How to Keep Your FRC and PPE Safe from COVID-19

Tyndale closely monitors the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to keep the communities we support up-to-date with the most accurate and reliable information related to PPE, flame resistant clothing, and arc-rated clothing. We understand that this is a stressful time and people want to know what they can do now to protect themselves and their friends and families. The COVID-19 virus can remain viable on porous surfaces like clothing for hours, and on hard surfaces like plastic for several days…so disinfecting is key. Below Tyndale has outlined some of the most sought-after information in the industry to provide peace of mind that you’re staying safe from COVID-19 and protected by your FRC and PPE.

 

How to Disinfect Your FR and AR Garments

Whether you are exposed to someone with the flu or more seriously, someone with COVID-19, how to disinfect your AR (arc rated) / FR (flame resistant) clothing remains the same. Tyndale highlights the dos-and-don’ts for disinfecting your FRC after a day in the field or coming in contact with COVID-19. Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) combined with our FRC industry expertise ensures readers are receiving the most up-to-date and factual information.

Disinfecting FRC – DOs: The same practices for disinfecting your FRC after a hard day of work remain true – launder items in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Detergent and water will disinfect clothing in the same way handwashing does for you. Soap and water is MORE effective than chemical sanitizers; it disinfects, encapsulates and removes the virus. Stick to the basics when washing your clothing by:

  • laundering with water
  • using soap (laundry detergent), and
  • thoroughly drying your clothing

Thoroughly drying your clothing can also help to disinfect – once the virus is dried out, it dies. Please note, dirty laundry from a person with COVID-19 can be washed with other people’s items, as long as these washing and drying rules are followed.

Disinfecting FRC – DON’Ts: DO NOT USE chemical sanitizer additives when washing AR / FR. Although some people might believe that keeping fabrics as clean as possible means adding ultra-germicidal products like bleach, hydrogen peroxide, borax solution, vinegar, and others, these additives could compromise your FRC and will NOT disinfect any better than water, soap, and thoroughly drying the garments. To maximize your safety and keep your FRC fully protective, you should never use bleach when washing FRC.

 

How to Sanitize Hard Surface PPE

Along with the COVID-19 pandemic has come increased emphasis on disinfecting work equipment, personal items, and commonly-touched surfaces. But how can you safely disinfect your hard-surface PPE – like hard hats, face shields, and voltage-rated rubber gloves – without jeopardizing the critical protective properties of that PPE?

While it’s tempting to reach for bleach to disinfect anything and everything, bleach and similar harsh chemical sanitizers can jeopardize your safety by rendering your hard-surface PPE less effective in the event of an incident.

The short answer? Maintain these items the same way you have all along – that is, with soap and water in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

To properly clean and disinfect face shields, hard hats, or voltage-rated rubber gloves – pandemic or no pandemic –manufacturers’ recommendations are generally to use soap and water. Soap and water also happen to be the CDC-endorsed method for disinfecting COVID-19. Therefore, you should maintain “business as usual” when it comes to cleaning your hard-surface PPE with soap and water during the COVID-19 outbreak.

You can apply the CDC’s best practices for handwashing
with soap and water to your PPE as well:

  • Wash for 20 seconds or more
  • Use soap and – preferably warm – water

This procedure is approved and recommended by PPE manufacturers, consistent with CDC guidance on COVID-19 disinfection, and is safer than using any other sanitizer on these specialized items.

 

The Impact of Residual Bleach Spray on FRC and PPE

Liquid chlorine bleach is prohibited from use on all FR / AR fabrics and apparel in common use in the USA today. Neither Tyndale nor fabric manufacturers recommend or endorse using liquid chlorine bleach on FR / AR clothing. However, we understand that during crisis situations, as with COVID-19, hard and fast rules may occasionally become guidelines as a result of an immediate need or greater perceived threat.

That said, we’ve received a number of questions about the effects of dilute bleach solutions being used to disinfect trucks, tools, and other things, by application through a plastic spray bottle or plant mister. The main question is, what if the solution accidentally drips or spills on AR / FR apparel? Does it have an impact on flame resistant properties?

Best practice is to never handle bleach or dilute bleach solutions while wearing FRC. If you have to use a dilute bleach solution and you’re wearing PPE, you should ask someone else, who is not wearing FRC, to mix and spray the solution.

If no one else is available, change out of your FRC before spraying the solution. Then, change back into your FRC once the solution is applied.

If that’s not an option, cover your FRC before spraying the solution.

If none of the above are viable options, you may need to spray the diluted bleach solution yourself, while wearing AR / FR clothing. Tyndale conducted some preliminary vertical flame research (using twice the CDC concentration level) which showed that light mist, heavy mist, and a spill of the dilute bleach solution did not cause negative effects – all exposed samples passed the test. One exposure on new fabric does not compromise the FR properties.

You should not handle bleach wearing AR / FR clothing; if you must, best practice is to mark the inside of the FR clothing you’re wearing with a permanent marker so you know to discard it after COVID-19 is no longer a threat.

 

Do Not Share Your FRC or PPE

Don’t share your AR / FR clothing – sounds like a given, right? It’s now more important than ever.

COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets; when an infected person coughs or sneezes, the droplets are transferred to hard surfaces and fabrics, where they can “live” (remain viable) for hours or days. So, sharing PPE, clothing, gloves, or hats can spread COVID-19 (and other infectious diseases).

There are three main ways that germs can be spread by clothing and fabrics:

  1. When clothing and fabric is used by more than one person
  2. When someone handles dirty laundry of an infected person, they can spread germs onto their hands, infecting themselves and other items they touch
  3. When a contagious person handles someone else’s clothing after it is cleaned (standard laundering with detergent and water disinfects COVID-19) but before they wear it

If you are sharing PPE with someone who is contagious, you can be exposed to their illness by the shared PPE, including clothing.

Therefore, the safest approach is NEVER SHARE PPE, be careful of all surfaces, wash your hands often, and keep your clothing to yourself, because the truth is, it’s impossible to know everywhere the virus is active – taking extra precautions at home and at work will help to overcome the outbreak.

Conclusion

As COVID-19 has posed increasing challenges to all areas of life, Tyndale is here to help take the guesswork out of how to stay safe from both the virus AND the arc flash and flash fire hazards you face while you work to maintain our country’s vital energy infrastructure. Brief educational and training videos on the above topics and many others related to COVID 19 and PPE, are available at tyndaleusa.com/frc-safety-during-covid-19. Follow along with all of our COVID-19 resources for important guidance on protecting yourself from arc flash and flash fire during the COVID-19 outbreak on our blog at TyndaleUSA.com.

Recognized arc-rated flame-resistant (AR/FR) clothing expert, Scott Margolin chairs several ASTM subcommittees, is a regular speaker at NSC, and has been involved in thousands of arc flash tests. Scott has spent 30 years researching and speaking on AR/FR topics around the world – including serving as a Subject Matter Expert to OSHA, NFPA, NJATC, ASSE, NECA and others on a wide variety of FR, PPE, and thermal hazard issues.

One thought on “How to Keep Your FRC and PPE Safe from COVID-19

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *