2009 Edition Of NFPA 51B Standard Requires Third-Party Certification Of Hot Work Fabrics

The much anticipated 2009 edition of NFPA 51B Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting and Other Hot Work Standard has just been released. Widely recognized as the most comprehensive hot work Standard, NFPA 51B Technical Committee updates the standard every five years. One of the major changes in the 2009 edition is the incorporation of the groundbreaking ANSI/FM 4950 fabric testing standard into NFPA 51B. NFPA 51B now requires that welding blankets, curtains and pads for hot work operations be “listed or approved” and states that “one such listing is ANSI FM 4950 Welding Pads, Welding Blankets and Welding Curtains for Hot Work Operations.”

“Incorporating the performance-based ANSI/FM 4950 Standard into NFPA 51B is a major change that will help to make hot work safer,” said Kathie Leonard, President and CEO of Auburn Manufacturing, Inc., a leading manufacturer of extreme temperature textiles. “It is imperative to public safety that users are aware that there is a standard to which their welding protection fabrics can be tested and rated, thereby leading to better risk management. The ANSI/FM 4950 Standard is an advance in safeguarding property and life.”

Prior to ANSI/FM 4950, hot work standards like NFPA 51B recommended only “heat-resistant tarpaulins,” a vague term that allowed fabrics made of untested, non-rated materials to be used for fire protection, thereby increasing the risk of fire during hot work operations. Fabrics marketed under the “heat-resistant tarpaulin” requirement no longer meet the NFPA 51B “listed or approved” requirement.

In order for welding blankets, curtains, and pads to meet ANSI/FM 4950 they must undergo and pass stringent third-party testing, certification and ongoing audit procedures, and meet the conditions for safety, performance and quality. In addition, manufacturers must maintain a quality control program and submit to manufacturing facility inspections as part of the Approval process.

“The incorporation of third-party certification to performance-based test procedures confirms that fabrics are an important part of a fire prevention system,” said Leonard whose company was the first manufacturer in the

U.S. to have its hot work fabrics tested and approved to ANSI/FM 4950. “Standards are extremely important,” she continued, “Because too often, materials are purchased that meet no safety standards and turn out to be ineffective fire protection products.”

Using “listed or approved” hot work fabrics is a win-win situation said Leonard, “Matching the properly rated hot work fabric to the job can dramatically extend the working life of the product – up to 10 times longer in some cases – resulting in significant material cost savings while properly managing risk.”

The incorporation of ANSI/FM 4950 into NFPA 51B will have a significant impact on welding fabric suppliers across the country said Leonard. “It will mean a tremendous surge in industry demand for approved welding products,” she said. “Our goal as a supplier is to make sure that every hot work job is properly protected with tested and approved fabrics.”