What to Look For In Flame Resistant Clothing

In the booming Marcellus and Utica Shale Plays, it is easy for Health and Safety professionals to get lost in the sea of information regarding Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  From assessing risk to managing it, several factors come into play when trying to make sure your people are protected.  Endless lists of regulations, risks and products can make selecting the right personal protective equipment a daunting task.  The following article will specifically target what to look for when selecting Flame Resistant (FR) clothing for you and your workers.

For the purposes of this article, we will assume that a flash-fire hazard assessment has already been completed in compliance with NFPA Standard 2112 and OSHA 29CFR 1910.132, and that a flash-fire risk has been established.  It is important to note that, as the least effective hazard control, PPE should be the last line of defense for protection.  Elimination or substitution of the hazard, engineering controls, warning alarms and training are all more effective ways to keep the worker protected.

FR clothing is defined as an article that will not support combustion after the heat source is removed.  FR materials are not fireproof, meaning if the heat source is allowed to stay in contact with the material, it will burn.  There are two ways to achieve flame resistance in textiles, to use inherently flame resistant fibers in the fabric and to chemically treat the fabric.  Knowing and understanding the difference between these two types of technologies is extremely important for those responsible for evaluating, selecting and wearing FR clothing.

“Inherent”, as it relates to flame resistant fibers, means that the flame resistant properties have been embedded in the material since the fibers were first created.  Because these flame resistant properties are an intrinsic part of the fibers, flame resistance is permanent and cannot be washed out or worn out if properly used and laundered.  A key benefit to selecting an inherently FR garment is the knowledge that, as long as the manufacturer’s instructions for care and maintenance are followed, the wearer will always be protected for the life of the garment.

“Treated” fabrics, also referred to as “topically treated”, are fabrics that have had a special mixture of flame resistant chemicals added in the later stages of the manufacturing process.  This bled of chemicals is added to make the final product flame resistant.  Unlike fabrics made with inherently flame resistant fibers, topically treated fabrics could have their flame resistant properties diminished or removed completely depending on how they are laundered and/or what chemicals they are exposed to in the work environment.  A key drawback to selecting a topically treated FR garment is that after prolonged use and laundering, there is no way to know if the flame resistant properties have been diminished or lost.

Now that the types of FR materials available have been defined, it is important to verify that the materials being used by the manufacturer have been tested to meet or exceed all standards set forth by the NFPA and ASTM, and are certified as such.  Some other things to consider while selecting your FR garments are whether or not the manufacturer discloses where the fabric is made, if they follow an ongoing testing protocol, whether they can track every item back to the original roll of fabric from which it was made, whether the garments are comfortable for the user and whether or not you feel that the standards the material has been tested to address your real-world conditions.

Once you have decided on the garments that will best protect your workers from the hazards they face, it is time to determine whether you are getting the best value in your product.  Some manufacturers might use the best fabrics available, but cut costs by using unreinforced snaps, fewer bar tack reinforcement stiches, or single rows of stitching on the pockets.   Investigating the way seams are sewn together, the number of stitches per inch, and how well the garment is reinforced in stress areas will be good indications as to the durability of the product.  The higher quality garments might cost a little more up front, but will be a better value in the long run by being able to last a lot longer than the less expensive options.

After your FR garments have been purchased and distributed to the workers, an effort must be made to train the wearer on proper use, care and maintenance of the garment.  Make sure that users are aware that FR clothing can only protect them where they are covered.  Making sure that all buttons are properly fastened, sleeves are secured at the wrist and collars are secured at the neck can make a critical difference when dealing with flash fires.  It is also important to inspect garments before each use to make sure there are no frays, tears or holes, and to make repairs to or replace items as needed.  It is equally important to make sure that all users are sure to read and abide by the manufacturers laundering instructions.  Bleach, harsh detergents and fabric softeners should never be used to launder FR garments.

Hopefully this article has given some insight as to what to look out for when selecting FR clothing.  For more information regarding regulations and standards for flash fire risk assessment and FR clothing, please visit the American Society for Testing and Materials website at www.ASTM.org, the National Fire Protection Association website at www.NFPA.org,  or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration website at www.OSHA.gov.

By Chris Chadwick, Safety Products Coordinator at SunnySide Supply, Inc. www.SunnySideSupply.com

References:

“Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor.” (8 June 2011). General Requirements for Personal protective Equipment.  29CFR 1910.132. Web.  14 March 2012. http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9777

“National Fire Protection Association.” (n.d.). NFPA 2112 & NFPA 2113.  Web. 16 March 2012. http://www.nfpa.org.

Saner, M. (1 September 2010). “Flame Resistant Garments”. Web. 16 March 2012.  http://www.ishn.com/articles/90365-flameresistant-garments.

“Facts About Inherent Flame-Resistant Protective Clothing.” DuPont Personal Protection Thermal Technical Bulletin. DuPont. (n.d.). Web. 15 March 2012. http://www2.dupont.com/Personal…/en…/K16877ThermalBulletin.pdf

SunnySide Supply Interviewed by The Business Journal

Gas Processors Reshape Washington County, Pa.

Monday, April 02, 2012
By Dan O’Brien

WASHINGTON, Pa. — Four years ago, the hillside along state Route 519 in Chartiers Township, Pa. was packed with dense forest, Terry Frieseo recalls. Within several months, that forest was gone and the hillside cleared and landscaped. Truck traffic along the route increased dramatically, and work started in earnest on a massive, $200 million processing plant for the natural gas industry.

“I’ve seen this grow from nothing over the last four years,” says Frieseo, a retired firefighter who helps maintain a safety-training site across from the plant — a sprawling, 50-acre complex operated by MarkWest Energy Partners LP. The plant is capable of gathering hundreds of millions of cubic feet of natural gas per day and processing that gas for the energy market. “A lot of jobs have come this way. There’ll be a lot more, too, when it’s all over.”

The MarkWest plant is the single largest investment in Washington County since the gas rush began nearly five years ago in this section of southwestern Pennsylvania. While drilling rigs have come and gone, and construction activity ebbs and flows related to these operations, plants such as MarkWest’s demonstrate the industry’s long-term commitment to the region, officials say.

MarkWest’s specialty is providing “midstream” services for the industry, that is, the collection, compression, fractionation, processing, and transportation of dry natural gas, natural gas liquids and oil. Midstream operations pick up once wells are drilled and production begins, and encompass pipelines, compressor stations, fractionation plants, processing stations, and more pipelines.

In 2008, Denver-based MarkWest announced it would partner with Range Resources of Fort Worth to build the largest natural gas processor in the northeast to deliver natural gas tapped from the Marcellus shale, a giant reservoir of dry and wet gas embedded in rock buried deep beneath Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The Houston, Pa., plant was the first step in the company’s Liberty division – a $200 million cryogenic processor and fractionation complex that is able to separate dry gas from wet gas, and then fraction that wet gas into specific liquid products such as ethane, butane and propane.

The company also has constructed another processor in Majorsville, Pa., on the West Virginia border, and two other cryogenic processing plants in Mobley and Sherwood, West Va.

Drilling activity in the liquids-rich Utica shale, a rock formation buried below the Marcellus, has prompted MarkWest to move into the Ohio Valley. The company plans to construct two large processing centers – one in Harrison County and the other in Monroe County – smaller, but similar, to the Houston plant. These projects are expected to add hundreds of construction jobs to payrolls and hundreds of permanent positions.

A larger fractionation plant is planned for somewhere in southwest Ohio, reports Frank Semple, MarkWest president and CEO. “It’s important to locate these facilities where the producers have determined where the gas is going to be most economic,” he says. “In other words, the combination of reserves in the ground and the volume of natural-gas liquids. It’s best to put it right in the middle of the most productive part of the play.”

Semple was on hand March 13 in Cadiz, Ohio, where MarkWest recently opened a regional office. “We will see ultimately, companies like MarkWest, locating in this Utica shale play,” he says.

He envisions development in the Utica shale moving in the same direction as the Marcellus did four years earlier. “We’ve invested almost $2 billion over the last four years in the Marcellus,” Semple says.

Semple, during a conference call with analysts in early March, reported that the company’s Marcellus Liberty segment in Pennsylvania and West Virginia has processing capacity in excess of one billion cubic feet per day, and fractionation capacity of 85,000 barrels per day.

MarkWest also is moving forward with six new processing plants in West Virginia in order to process more gas from the Marcellus shale, Semple reports. “These processing plants are supported by long-term contracts with producer customers,” such as Consol Energy and Range Resources, he says.

The Majorsville and Houston plants are also in the process of adding equipment that will allow the sites to process 115,000 barrels a day of ethane, a sought-after liquid gas that is used in a variety of plastics, Semple says. Another 400 miles of gas gathering infrastructure is also under construction, as is a 200-car rail yard at the Houston complex.

“When these projects are all completed in 2012 and 2013, our processing capacity in the Marcellus will increase to 1.7 billion cubic feet per day, and our total fractionation capacity will increase to 175,000 barrels a day,” Semple says.

The economic impact of midstream operations is having a ripple effect across southwestern Pennsylvania. While the processing plants directly employ no more than 100 people full-time, the jobs created as a result of these processing plants could be significant. Some studies have calculated that for every job created by the oil and gas industry, four spinoff positions are created in other sectors of the local economy.

“We were geared to supplying manufacturing facilities like the steel industry,” says Paul Battista, owner of Sunnyside Supply Inc. in Slovan, Pa. “Business was pretty good. Then, the shale play hit and it’s been overwhelming.”

Battista says that as the region became inundated about four years ago with energy exploration companies scouring for natural gas in this wet window of the Marcellus, he opted to shift his business model and stock the type of inventory that would suit the industry’s needs.

“The learning curve was intense,” he says. “I was up late doing a lot of research on the Marcellus and trying to find out where we fit in.”

His answer was to reconstitute the Sunnyside’s business to accommodate midstream companies such as MarkWest that are operating in the Marcellus shale, Battista relates. Soon, the supply company’s shelves were stocked with products such as fire-resistant work gear, hardhats, reflective tape, gauge sticks, industrial gloves, and liquid pipe compound that companies use to prevent erosion in the pipelines.

“We found out that we fit well with midstream,” Battista says. Supplying the construction phase of the drilling process could land a company such as his a big shots in the arm in terms of volume orders, but ultimately, those rigs are dismantled and moved and construction stops. Midstream operations, on the other hand, provide a longer-term customer base that allows for steady growth for the company.

Battista says when the MarkWest Houston project was first announced, he immediately wanted to wedge his foot in the door and establish a customer base at the ground floor of this industry. “We thought we could get in and talk to them, tell them what we specialize in, and work hard. It started with just me handling that account — now I have two others working on it.”

He also found that midstream companies are more likely to work with local vendors, instead of out-of-town contractors or suppliers. “This industry is totally different,” he observes, “they want to work with the locals.”

Late last year, the company ordered 1,100 fire-resistant coats in anticipation of the coming cold months. “We’re down to about 300,” even with what turned out to be a mild winter. “You’ve got to have these in stock, or they’ll go somewhere else.”

Since the shale deluge hit, Sunnyside’s business has risen exponentially, Battista reports. In 2009, the company saw its business double. The next year, business doubled again. “During the third year of this, we had 50% growth and we’re looking at 60% growth this year,” he reports.

Today, about half of the company’s business is related to gas and oil, Battista reports. “In the next year or two, it’ll probably be 75% of our business,” he projects.

Battista says that he’s witnessed nothing short of a complete transformation of the region’s economy over the last three years. “We’re going through a revolution and it’s happening so fast we don’t even realize it,” he says. “I feel that I’m walking amongst the Carnegies and the steel world again.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was first published in the April edition of The Business Journal. CLICK HERE to subscribe.

Copyright 2012 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

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Working Until the Job is Done

The Romanettis aren’t the only ones to reap benefits from the gas industry by finding a new need and setting out to fill it.

Just 10 miles up the road, Paul Battista, who has owned Sunnyside Supply for 28 years, has seen his sales double and his inventory triple after he revamped his store to service the gas industry. He stocks everything from fire-resistant clothing to filters, valves, and measurement tools needed in gas processing.

Battista for years had specialized in selling equipment to local manufacturers. But when he realized the gas business was growing around him, he did some research. “It’s calling people in Oklahoma and asking them, ‘Well, what do you do for these guys?’ and ‘What is it that they look for?’ and ‘How do they operate?’”

One big change: He and his wife have learned to expect calls on Sunday. Battista remembers getting an apology from one gas company customer who couldn’t wait until Monday for a 20-by-30-foot steel building to cover a compressor. “He said, ‘Tell your wife I’m sorry, I kind of lose track of what day of the week it is,’ ” Battista recalls. “In this business, they don’t think about when the day is done, but when the job is done.”

Because rig equipment costs are so high, it is typical throughout the oil and gas industry to run drill sites 24 hours a day. In the Marcellus, the out-of-state workers typically live at the drill location in mobile trailers for two weeks at a time, working 12-hour shifts seven days a week, then heading home for two weeks off. It’s no wonder that some of the first Pennsylvanians who are actually getting jobs doing the actual drilling are workers used to grueling schedules—war veterans.

One of them is Joshua Cannon, 30, of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, who served three tours of duty in Iraq, the last two with the Army’s highly regarded 101st Airborne Division. He was discharged in 2008, just as the recession hit, and found nothing but heartache in his search for a salaried job to support his wife and two children.

He lost out on a job as manager of a discount variety store to a candidate with a business administration degree. The work he did find was making deliveries—sometimes earning $200 a day, sometimes $20 a day, depending on calls completed—with no benefits. He and his wife tried to move out of their cramped and cold apartment, but on the day of closing on their new house, the bank refused the loan because he had no steady salary. “I felt like I survived being in intense combat for three years, and I can’t survive in Pittsburgh,” Cannon says.
He decided to see whether there were any opportunities in a business he had first heard about from an old friend—gas drilling in the Marcellus shale. He got the call, and started work last February.

“Some days it’s intensive labor, where you have to tackle one project individually or as a team,” he says. “Other days, when the driller is turning knobs and pushing buttons, you have to figure out little projects throughout the rig to keep things running. It might be cleaning or fixing or organizing something. It’s a good balance of work.” And it’s a steady salary, including health insurance and a 401 (k). “It’s a golden opportunity on so many levels,” Cannon says.

But for now, Cannon is an exception.

Gas companies say they want to move to a more local workforce on rigs, but the technical nature of the job—the actual driller manages the well from a bay of computer screens in an enclosed control room high in the derrick—means that only a small percentage of the team can be made up of inexperienced workers, producers say.

Certainly, the jobs are attractive. The average oil and gas worker salary in Pennsylvania is about $60,000, or 50 percent higher than the average private wage job in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Economy League of Southwestern Pennsylvania. But job experts say at least 75 percent of rig workers are from out of state.

“There’s a lot of talk about the pick-up trucks with Texas and Oklahoma license plates,” says Joe Iannetti, principal of the Western Area Career and Technology Center (WACTC) in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. “They’re skilled and good people and we like them because they spend their money here. But we want to see some Pennsylvania license plates at those work sites. I think that’s our duty, to make sure we can provide people who can work those jobs.”

So in the summer of 2009, WACTC, which draws students from nine public school districts in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Washington County and also provides adult workforce transition training, began a specialized program in Marcellus shale jobs. Nearly 90 students have been through the program so far. When he approached the gas companies that are now sponsoring the program and providing equipment, “they said we were a little bit ahead of them,” Iannetti says. “And I think that’s good—we believe we should be producing people before they need them, not after they need them.”

But jobs programs across the state have found there’s at least one way Pennsylvanians can immediately find jobs in the shale business—hauling pipes, equipment, sand, chemicals, water, and wastewater to and from drill sites. The U.S. National Park Service’s geologic resources division, which is looking at impact of shale development, estimated that it takes 300 to 1,400 truckloads to bring an average well to production. Penn College in Williamsport, which has not had a driving curriculum in recent years, began truck sessions each month after its needs assessment showed enormous demand for drivers. The gas companies need people behind the wheel who are accustomed to managing Pennsylvania’s icy roads in winter, says Michael, and trained for the rough off-road driving needed to reach the drill sites.

WACTC’s commercial drivers’ license program will do $1 million of business this year—a 15-fold increase since the shale industry arrived, says Iannetti, and the school is placing students in jobs as fast as it can graduate them.
Lee Zavislak was delighted with WACTC’s training program, although she admits she was intimidated at first by the idea of driving an 18-wheeler. And she did not easily see herself in a heavy industrial setting—she had passed on one possible steel mill opportunity because the vapors and dust in the enclosed space seemed unhealthy. She lives in a rural community because she loves peace and quiet and has mixed feelings about the new energy business.

“It’s a good thing and it’s a bad thing,” she says. “I think short-term, it’s a very, very good thing, it will provide a lot of jobs, a lot of people will make a lot of money . . . and also [will be] creating American fuel instead of foreign. But then there’s health risks. Our environment . . . nobody can really predict what the damage is going to be.”

Within two months of earning her commercial driver’s license, Zavislak started a new job last month as a utility warehouse person and back-up truck driver for a local welding supply operation. Welding is one of the many local trade industries that have seen demand surge since the arrival of the shale gas industry. After the frustration of unemployment and a year of job searching, she was overjoyed to land a position that matched the salary and benefits she earned at the Dasani factory.

Despite her qualms about the industry that is generating the bulk of the new trucking jobs in the region, Zavislak looks at the big picture, and the benefit of gaining a skill she hopes will be in demand regardless of the gas industry’s fortunes: “Every single thing, anywhere, is moved by a truck,” she says.

*This report is produced as part of National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge initiative, sponsored by Royal Dutch Shell, which recently acquired a stake in the Marcellus shale. National Geographic maintains autonomy over content.

Read the entire special report, with photos, interactive map and illustration of the process, at THE GREAT SHALE GAS RUSH.