Home Laundering for Arc-Rated Flame-Resistant Clothing
Flame-resistant clothing protects workers from arc flash and/or flash fire hazards and home laundering is a safe, convenient, and cost-effective way to keep it clean, albeit with a few important guidelines.
A quick-reference guide to safe, effective, and convenient home care
By Emily Keough
Existing industry standards agree that, in addition to being convenient and cost-effective, home laundry is safe and effective for cleaning arc-rated flame-resistant (FR) clothing. In fact, OSHA has never required industrial laundering for FR clothing.
Plus, analysis has shown that as many as 50 percent of employees in industrial laundry programs do not utilize the service. This indicates a strong employee preference for home laundering when given the choice — and a significant portion of cleaning costs wasted in industrial laundry programs.
Home Care & Maintenance: Three Things to Remember
Home care for FR clothing is straightforward and effective. To make sure FR clothing performs and protects as expected in the event of an incident, there are three key details to remember:
1. Do not use chlorine bleach. Bleach is prohibited on all manufacturer wash instructions.
2. Don’t wear FR that is soiled with flammable contaminants like oil, gas, grease, etc. These can ignite during an arc flash or flash fire and continue to burn against the skin even though the FR fabric itself will not ignite. If a garment is soiled with a flammable substance, it is important the substance be completely removed before the garment is worn again. For persistent stains, try spot-treating with detergent or dry cleaning.
3. Retire FR that is worn out. Areas with excessive wear or damage can leave workers vulnerable. Employers and workers should look for thin or threadbare areas, unrepaired holes, and excessive wear or abrasion — particularly on stress points like elbow or knee areas. Garments with damage like rips, cuts, tears, broken closures, or torn, open or frayed seams should also be retired. If damage is minor, the garment should not be worn until it is repaired using FR materials.
How to Launder at Home
When laundering FR clothing, follow the instructions on the garment label for best results. Home laundering practices should be guided by ASTM F2757, Standard Guide for Home Laundering Care and Maintenance of Flame, Thermal and Arc Resistant Clothing. Generally, FR clothing should be cleaned as follows:
• In small loads
• Use warm water
• Wash FR clothing inside out, in a separate load from non-FR clothing
• Liquid Tide/Liquid Tide HE are recommended laundry detergent brands, through testing
• Line dry or tumble dry on low heat using the “permanent press” setting, and remove from dryer damp
• Treat stain spots with detergent directly or dry clean to remove persistent stains
Do not use:
• Chlorine bleach
• Fabric softener, detergent containing fabric softener, or dryer sheets (Tip: If you accidentally use fabric softener, simply launder again without fabric softener to remove.)
• Oversized wash loads
Industry Standards: Arc Flash Protection
In the latest edition of OSHA 1910.269, OSHA is clear that “the final rule does not require employers to launder protective clothing for employees.” It does indicate an expectation that “if employers rely on home laundering of the clothing, they must train their employees in proper laundering procedures and techniques, and employers must inspect the clothing on a regular basis to ensure that it is not in need of repair or replacement.”
So, employers may choose to launder personal protective equipment (PPE) for their employees but the cost of laundering is not imposed on the employer in OSHA’s ruling. Further, it is important to understand that engaging a laundry service does not exempt the employer from the responsibility in 1910.269 of ensuring proper care of PPE. OSHA was clear on this, stating, “[i]n any event, the responsibility for maintaining PPE rests squarely with the employer under existing OSHA standards.”
Similarly, NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace accepts home laundering, directing users to follow the instructions on the garment label along with ASTM F2757 Standard Guide for Home Laundering Care and Maintenance of Flame, Thermal and Arc Resistant Clothing for guidelines. ASTM F2757, in turn, states “when garments are laundered properly, using the proper detergent, home laundering is an effective cleaning process [emphasis added].”
Home laundering is a safe, convenient, and cost-effective cleaning process that is supported by industry standards.
Industry Standards: Flash Fire Protection
Though OSHA 1910.269 pertains to electric generation, transmission, and distribution, the ruling introduces commentary from OSHA that paints a broader picture of the agency’s stance on proper care and maintenance of PPE in general. As a result, key messages in 1910.269 discussed in the arc flash section above are relevant to the oil and gas industries and other industries that use FR clothing to protect workers from flash fire hazards.
Other industry-specific OSHA rulings and standards provide support for home laundering as a safe and effective cleaning method for flash fire PPE:
• The OSHA 1910.132 Enforcement Policy Memo of 2011 cites NFPA 2113, Standard on Selection, Care, Use, and Maintenance of Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire (2007 Edition), as a resource for compliance with the enforcement of 1910.132.
• NFPA 2113, in turn, states that “[f]lame-resistant garments shall be cleaned in accordance with manufacturer instructions, or if cleaning instructions are not provided, in accordance with the recommendations provided in ASTM F2757-09, Standard Guide for Home Laundering Care and Maintenance of Flame, Thermal and Arc Resistant Clothing.”
• ASTM F2757 rules that, “when garments are laundered properly, using the proper detergent, home laundering is an effective cleaning process” [emphasis added].
Meeting OSHA’s Expectations for Home Laundry
Employers who leverage home laundry can simply and easily meet OSHA’s requirement for “regular inspection” by implementing brief visual inspection of FR clothing as a standard component of job briefings. A simple visual check for excessive soil, wear-and-tear, holes and/or stains can be accomplished quickly and is an effective method for both meeting this OSHA requirement and ensuring worker safety.
OSHA also expects that employers utilizing home laundry “train their employees in proper laundering procedures and techniques.” To this end, employers can leverage industry-accepted resources to help train employees — and retrain them annually — on safe and effective home laundering. In fact, major FR clothing suppliers offer training videos, flyers, and quick-reference guides consistent with ASTM F2757 that can be posted by the family washing machine to support employers and employees in effective home garment care.
The Home Laundry Opportunity
A direct purchase program with home laundry may present an opportunity for your company to reduce cost and maximize service levels and employee satisfaction. Companies that now leverage home laundry have reported benefits including:
Product Selection: Whereas industrial laundry suppliers limit product selection to maintain profitability, workers in home laundry programs can typically choose from an expanded selection of company-approved FR garments — driving employee satisfaction and compliance.
New Products: In home laundry programs, products with new technology in protection or comfort can be added to the program as they become available in the market.
Customer Service: Communication and accountable service is provided in home laundry programs by an account team rather than a busy route driver, plus they typically offer direct-to-user customer service.
Budgeting: Home laundry programs allow for transparent budgeting with no hidden charges or fees, plus straightforward, easy-to-read invoicing for garment purchases.
Replacement Garments: Garments stay in rental laundry programs for an average of two to four years (or more), over which time harsh industrial laundering takes its toll. Yet you pay the same monthly rental for a 4-year-old garment as you did when it was new. Garments in a direct purchase program are replaced as needed, at a cost that is considerably less than the rental fees accumulated over years. Furthermore, ownership of the garments inspires employees to play an active role in care and maintenance.
Expanded Service Package: Direct purchase programs with home laundry typically include services such as online ordering, returns and exchanges, reporting, direct-to-user fabric lot tracking for FR garments, and onsite fittings.
Supplier Performance Incentive: Unlike industrial laundry programs, there are no long-term contracts, no hidden costs and no end-of-term buyout clauses. This also provides incentive for suppliers to provide the best possible service in order to retain your business. Plus, in the event you change suppliers, your company owns the garments outright.
The Bottom Line
Home laundering is a safe, convenient, and cost-effective cleaning process that is supported by industry standards. Home laundry can be leveraged by electric utilities, electrical maintenance technicians, oil and gas companies, and companies in other industries that use FR clothing to protect workers from arc flash and/or flash fire hazards.
Straightforward, industry-accepted home laundering instructions are provided within ASTM F2757, Standard Guide for Home Laundering Care and Maintenance of Flame, Thermal and Arc Resistant Clothing. Resources are available from major industry suppliers to support employers in proper training, and employers can leverage a simple visual check at the start of each job briefing to meet OSHA’s expectations to inspect garments for compliance.
Beyond direct cost savings, companies that leverage direct purchase programs with home laundry typically realize additional benefits in terms of overall service levels and employee satisfaction. UP
Emily Keough is a senior marketing specialist at Tyndale Company Inc. Since 1981, Tyndale has been an industry-leading manufacturer, distributor, and service provider for arc-rated flame-resistant clothing. Visit www.tyndaleusa.com or TyndaleUSA.com/blog for more information and to learn about how Tyndale is proud to protect workers across the country.