? Let us help you help them find the right flame-resistant protection.
Do you have questions about MCR Safety’s oil industry PPE? Contact us
! We’re happy to answer your questions and we’ll be happy to help you find the perfect PPE gear for your company’s needs. For insight into all oil and gas sectors, be sure to check out our Oil and Gas Industry pages. Just click on the image to learn more.
For over 40 years, MCR Safety has proven to be a world-leader in gloves, glasses, and garments. Whether it’s on a shop floor, an oil rig, or a construction site, we are there providing solutions to workplace hazards. We Protect People!
Learn more about MCR Safety by checking out our most recent video
. For more information, browse our website
, request a catalog, find a distributor
, or give us a call at 800-955-6887.