The Source - Spring 2010 - (Page 15)
As an employer, making informed decisions about safety clothing and training is your responsibilityâ€”and it may save lives. Finding solutions, saving lives Natural gas is a volatile liquid or vapor; therefore, employees subjected to it should be cloaked in flame-retardant garments. However, it can be difficult for safety engineers to know what safety garments they really need, as incorrect safety information is often disseminated by clothing distributors and sales personnel who lack information regarding the needs of a particular industry. Silver Needleâ€™s first encounter with clothing for the gas industry resulted from a visit from a local gas utility foreman who was being fined for safety violations. His men were wearing flame-retardant cotton garments and fall protection harnesses for retrieval. However, the retrieval harnesses incorporated numerous metal hooks and loops that could cause sparks. To solve this problem, Silver Needle developed a safety garment with a built-in metal-free retrieval system. Since that time, Silver Needle has spent innumerable hours investigating various fabrics, attending classes in fighting natural gas fires, visiting gas plants, watching men weld gas lines and speaking with safety personnel. The state of safety fabrics Silver Needle has maintained high standards throughout its operation by using the best possible materials available. Asbestos and leather traditionally were popular safety materials, but aluminized and chemically treated fabrics were developed and eventually became the standard as various government agencies and companies created a demand for better protective fabrics. Focus also shifted to clothing fit and manufacturing, including considerations such as proper seams, the right thread, the right design and the need for various soft trims, such as reflective tape. The two main fabrics used today are InduraÂ®, manufactured by Westex; and NomexÂ®, which is made of fibers developed by DuPont and manufactured into fabric by weaving mills. InduraÂ® is made of cotton, which is inherently treated to be flameresistant. NomexÂ® is a man-made flame resistant fabric. The fabrics, which come in different weights and weaves, both meet NFPA 2112, the flash fire manikin test of three seconds with less than a 50 percent body burn. In this test, wearing a six-ounce NomexÂ® garment, you would receive 35 percent second and third degree body burns, whereas in cotton or poly-cotton you would receive 90 percent burns. Heavier fabrics offer greater protection. Layering fabrics increases their caloric rating by more than their individual caloric rating combined. This can be attributed to the air space between the two fabrics. Garment care also is an important consideration, as incorrect laundering can nullify the integrity of the fabric in many cases. The power of design The design of the garment is as important as the fabric itself. Loose, open cuffs on shirts, pants or coveralls can allow gas vapor to pool inside the garment. Shirts should be closed all the way under the chin, and, most importantly, flame-retardant undergarments should be worn. A poly-cotton T-shirt melted to the body is almost impossible to remove, and synthetics must be cut away with a scalpel. Clothing with frayed cuffs or engrained oil, grease and dirt are hazards. If a garment is torn it should be repaired by an expert equipped with proper threads. Silver Needle incorporates designs such as built-in retrieval harnesses and areas of a garment that are insulated against flame or cryogenic conditions. Heat stress also has become a prevalent issue, but with the advent of all-encompassing protection ice pack pockets and, in extreme cases, refrigerated internal suits, these problems are being solved. Implications As you can imagine, the pain and disfiguration caused by a burn is life-shattering. The medical costs are astronomical and the demoralization of fellow employees is overwhelming. As an employer, making informed decisions about safety clothing and training is your responsibilityâ€”and it may save lives. If you have questions regarding your systemâ€™s safety clothing or would like to learn more, please visit www.silverneedle.net. Larry and Brenda Stinson have written many articles on heatresistant clothing. They have two patents for explosions, the latest being for ï¬‚ash ï¬re suits. THE SOURCE | SPRING 2010, VOL. 2, ISSUE 3 15
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