The ultimate guide on Fire resistant clothing
What should you consider before buying Fire resistant clothing
Industries often use heat, high temperatures, and even fire for their operation & processes. To protect workers from fire & high temperatures fire resistant clothing is provided. So, what is fire resistant clothing? Fire resistant clothing is also known as flame resistant clothing or FR clothing. FR clothing is not fireproof! It means they can still catch fire. You must be wondering, how do they protect their wearer? The article will shed light on the details of FR clothing, which will clear all the doubts that one may have.
How does Fire resistant clothing work?
The clothing is fire resistant, not fireproof. They are manufactured with fabric that does not get ignited easily, even when exposed to high temperatures & heat. Even if this clothing somehow catches fire, they are designed in such a manner that they self-extinguish. It helps individuals to be protected from intense heat, high temperatures, and of course, flames. Even if the wearer is exposed to intense flames, then the chances of any burn injuries are highly reduced. They also help the wearer while escaping unscathed in fire accidents.
Note - The impact of FR clothing can be understood when one compares the injuries during their absence and injuries when they are donned.
FAQ - Are there any guidelines or standards related to FR clothing?
OSHA has laid down guidelines and standard 269, which specifies more details on the use of FR clothing. You can read standard 269, which describes fire resistant clothing requirements on OSHA’s website.
Why should you wear FR clothing?
When you are exposed to the risk of heat & flames, there is always a risk of a fire accident. In case of any emergency, what happens if it ignites fire? It can cause serious burn injuries, and in the worst cases, even fatality is possible. So, assuming the worst would happen, one should don FR clothing which ensures the safety of the wearer.
The fabric of fire resistant clothing not only self-extinguishes but also doesn’t melt and stick to the skin. It reduces the chances of any burn injuries. FR clothing can also protect the wearer from the heat to which they would be exposed. If donned properly, high-quality fire resistant clothing doesn’t even allow the skin to be exposed to heat & flames. Overall, FR clothing provides the best protection against heat & flames.
When should you don fire resistant clothing?
OSHA guidelines & standards have specified when fire resistant clothing should be donned. There are two primary hazards when FR clothing is donned. These hazards are as follows -
1) Fire - There are many industries where the live flame is used. While many industries use heat for their operations & processes. The heat has the potential to ignite a fire. In such cases, FR clothing is highly recommended.
2) Electric Arc - Electric fires are a common cause of industrial fires. So, electricians & line workers often are instructed to wear FR clothing, especially while working on high voltage lines.
It doesn’t mean that the employee who doesn’t work or deal with the above cases shouldn’t wear FR clothing. Whenever the management feels the risk of burn injuries, they should encourage employees to don FR clothing. Though one must decide whether one has to wear secondary FR clothing protection along with primary FR clothing protection or not.
When should you wear secondary FR clothing protection?
Secondary FR clothing protection is designed for situations where the fire hazard may appear temporarily. It could be a flash fire, splashing of hot molten substances, or sudden exposure to intense heat. The secondary FR clothing protection is not designed to sustain the above conditions for a long duration. On the other side, primary FR clothing protection is donned for continuous protection against flames, intense heat, and constant exposure to hot molten substances. This type of protection is donned by firefighters, who are usually exposed to such conditions for a longer duration.
Curious ones can check out our blog on firefighting PPE.
Is there any difference between fire resistance & fire retardance?
While fire resistance (also called flame resistance) of the fabric is the natural ability to self-extinguish, fire retardance of the fabric is the ability to self-extinguish due to some chemical processing or treatment of that particular fabric. The similarity between these two properties is that they burn extremely slowly such that they self-extinguish. The primary difference is that the fire-retardant material undergoes post-treatment to acquire the self-extinguishing properties while the fire resistant ones have them naturally.
Can I wear any clothing under my fire resistant clothing?
The simple answer would be no. The garments worn under fire resistant clothing are of prime importance and may be the difference between the extent of your burn injuries. It is highly recommended to not wear melting fabric garments under FR clothing. The layer between the two garments is filled by air which acts as a heat insulator. So, if the flame or heat is intense enough to bypass FR clothing and air, it has the potential to have effects on the garments you have worn under the FR clothing. If the garments melt or burn, you may have serious burn injuries which will eventually defeat the purpose of FR clothing.
How does fire resistant clothing protect you from burns?
Most FR clothing is an engineered complex synthetic blend of various oxidized fabrics & materials that ignite & burn extremely slowly such that they self-extinguish. FR clothing breaks the fire triangle. When exposed to heat or flames, these substances expand to eliminate any oxygen trapped, thus not allowing the fire triangle to be completed. Now, different types of fabric complexes have various advantages & disadvantages. While one may compromise at a higher temperature at the expense of comfort, the other can be the opposite.
The most famous natural FR clothing fabrics are wool & silk. They have been widely replaced by synthetic ones. The well-known ones are Kevlar, Nomex, and Modacrylic. While Nomex can alone be used in FR clothing, Modacrylic is a complex blend of fabrics that can be highly varied for intended results. Kevlar is the best fabric as it also provides higher strength. Due to expensive costs, Kevlar is often blended with Nomex for the best results. These materials are the best ones, but owing to their properties & various other reasons, they are expensive.
Interested ones can check out our blog on chemical protective clothing.
Can Pure Cotton be used as fire resistant clothing?
Pure cotton is not a self-extinguishing fabric. So, it doesn’t qualify for FR clothing.
What parameters should one check before buying FR clothing?
FR clothing reduces heat transfer drastically, which reduces the impact of the flames or heat. There are three parameters that you should check before buying FR clothing. The first one is ATPV or Arc Thermal Protective Value measured in calories per cm2. It is the arc rating that defines the amount of heat that can be resisted by the clothing if an arc flash happens. Higher arc rating provides higher protection and ranges from 4 to 40.
The other two parameters are the TPP index & THL value. TPP or Thermal Protective Performance should be on the higher side, which can be increased by adding layers of insulation. When TPP is increased, then the weight of the fabric increases, which can impact the THL (Total Heat Loss) value which measures breathability. The optimum THL value is desirable for comfort.
Can FR clothing catch fire?
One needs to understand that FR clothing can still catch fire and burn. There are chances of burn injuries.
How should be the fitting of FR clothing?
They should be slightly loose and never tight. The loose fit allows a layer of air that acts as an insulator between the inner garments & FR clothing. The fit shouldn’t be too loose such that it free flows, which could invite other types of hazards.
Is FR clothing durable?
It depends upon various factors, especially the fabric & the usage. FR clothing may be used for a few months to half a decade. The manufacturer usually mentions the durability of FR clothing and suggests when they should be replaced. If you notice wear & tear or damages, then consider replacing them.
Choosing fire resistant clothing for potential fire hazards is necessary for safety against burns. The article sheds light on various FAQs and aspects of fire resistant clothing that one must know before buying them. Do let us know, whether there’s anything else you would like to know. Always consider buying FR clothing after understanding the manufacturer’s reputation, the fabric used, fitting, and durability.