Fire-resistant clothing is a hot topic in many industrial, utility, and laboratory environments, along with every fire station in the world. Ensuring full compliance to all FR standards is important to improve employee safety, but with all the detailed legal and technical information out there, it’s easy to overlook the basics from an outside perspective.
There are a few common myths surrounding FR clothing, and this article is intended to provide the real facts behind the misinformation.
1. FR Garments Block 100% of Energy
It’s always important to pay attention to the details. Flame-resistant is not fireproof any more than water-resistant is waterproof or bullet-resistant is bulletproof. While FR garments can be worn to provide protection against electric arc flash and flash fire, they do not completely block all heat energy.
Fabrics used in FR clothing are rigorously tested for various properties, including flammability, flash fire, arc rating, thermal shrinkage, heat resistance, and heat transfer. These tests determine how much heat can be applied before fabric is charred or the person inside receives severe burns.
Though FR fabrics can help protect against injury and death, the temperature inside FR clothing is still very much affected by heat outside – caution must still be used.
2. Regular Clothes Can Be Worn Underneath
Since energy and heat transfer is still possible inside a full-body FR garment, it’s still important to wear layers of FR or at least natural fiber/non-melting clothes underneath. Pay close attention to what types of fabrics are worn, especially with synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, rayon, and polyester, as these can melt onto the skin in high-heat conditions.
All FR clothing must be properly rated in order to provide the maximum protection for workers on hazardous job sites.
3. FR Garments Are Rigid
The traditional image of FR clothing is of the type of suit worn by Homer Simpson at the nuclear power plant in the introduction of The Simpsons. This simply isn’t the case anymore. In fact a full range of fashionable and comfortable FR clothing is available by Workrite Uniform.
Even workers on an off-shore drilling platform or a utility lineman in west Texas can benefit with a pair of FR jeans and a comfortable shirt that provides moisture-wicking, breathability, and flame resistance.
4. All FR Clothing Is the Same
As described above, FR fabrics are put through rigorous testing, and different fabrics are deemed acceptable for handling different hazardous situations. This is why FR clothing is properly labeled with PPE Categories and Arc Ratings.
Electrical arc flashes are different than heat and flame, but all clothing that has an arc rating is also fire-resistant, though not all FR clothing provides the same protection from electrical arc flash. Understanding these distinctions is vital when selecting FR clothing.