Implementing the right flame-resistant (FR) clothing program for your company can be a complex process. To help resolve any confusion or uncertainty you may have, Workrite Uniform Company has compiled a comprehensive list of common questions and answers.
If the information you’re looking for isn’t included in our FAQs, please contact us, and our knowledgeable FR technical manager, Mark Saner, will respond to your question directly.
A: FR clothing is designed to provide protection against possible intermittent flame and thermal exposures. The key attribute of FR is that it self-extinguishes, which can significantly reduce burn injury and gives the wearer valuable escape time. This increases the chances of survival if caught in an electric arc, flash fire or other thermal hazard. Providing FR clothing also demonstrates management’s commitment to employee safety and well-being, and can therefore improve employee morale.
A: Primary protective clothing is designed to be worn for activities where significant exposure to molten substance splash, radiant heat and flame is likely to occur. An example of primary protective clothing is firefighter turnout gear or aluminized suits. Secondary protective clothing is designed for continuous wear in designated locations where intermittent exposure to molten substance splash, radiant heat and flame is possible (as defined by ASTM Standard F1002). Workrite Uniform flame-resistant garments are designed for use as secondary protective clothing.
A: FR clothing programs are required in many industries by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, and fines are common when the companies fail to provide the proper safety equipment. FR clothing also serves as an insurance policy if an accident were to happen. The expenses associated with one burn injury can far exceed the cost of an entire FR clothing program. One electric company reported the cost of a single burn injury at more than $2 million, and the employee never returned to work. Since using FR, a comparable arc exposure cost the company less than $50,000, and the employee lost minimal work time.
A: The purpose of test methods and standards is to enable users to objectively evaluate materials and define minimum performance criteria for fabrics and workwear across industries. Although conforming to these standards is generally voluntary, using FR products that meet the performance requirements is an effective way to ensure your employees are wearing acceptable and protective FR clothing.
A: Only you and your employer can determine the risks and hazards associated with your industry. You can review the most common standards in our standards section.
A: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a history of citing employers for not providing appropriate protective equipment, including FR clothing. Not complying with the laws can leave your company open to fines from OSHA and litigation from other sources.
A: Clothing made from 100-percent cotton is flammable — it will ignite and continue to burn after being exposed to an ignition source. Most people understand the burning and melting hazard of fibers such as nylon and polyester; however, cotton burns just as readily, if not even more quickly. Therefore, 100-percent cotton should not be used when FR clothing is required or recommended.
A: Workrite Uniform’s video on measuring for garment size provides detailed instructions for obtaining the correct sizing information.
A: FR clothing is certainly priced higher than standard work clothing. However, some FR garments have a significantly longer wear life than basic workwear, decreasing replacement costs over time. Additionally, the cost of one serious burn injury can often pay for an entire FR clothing program, let alone one FR garment.
A: Often, unions consider FR clothing to be an added benefit. When people understand the purpose of FR clothing and are included in the decision-making process, most unions support providing FR clothing to members. The union may see an FR program as a way to protect its members from the hazards of the workplace. However, since establishing FR programs can potentially be viewed as “forcing” people into uniforms, it is critical that the union be fully aware of the purpose of the program early in the decision-making process.
A: It is the responsibility of the employer to understand the hazards in the workplace and to define where protective equipment, including FR clothing, is required. In some industries, such as electric utilities, the hazards can be calculated. In others, experts in the process or environment must assess the hazard potential. Some companies have “inside the gate” FR clothing policies that require anyone on the premises to wear FR clothing. Other companies provide FR clothing to certain employees for use when performing specific tasks.
A: A number of criteria should be evaluated when selecting an FR workwear manufacturer. These include their selection of multiple fabrics and styles, clothing quality, price, delivery capabilities, customer service, quality control process, guarantees and focus on FR. An ideal manufacturer should also have the ability to provide technical expertise to help your company develop the optimal FR program for your unique needs. For more information on evaluating FR clothing and manufacturers, watch our evaluation basics video.
A: No single fabric is the best, and each hazard is different. There are many FR fabrics available today that provide excellent FR protection in a number of environments. All FR products have a balance of properties, including protection, cost, comfort, appearance, color selection and wear life. Each company should select the product that provides the best protection for its specific workplace hazards.
A: For some products, the FR performance is inherent in the chemical composition of the fiber, and therefore the FR performance cannot be removed. For other products, a flame-retardant treatment has been applied to the fabric and can be guaranteed for the life of the garment, provided that proper laundering procedures are followed.
A: Unfortunately, there is no way of testing the FR performance of a garment in the field without destroying the garment in the process. Furthermore, test results from one garment are not necessarily indicative of the performance of other FR clothing in the program. Therefore, we recommend using only FR products from fabric manufacturers that guarantee the protection lasts for the life of the garment.
A: FR clothing is a safety item built for personnel working in environments with hazards that could ignite their clothing and, as a result, some FR fabrics are a heavier weight than you might find in everyday street clothing, and the clothing is designed to cover the arms and legs. However, manufacturers are working to develop products that offer the greatest possible level of comfort.
FR clothing comfort is often subjective, so it is a good ideas to work with a manufacturer that supports wear trials, offers a wide selection of styles and has the expertise necessary to identify FR clothing that will provide your workforce the necessary protection without sacrificing comfort.
A: The looser an FR garment fits, the more thermal protection the clothing system will provide. Air is a very effective insulator so maintaining an air gap between the clothing and skin leads to greater protection. However, a loose fit must be balanced against the hazard of clothing being caught in moving equipment.
Most FR products will shrink and should be sized accordingly. Shrinkage of more than five percent actually takes the garment down by one full size. To find the best possible fit, look for products available in numeric chest sizes.
A: FR garments should be worn over non-melting fabrics or other FR materials. For example, one recommended combination is wearing a Nomex® IIIA coverall over an FR T-shirt. Layering garments in this manner increases the thermal protection of the clothing system by adding "air gaps" that provide excellent thermal insulation, as well as adding an extra layer of FR protection.
A: Because DEET-containing insect repellants contain flammable chemicals, applying them topically to FR clothing may be detrimental to the clothing’s ability to protect the wearer. Testing has shown that applying insect repellant containing DEET to the garment itself increases the duration of the surface flame when exposed to a fire hazard. Therefore, Workrite Uniform recommends applying insect repellant directly to the skin and not to the clothing itself.
A: Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to release the heat being generated quickly enough. This generally takes place while doing physical labor in hot, humid conditions. Because the body releases most of its heat by radiating it from the skin, anything that inhibits that release has the potential to contribute to the onset of heat stress.
Although the type of garment or fabric can contribute to the problem, research indicates that typical work clothing styles and fabrics play a relatively minor role in heat stress. However, fabrics that allow heat to radiate off the body by not trapping it, and can move sweat off the skin and onto the surface of the fabric (wicking) where it can evaporate, can offer some help. Therefore, when possible, it is best to select FR fabrics that are lighter weight, more air permeable and wick moisture.
A: Most FR clothing can be laundered at home using normal detergents and procedures. However, many FR garments so prohibit the use of chlorine bleach for a variety of reasons and should be laundered separately. Fabric softeners are also discouraged.
Many FR products can also be industrially laundered. If you have Workrite Uniform FR clothing, each garment contains a label with home laundering instructions, and industrial laundering instructions can be provided upon request. Laundering instructions vary by FR fabric, so please check labels carefully.
For more information on laundering FR clothing visit our Fabric and Care page.
A: FR clothing should be repaired with FR materials and components that are consistent with the original materials in the garment. Repairing FR clothing with non-FR thread or fabric can compromise its thermal performance. Workrite Uniform can do repairs or provide the appropriate materials upon request.
A: The wear life of FR clothing is dependent on the type of fabric used and the quality of the garment’s construction. Some types of FR clothing can last more than five years, while other types may last 9-18 months. Workwear should be replaced when it is beyond repair, contaminated or aesthetically unacceptable. For a longer wear life, select an FR clothing manufacturer that uses durable fabrics and construction techniques designed to improve longevity.
FR clothing should be removed from service if it has holes or tears that cannot be repaired, or when the fabric has thinned and become "threadbare." Workwear contaminated with flammable substances should also be removed from service immediately if it cannot be adequately decontaminated.
First and foremost, a longer wear life means lower long-term costs because you don’t have to replace clothing as frequently. Secondly, longer wear life means a better-constructed garment — whether the longer wear life is due to using a more durable fabric, reduced shrinkage or special garment construction techniques, these higher-quality, more durable garments pay off in the long run in both cost and protection.
As an ISO 9001:2008-certified company, participant in numerous industry associations and standards-writing organizations, and owner of numerous trusted brands, Workrite Uniform’s expertise is backed by a steadfast commitment to superior protection and quality.