Maintaining compliance with the variety of ever-changing standards governing occupational health and safety is crucial. But those requirements are, of course, not the only intricacies EHS officers must navigate on a daily basis. Because we all understand the role comfort plays in whether or not PPE is worn compliantly, there are a range of factors one must consider on top of any legal regulations.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, 2017 was one of the hottest years on record. Prolonged exposure to temperatures above 85˚ can lead to cramps, exhaustion, stroke, and even death. So, when your team is working hard for hours at a time in hot conditions, whether on the line or on the derrick, preventing heat stress should be a top priority. This summer, prepare yourself and your workers to face yet another brutal summer.

The symptoms of heat exhaustion might tempt workers to neglect or abandon PPE compliance, which could have equally drastic consequences. If your workers are forced to roll up their sleeves to fight the heat because their PPE is burdensome, they’re putting themselves and your entire safety program at risk. But workers shouldn’t have to make the choice between personal comfort and safety – preventing heat-related illness while remaining compliant is possible when thoughtful and proactive measures are taken ahead of time. Here are some helpful tips and resources to encourage compliance while reducing the risk of heat stress: 

HYDRATE & REHYDRATE - Providing adequate hydration is critical to maintaining the body's natural temperature and facilitating perspiration. Make sure your team always has access to plenty of cool drinking water whenever they're out on the job.

FIND SHADE - A shaded area, whether under a tree or a portable cooling tent, can offer respite from the sun and rejuvenate your workers. If possible, scheduling shifts that allow workers to be on the job during the coolest hours of the day can go a long way towards preventing heat stress.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT PPE - Perhaps one of the most challenging factors in the fight against heat stress is PPE. As we all know, PPE is built to protect and not for lounging around a spa. But there is a middle ground – specify PPE garments that are made from lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking fabric. Knowing exactly the right level of protection—down to the weight of the fabric—is also critical in this process. If your team is only required to wear CAT 1 FR workwear, they don’t need the extra weight a higher than necessary ATPV rating brings with it. Even just a few ounces can create a world of difference to a worker’s comfort when they’re out battling the elements.

Along with the perennial concern of heat stress are the frequent updates to standards and regulations to keep track of. For example, the updated NFPA 2112-18 flash fire safety standard was recently released in August of 2017 for the 2018 revision cycle. This standard is crucial to ensuring your workers’ PPE garments are made to stand up to flash fires and protect them from the horrendous damage they can induce.

More specifically, NFPA 2112 involves testing for heat transfer performance, vertical flame testing, industrial wash durability testing, and heat and thermal shrinkage testing—all of which go towards determining whether or not the fabric the garment is made from is truly flame resistant.

According to Jill Kirby, Laboratory Manager for testing firm ArcWear, the 2018 edition of 2112 (released in 2017) includes hoods, shrouds, balaclavas, and gloves into the testing procedures. This means that in addition to making sure all of your workers’ FR shirts and pants are tested to the latest 2112 standard, now those extra pieces of gear will need to be up to snuff, too.

Additionally, in the 2019 release of NFPA 2113 (the selection, care, use, and maintenance standard for 2112 garments), garments that cover the head and hand (hoods, shrouds, balaclavas, and gloves) will need to comply with the latest revision of 2112 for use by workers at risk of a flash fire exposure. According to Kirby, testing and certification procedures can take anywhere from a few months all the way up to a year, depending on how many revisions and updates the manufacturer is required to make after certification audits and testing.

By becoming knowledgeable of the NFPA 2112 changes now, and any applicable standards going forward, you’ll be buying yourself peace of mind that not only is your team remaining safe, but they’re also remaining compliant, too.

These standards are updated with worker safety in mind, but it’s up to safety managers to make sure they’re upheld on the job. Between updated regulations, ensuring worker compliance, and the whims of Mother Nature, there’s a lot to keep track of when specifying PPE.