Fire-retardant fabrics and fire-resistant fabrics are two different classes of material. Each class has unique attributes that make them advantageous for intense heat or open flame applications, but they use different mechanisms to do.
If you work in an industry that requires flame retardant workwear, then you’ll want to understand exactly which type of protective workwear you need.
Even if you work in an industry in which fires at work may not affect you, burn-related injuries are still a common hazard.
What is Flame-Resistant Clothing?
Flame-resistant (FR) clothing is a type of personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to self-extinguish upon ignition.
Though FR clothing can still catch fire, these garments will not continue to burn and effectively reduce the risk and severity of burns.
When exposed to fire or an explosion, a lot of fabrics will ignite and continue to burn. Some will also melt onto the wearer’s body.
This can cause significant injuries as textile fires often burn longer and result in more damage than the initial incident
How Does Flame-Resistant Clothing Work?
Most FR clothing is made from material that is designed to be resilient to heat.
Materials like Nomex, Kevlar, and Modacrylic have excellent flame-resistant qualities and are commonly used to make elements of FR garments. Other fabrics, such as cotton, are naturally resistant to flames and can be treated with specialist chemicals to boost their heat resistance and protective qualities.
Materials that are naturally flame resistant, and those that are treated with specialist chemicals, will behave in broadly the same way.
These materials won’t keep burning when the source of combustion is removed, won’t ignite easily, and won’t melt.
This last point is very important, as burning, melted fabric can do a lot of damage and cause serious, lasting injuries.
Different flame-resistant materials offer different benefits. What protects a person in one setting might not be suitable for another, so it’s essential professionals and employers always check which products are best for their workplace.
FR- TREATED VS. INHERENT FR
There are 2 categories of flame-resistant fabrics. One is FRtreated, where the fabric is treated with FR chemicals that bond deeplyinto it. The other is inherent FR fabrics, which are made of fibers thatare already made flame-resistant.
Flame-resistant treated fabric (FR-treated) FR treated fabrics are based on cotton, blended with polyester, paraaramid or polyamide.
These fabrics get their FR property from the chemical treatment that is applied to the fabric.
Inherent flame-resistant fabrics (inherent FR) Inherent flame resistant (FR) fabrics is a technology that ensures a high protection performance of a fabric. With inherent FR, at least one of the fibers used in the fabric has its own FR properties.
The most common FR fibres used in protective clothing are modacrylics and aramids. These fibers provide excellent protection against flames and heat.
Inherent FR Treated FR
-Higher initial cost
-Saves money long term
-Permanent FR Properties
-Better For the environment
-Can be blended for comfort
-Needs to be replaced
-FR Properties diminish
-Damages the environment
-Volatile protection levels
How Flame-Resistant Clothing Is Rated?
When buying flame-resistant clothing, it’s important to know exactly how much protection each garment offers. FR clothing is categorized using an
arc rating, or an Arc Thermal Protective Value (ATPV). This rating indicates how much heat will be transferred through the fabric in the event of an arc flash, and therefore, how much protection the clothing will offer the wearer.
Preventing heat transfer can significantly reduce the impact of a fire or arc flash and help to protect the wearer from the worst effects of the incident.
The values used to determine arc ratings are expressed as calories per square centimeter.
The higher the arc rating, the more protection the piece of clothing will provide. An arc rating of 4 is suitable for a task assessed as
a Hazard/Risk Category 1 (HRC1), the lowest risk, while an arc rating of 40 or more will protect the wearer when carrying out tasks assessed as Hazard/Risk Category 4 (HRC4), the most severe risk.
Manufacturers are required to indicate the arc rating of their garments, and most will list this crucial number on their labels. Wearing multiple layers of arc rated clothing will increase protection against heat and flames. Three or more layers are often required to tackle the most hazardous tasks.
While all arc/APTV-rated clothing is flame resistant, it’s important to remember that not all flame-resistant clothing is arc-rated. Some FR clothing is simply made with flame-resistant fibers and hasn’t been labtested to ensure it meets set standards. Investing in products that have been thoroughly tested is the best way to ensure adequate protection against potential hazards.
Types of Flame-Resistant Clothing
A lot of professionals choose to wear flameresistant outerwear over their normal clothes Garments like overalls, high-visibility jackets, bomber jackets, and coveralls provide the wearer with extensive protection from potential hazards.
While some FR clothing is designed for settings where the wearer is constantly exposed to high levels of heat, other garments are meant for more intermittent danger. These are known as primary and secondary protection, and it’s important to know what you need before you invest in your FR outfit.
The Limitations of Flame-Resistant Clothing
Flame-resistant clothes, while incredibly important pieces of PPE, are not fireproof. In extreme settings, the clothing will catch fire, and although it won’t melt onto the wearer’s body and will burn for a minimal amount of time, it can still cause serious injuries.
The best way to ensure that FR clothing is as safe as possible is to select garments rated to the correct standard. The minimum arc rating for HRC1 is
4, HRC2 is 8, HRC3 is 25, and HRC4 is 40. Layering FR clothing is an effective way of protecting the wearer from potential hazards. If the top layer is burned or damaged, the subsequent layers will help to stop the heat and flames from burning the skin and causing serious injuries.
As flame-resistant clothes are not fireproof, professionals need to avoid wearing synthetic garments under their FR clothing. Underwear, T-shirts, and other items made from flammable synthetic materials can cause a real hazard and can melt onto the skin, causing serious injury. Melting is possible even if the outer layer of clothing doesn’t catch fire. This is why it’s so important for professionals to wear appropriate clothing from head to toe.
Flame-resistant clothing also won’t protect against explosive forces, projectiles, and other hazards professionals may encounter while at work. If entering a situation where other hazards are expected, professionals need to ensure they’re wearing the correct PPE for the situation. Some of this PPE may also be flame resistant, increasing the protective qualities of the outfit.
FLAME RETARDANT CLOTHING
How does Flame Retardant Clothing work?
Flame retardant workwear plays an important role in many industries including oil and gas, mining, and manufacturing.
Flame-retardant garments are a necessity for any employee who may be at risk of coming into contact with electric arc events, flash fires, or combustible
dust explosions to protect the skin against burns and minimize the risk of injury.
Flame retardant clothing is not designed to prevent burn injuries, only to reduce the devastation caused by them. It has also been shown to increase
the survival rate for burn victims.Flame retardant means that a chemical substance has been added to materials during their manufacturing process to reduce the likelihood of the finished product catching fire and to slow down the combustion process.
This chemical treatment is executed in such a way that it fully penetrates the fiber and as such is bonded throughout the entire fabric. As a result of this
treatment, the fabric becomes flame retardant and keeps this property during the lifetime of the garment.
FR treated fabrics are based on cotton, blended with polyester, para-aramid, or polyamide. These fabrics get their FR property from the chemical treatment
that is applied to the fabric. Mustang Workwear manufactures protective wear suitable for hazardous workplaces, including flame-retardant Coveralls, jackets, and flame retardant trousers.
Which workers need flame retardant workwear?
Part of the safety considerations for your workers may be protective workwear. Providing suitable clothing to your team is all part of compliance with safety regulations. If your business includes the following type of workers, you should provide flame retardant clothing for staff:
- Machine operators
- Sheet metal workers
- Electrical workers
- Professional motor racing apparel
- Air force pilots
COMMON FIBERS WITH INHERENT FR
Modacrylic: Among the most popular and common options available today, these fibers are often part of a blend to create several flame-resistant fabrics. These various combinations of fibers work together to create fabrics that can easily stand up to several types of standards and regulations.
Nomex: Nomex is another fiber with inherent flame-resistant qualities. As opposed to modacrylic fibers, Nomex can create FR garments on its own. It doesn’t have to be a stand-alone, however. It’s also possible to combine it with other materials, such as Kevlar.
Kevlar: These fibers are flame-resistant, but have many other additional properties, such as high strength. Kevlar can create flame-resistant clothing and many other different items. Each type of flame-resistant fabric will come with unique pros and cons. For instance, Kevlar is extremely heavy-duty but has a
higher price tag. However, there are no specific flame-resistant clothing dangers, and all can protect the wearer from hazardous heat-based conditions.
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