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heat transfer performance, launderability and percentage body burn. All garments must be tested, certifified and then retested and recertifified annually by an authorized testing body such as Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL). Production facilities are audited for quality control standards up to four times per year, and finally, a high durability label will be affixed to the garment, signifying its approved status.
The National Fire Protection Agency first issued NFPA 2113 and NFPA 2112 in 2001. Both standards have been updated several times in the past 20 years; surprisingly, though, gloves were not included in either one until recently. Gloves were included in NFPA 2112 in 2018, and they were included in NFPA 2113 in 2020. Due to the omission of gloves for so many years, workers hands have not been protected from flash fire incidences.
Many people have wondered why gloves were not included in the flash fire selection standard or testing protocol. After all, if a person survives a flash fire incident but their hands are badly burned due to the lack of properly tested and certified flame protection, they will most likely never be able to return to work again in the same capacity. Hands are typically the most critical functioning element for your workforce. There is no reason for hands and fingers to be less protected than the rest of the body.
Glove Testing Challenges
So why were gloves just recently included in flash fire standards? The answer lies in the details of the testing protocol, and the major differences between the construction of gloves versus the construction of clothing. An FR garment is typically constructed of a single type of fabric, cut into large swatches and sewn together in flat seams. Gloves, on the other hand, are made from a wide variety of fabrics that could be man-made or natural, knit, woven or non-woven, with multiple layers that are often different from the palm to the back of the hand. Some fabric and material swatches can be very small, sewn into three dimensional seams, while other gloves have no fabric swatches at all. They are constructed of engineered and natural yarns, knitted directly into a glove shape on computer controlled machines, before being dipped into polymer
solutions. Impact protection, knuckle panels, palm reinforcements, inner liners, etc. all complicate matters even further. In effffect, gloves present an extremely diffifficult testing regiment compared to garments.
In fact, even after gloves were included in the testing standard in 2018, almost three years passed before a single glove successfully passed the NFPA 2112:2018 standard for flash fire protection. I was fortunate enough to have first-hand knowledge of that process. Engineers from four safety companies, each with unique industry expertise, came together to tackle this difficult yet very important hand safety issue.
They dissected each step of the testing process and created the right methodology for testing every panel, every layer and every thread of the glove according to each of the applicable test sections: flame resistance, heat resistance, thermal
shrinkage, heat transfer performance and launderability. It was a detailed, time-consuming, science-driven and, ultimately, very rewarding process. Not only did the collaborative effffort result in the first ever NFPA 2112:2018 certified glove, the Heatworx Heavy Duty FR, but it paved the way for future NFPA 2112 glove certifications.
For the first time ever, you now have the ability to protect two of your workers’ most valuable assets, their hands, from flash fire hazards. While there is only one glove option today, thanks to the work of this pioneering group there will be more options in the future. The next time you are creating a workplace safety flash fire protection program, include NFPA 2112 certified clothing and gloves for your employees. They will certainly thank you.
Eric Jaeger is the General Manager of Ironclad.
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