As an employer, when it comes to choosing the appropriate uniforms for your workers, the primary concern has to be the health and safety of one’s employees. For those businesses that involve flammable materials, it is imperative that all employees that work in at-risk situations are outfitted in appropriately flame-resistant clothing (FRC). Making sure workers have garments that conform to OSHA standards, as well as guarding against any other site-specific hazards, not only keeps your business in compliance, but also ensures that no days are lost due to accident and injury.

            People that may need or benefit from flame-resistant workwear include electricians, anyone that works in oil or gas drilling or refining, those that handle pharmaceuticals and hazardous or combustible chemicals, and anyone that works with energized electrical equipment, among others – but certain jobs all have specific safety requirements. A company’s Hazard Analysis will dictate the necessary ATPV (Arc Thermal Performance Value) for each job’s protective garments, based on the amount of incidental energy found in a given workspace, and the National Fire Protection Agency created a system of Hazard Risk Categories (HRC) to be used as a standard scale for determining what types of protective garments are needed to accommodate those ATPVs.

The categories are on a scale of 0-4, with 0 meaning that no protection is required, and 4 that the highest level of protection is necessary. HRC 1 includes jobs that work with lower voltage panelboards and switchboards or motor control centers, and requires only FR Shirt and Pants or coveralls for a minimum ATPV of 4.

HRC 2’s minimum ATPV is 8 and includes the addition of FR undershirt and underwear. HRC 2 tends to be appropriate for many oil and gas jobs, voltage testers, and anyone that applies safety grounds or works on energized parts of 600 V and greater.

HRC 3 requires at least 2-3 layers of flame resistant clothing, usually undergarments, shirt and pants or coveralls, and a FR jacket, as well as potentially headgear, and is appropriate for jobs that involve between 25 and 40 ATPV, such as those that work with motor starters of 2.3-7.2kV.

The top level of HRC 4 is for those that work on metal-clad switchgear 1 kV or above, metal-clad interrupter switches, and any job that requires over 40 ATPV. HRC 4 mandates 3-4 layers of FR protection, including a multi-layer flash suit.

Employers used to balk at the cost of outfitting employees with high-quality protective gear, and workers used to complain about the discomfort and lack of mobility that were associated with FRC; however, modern fabrics and equipment are lighter, more breathable and more cost effective than ever. Proper protection means no missed time, lower insurance premiums, and most importantly, a healthy, happy workforce – so make sure that every employee at every level has the work uniform they need for the job that they do.