Staying up to date on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)'s ever-evolving standards and codes is a key responsibility of safety managers and other safety professionals. The standards are regularly reassessed and updated to help safety managers build safety programs that adhere to the latest risk mitigation and protection techniques. Most recently, the NFPA released the 2023 version of NFPA 2112, the Standard on Flame-Resistant Clothing for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Short-Duration Thermal Exposures from Fire. We're breaking down what the updated version of NFPA 2112 means for everyone in the value chain, from the manufacturers of garment components to the on-the-job end users who depend on their FR clothing to protect them every day.
Meeting the New Standard: Manufacturers
Each time a new standard is released, another round of testing is conducted to ensure that FR clothing products meet the new requirements. Even though the 2023 version of NFPA 2112 doesn't affect fabric characteristics and performance, all FR garment components still go through the testing process. Each round of testing takes three to six months: first fabrics, then findings, and then the completed garments are tested. At TenCate Protective Fabrics, we've worked with Underwriters Laboratories—the main certification body in the U.S. and the industry standard—for over 30 years to ensure our products meet the highest, most up-to-date standards. Manufacturers of fabrics and other garment components usually have internal teams who make knowing all the standards and how they apply to their products their highest priority. That also means the manufacturers of your garments can be a great resource when you have questions about current and new standards.
Transition Period: Safety Managers
Safety managers need to stay aware of when standards are changing so they can be sure that their team is properly protected according to the most up-to-date requirements in a timely fashion. An 18-month transition period after each new standard is released allows for time to make the necessary adjustments to ensure your team's PPE is not associated with an old version of the standard. Your garments and all their components need to meet the new standard, so it's important to assess what's changing all the way down to your zippers. There are several ways safety managers can stay up to date with new standards, but one of the best ways is to get involved in the creation of those standards. There are several organizations, including the NFPA, that invite safety managers, manufacturers, and other safety professionals to join the process of crafting the next best safety standards. Getting a seat at the table means you can help standard-writing organizations create requirements that make sense for your team and workplace, and you'll have a first-hand look at what's coming down the pipeline, so staying in the know is a no-brainer.
A Safe Fit: End Users
Last, but most certainly not least, your workers are the final piece of the puzzle, where new standard implementation matters most. When safety managers stay on top of standards updates, they are best equipped to digest and disseminate that information to their employees effectively and incorporate the new requirements into their existing safety program. We think of comfort as the next must-have factor in PPE garments (after protection), and we believe that you are only as safe as you are comfortable—both physically and mentally. If end users are rolling up their sleeves because their FR garments are too hot for their work environment, they are opening themselves up to risk. And if they are not properly equipped to meet a new safety standard due to a lack of communication, they may unknowingly put themselves at risk when they revert to a more comfortable way of doing things that is no longer the safest way. When safety standards are successfully understood, communicated, and implemented, everyone gets home safe at the end of the day. Make your cohesive plan for improving your workplace safety culture beginning with your next PPE selection. Learn what to consider here.