What makes Flame-Resistant Clothing “Flame Resistant”?
A diverse array of workplace hazards makes having the right protective gear even more crucial. In many cases, this means flame-resistant (FR) clothing. Working around with high-voltage materials & fire hazards or working as a welder are just a few examples of jobs that require flame-resistant clothing. If you work in any of these industries, you would already know the purpose & importance of flame-resistant clothing. But, what actually makes flame-resistant clothing “flame resistant”?
Let’s get an insight into the science behind flame resistant clothing. A better understanding of this type of safety clothing will help you make smarter buying decisions.
What makes FR Clothing “Flame-resistant”?
Though not the only industry to wear this type of safety clothing, the electric power industry is the one that has a substantial need for flame-resistant protection. One of the most severe threats for workers is electric arcs. Hazards from arc blast/flash include:
- Hot gases
- High temperatures over short periods of time
- Intense pressure waves from explosions
- Shrapnel from vaporized &molten metal particles
It is easy to see the potential lethality of these dangers. That’s why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has introduced the “269” standard. This “269” standard states that workers must be trained in the potential hazards of electric arcs. Coming back to the topic of FR clothing, this standard also prohibits workers from wearing protective equipment that may amplify the potential of injury in the presence of an arc.
Clothing material that might lead to ignition, or will continue to burn, or that may melt on the skin is out of the question. This basically means that FR apparels are not crafted from synthetic materials such as nylon, acetate, polyester, or rayon. OSHA also provides a general explanation for what material may be considered for FR clothing. This requirement states, “Clothing apparel made from materials like 100% cotton/wool may be acceptable if its weight is appropriate for the flame & electric arc conditions to which a worker could be exposed.”
What your flame-resistant gear made out of?
The answer to this question will depend upon the hazardous risk category level & the minimum required arc rating for your job. When it comes to flame-resistance, the “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work. Different jobs have different protective gear requirements, which means each flame-resistant fabric has unique properties that may either help or harm the end-user. However, blending different fibers may allow maximum protection and performance.
Two common flame resistant fabrics include 100% cotton and an 88% cotton/12% nylon blend. The 100% cotton apparel has been permanently treated to provide flame-resistance to the extent of the garment’s life. The other one with 88% cotton/12% nylon blend is engineered to provide guaranteed flame-resistance for the life of the garment. These fabrics are treated to provide flame-resistance.; this treatment involves the application of flame retardant. Some flame retardants are phosphonium salt precondensates; these retardants have been polymerized with gaseous ammonia. They may also be a heat-cured dialkylphosphonamide. The process used for this treatment has minimal impact on the performance of the fabric.
The various types of fabrics may have different combinations of fibers or may have undergone a certain flame retardant treatment process. Still, the flame-resistant clothing you select will depend on the hazards of your workplace & the minimum required arc rating you need. However, it is not enough to consider only one facet while choosing FR clothing; a comprehensive view is needed!