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 Post subject: Arc Rated Clothing Causing Health Effects.
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2013 8:17 am 
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We have gone to wearing cotton HRC2 (8.6 cal/cm2) uniforms and about 10% of the employees have found the clothing to cause burning and itching with at least one case of dermatitis. This seems to be happening in hot locations and when the employee works hard enough to work up a sweat. Our company has taken the approach that we are to wear arc flash protection at all times even there is no risk of danger (sitting in a control room entering data into a computer).

I was wondering if others have found some of their employees also have had adverse reactions to wearing PPE's and how it was dealt with. We are going into our cooling season and a few more people are complaining about the uniforms.


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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 4:48 pm 
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Haven't heard of that but if there is no reason for personnel to wear the AR PPE, other than a management knee jerk, IMHO they should not be wearing it. If they are not constantly performing tasks requiring the PPE, why wear it? At that rating, for the infrequent times that the PPE might actually be needed, there are coveralls that can be used.

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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 8:34 pm 
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Have only heard of this with clothing if it is improperly cleaned and has detergent residue left which can be caustic. Dermatitis is common with rubber gloves though. Best option is glove powder. Older nomex is also notorious for problems. I've not seen any issues in a foundry with 110+ F temps in a foundry using Westex Indura Ultrasoft.


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PostPosted: Sat May 11, 2013 5:03 pm 
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It is a knee jerk thing one size fits all response. Pretty sure it is partly due to improper laundering but the arc flash uniforms are not meant to breath and that traps the sweat which with the caustic residue irritates the skin. Can cause symptoms of Miliaria.


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PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2013 8:12 am 
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Location: Tennessee
Our entire maintenance department wears Indura Ultrasoft. Several years with no problem.


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PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2013 9:06 am 
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As an FR garment manufacturer we rarely find wearers experinencing skin irritation issues. FR treated cotton fabrics obviously have flame retardant chemicals added to them to give them their flame resistant characteristics which in rare situations could affect some employees. Some brands have been used in the field for many years without issues but there are many new products being sold with little actual wearer experience. There are also a number of inherently flame-resistant fabrics being offered that do not have flame retardant chemicals added to the fabric which could be an alternative to consider. I would suggest you contact an experienced FR garment manufacturer to get samples of HRC2 options and have your workers wear them to see if they solve your problem.


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PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2013 9:15 am 
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We have seen this many times in the past and there is a trend with which fabrics are used in the garments causing these skin irritations. Many workers experience rashes on their arms and neck.

We have tested most of the ammonia cure processes on the market. What your crew may be experiencing is a reaction to formaldehyde. Some of the 88/12 blends we tested have up to 900 ppm of free formaldehyde. I would suggest you get a garment and send it to Precision Laboratory in TN for testing. It will cost you about $100. Please keep us informed as to your findings. BenchmarkFR.com


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PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2013 2:02 pm 
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We have the same problem, mainly with heat, we have implemented the use of FR clothing just when is needed. In my own experience using the insulating gloves, they are really hard to use in tight spaces, our people are using them since is our policy, during summer the sweat make them really hard to remove, however I can see the dilemma that they are facing.
Does anybody have tried gloves an garments that do not have this disadvantages?, this could be a good business opportunity for somebody in the industry.


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PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2013 5:38 pm 
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There was a case with Ergon energy about 4 or 5 years ago in Queensland where the staff were getting reactions from the PPE. My understanding is that globally there aren't many good standards for testing garmnents for their reaction with workers. I implimented a PPE policy for BlueScope Steel using a BOC imported Tara Safe product that came with certification againts a Japanese standard as they couldn't find anything else to test against . We had no issues with the product selected. We had trialed Indura ultrasolt, The Elliots Porduct and Carbon blend that also had no irritation other than a slight itch from the carbon blend similar to a wearing wool. The trial process is a worthwhile exersise to go through. Camfort is a key factor is compliance.

If the clothing is comfortable then your best bet is to have people in it all of the time. It gives them protection against the extremely rare failures as well as prevents people from making bad choices in a pressure situations to not bother to suit up. It another way to help to protect people from themselves.


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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 4:44 pm 
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Well there goes half hour of my time typing on the subject and explaining how and why. Software said I could not post as I was not signed in, copied what I wrote but it was not available to past after I logged in again.

Here is the short version. Google the following.

Quote:
Patients Presenting With Miliaria While Wearing Flame Resistant Clothing in High Ambient Temperatures


Seems what is happening at our site. The clothes are not meant to breath and the trapped sweat is causing the condition. I also think our laundry company is not rinsing the clothes properly and leaving them at a high pH which also aggravates the condition.


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PostPosted: Thu May 16, 2013 1:36 pm 
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printer wrote:

Seems what is happening at our site. The clothes are not meant to breath and the trapped sweat is causing the condition. I also think our laundry company is not rinsing the clothes properly and leaving them at a high pH which also aggravates the condition.


I have read several places where it is better to launder items yourself in a gentle-cool cycle. That way you can insure the items are not subjected to the rather harsh industrial cleaning process and ensure they are properly rinsed as well.

We are in the process of changing the proscribed daily wear for technicians who primarily test drives/systems. One of the options is HRC 1 or 2 shirts, and my suggestion was to have each technician home-launder them to make sure the servicable life is not reduced due to harsh industrial launderring. It seems to be more cost effective to extend the servicable life and buy the shirts instead of leasing them and sending out to be laundered.


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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 8:43 am 
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I assume the above Printer is citing this article. http://www.jmedicalcasereports.com/content/5/1/474

Dermatitis isn't uncommon in NON-FR clothing either. My son has the same issue in cotton nylon US Army uniforms.

Wash daily, wear comfortable undergarments. The study doesn't really address this it focuses on medical aspects. There are ways to avoid it, most of which have been addressed above. Home laundering can still cause dermatitis. If you have an employee who is sensitive, best to control everything to find out what the culprit is. Fabric softners are often the issue, failure to launder is usually second, poorly rinsed or improperly cleaned follows in my experience and sometimes the material could be involved. I only know of two cases. One large one was a cheapo factory overseas sending basically toxic chemicals in the clothing used in the dyeing process (not the FR treatment). The other was one individual who was sensitive to clothing with polymers in them. He couldn't wear any of the two fabrics offered but they kept switching fabrics till he found one he could wear.


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PostPosted: Thu May 23, 2013 7:07 am 
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A layer of undergarments was suggested in our case. Our management was stuck on the 100% cotton requirement for arc flash protection. Found out it is hard to find anything that is 100% cotton in most stores. Also wearing what was basically long underwear under the FR uniform became a sweat box in anything but below room temperatures, which then just aggravated the condition.


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PostPosted: Thu May 23, 2013 11:03 pm 
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You can get plain white undershirts, socks, and underwear (except the waist bands) in all cotton. Polo shirts are a little harder to find. Tee shirts are easy. Most blue jeans and cotton duck pants are all cotton. Anything else labeled twill, work pants, work dry shirts, eyc. is a nonstarter. In winter "old school" long underwear is the only viable option as everything else is polypropylene or nylon. All high visibility stuff except FR rated is meltable. I've been accepting cotton pants/shirts with stripes sewn on them for high visibility...aka coal mining clothes. The surface area is well below half the surface area needed for a significant burn risk. Traditional twill work shirts and pants are nonstarters. So are SOME boxer underwear. You just have to pay attention when shopping, and give up on wrinkle resistant stuff.


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PostPosted: Fri May 24, 2013 10:11 am 
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Might try using an arc rated undergarment. Drifire is comfortable and has no FR treatment. Also absorbs moisture and they have long johns. XGo has them too. Another different fabric is Control FR from NSAmfg.com or Polarmax FR. These are untreated undergarments which are comfortable. I'm sure I've left out some that might work with your dermatitis but I hope this helps.


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PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 8:52 am 
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Printer made the following comment "the arc flash uniforms are not meant to breath and that traps the sweat which with the caustic residue irritates the skin." Just to clarify, FR fabrics do breath just like non-FR fabrics. They are basic woven or knit fabrics and just like non-FR they allow air to permeate and heat to dissipate and most absorb moisture like non-FR. Some inherently FR fabrics do not absorb moisture particularly well but they do breath.


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PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2013 7:53 pm 
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msaner@workrite.com wrote:
Printer made the following comment "the arc flash uniforms are not meant to breath and that traps the sweat which with the caustic residue irritates the skin." Just to clarify, FR fabrics do breath just like non-FR fabrics. They are basic woven or knit fabrics and just like non-FR they allow air to permeate and heat to dissipate and most absorb moisture like non-FR. Some inherently FR fabrics do not absorb moisture particularly well but they do breath.


Sorry, They breath as well as any other fabric with the same woven structure. Better that I clarify. A heavy denim shirt will not breath as well as a T-shirt.


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 Post subject: Re: Arc Rated Clothing Causing Health Effects.
PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2016 4:18 pm 
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Heck, it has been a few years and I know more now than I did back then. I was the main person affected by the tetrakis hydroxymethyl phosphonium sulfate treated uniforms. The stated document is the one I was referring to. Seems little else on the FR chemical's reaction to people who wear it. Had a confirmation from the manufacturer that they have received reports from their customers having similar problems when the weather changes and people perspire. They gave a list of things to try (different washing, rinsing) but since I already tried them they suggested what they told others to do when other causes were ruled out. Going to another type of fabric.

It was comforting to hear that we were not the only ones with employees that had reactions to the fabric when sweating. Besides the itching and burning some of our employees had acne develop on their body. One had miliaria crystallina (heat rash, prickly heat) diagnosed by his doctor. This form is where the sweat duct is blocked and the sweat is trapped under the surface layer of the skin. In all cases the workers had no past history of these occurrences before wearing the uniforms and the health issues only surfaced when the uniforms were worn. Our employer finally recognized that some of the workers have issues with the uniform and has supplied a uniform not treated with the FR chemical.

I have been less lucky being the first person to complain about the uniform along with being affected far greater than the others. Just genetics I guess. Within one hour of wearing the uniform while perspiring I had a major histamine reaction with the associated burning and itching. The reaction was so strong that it would take a week for it to finally subside, think sunburn, felt like road rash. In all I was made to wear the uniform about two dozen times. In the end I was given a different uniform to wear.

Unfortunately the new uniform did not help that much. The pain from wearing the uniform had become permanent and regular clothes could cause the reaction. After a time that I can only call horrid I learned I had mechanical and thermal Allodynia. The touch of clothing or a gentle breeze against the skin causes pain, can only was with cold water now. Thankfully there is some medication to alleviate much of the discomfort.

Sadly it does not end there, my employer refused to accommodate me in the health issue brought on by them and refused to allow me to work in a t-shirt. This kept me in constant pain (I think this was a contributing factor in my next affliction) and now I also have Peripheral Neuropathy. Starting at the feet you get stabbing pain and eventually your nerve endings die off and you loose your sensation of touch.

Not looking for sympathy, life sucks more for others, at least I am still breathing. I was unlucky to work for the employer I have but I had the good fortune of working in a medical complex where I had some input someone in the general public would not have had from doctors and researchers on my condition. Spent countless hours combing medical papers trying to solve my medical mystery.

Had the thought, if a tree falls in the forest and if no one is there to hear it does it make a sound? Well I am that tree. If someone has also had a bad reaction to the FR and there is no record of my having one, that person is one data point out of one. And science will look at him as a curiosity and it will not go farther than that. And doctors will have have a hard time to link the condition to the FR other than the patient saying they had a reaction while wearing the uniform.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2016 12:05 pm 
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BISAM wrote:
Our entire maintenance department wears Indura Ultrasoft. Several years with no problem.


This is what I wear every day as far as pants go along with a variety of shirts as I open live panels, switchboards and disconnects pretty much on a daily basis for surveying purposes. Ordered through Cintas. My employer pays for one pair of coveralls, 5 pairs of pants and our standard logo'd shirts per year but they will only buy Navy Blue. I buy Khaki Indura Ultrasoft pants and other non-logo'd shirts directly from Cintas on my own dime. Pants directly from Cintas are WAAAAAAY cheaper than trying to order from Workrite, mostly due to shipping since there is a Cintas office in my city I can pick them up from there or have them delivered when they deliver the regular order. Shipping from Workrite is a killer.

None of these clothes have bothered me. In fact, they wear pretty much like "regular" clothes only the shirts are a bit heavier. I do wear a "regular" cotton short sleeve shirt in the summer and put my FR shirt over it when opening live equipment. Either that or coveralls or a 40 cal suit depending on what it is I'm getting into.

Sorry to hear you've had such a reaction. I don't know how many folks we have wearing the Indura Ultrasoft FR pants. Probably somewhere around 100. Just a guess. Not heard of anyone reacting to them.

This is my favorite shirt to wear in the winter. I do not get them from this site though, I get them from Cintas: http://www.bulwark.com/Products/Details/547398


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 Post subject: Re: Arc Rated Clothing Causing Health Effects.
PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2016 4:31 pm 
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About 10% of our guys have had issues that come and go. Mainly when the uniforms are new and more of a hit and miss thing afterwards. Me, I am the canary in the coal mine.


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