Flame Resistant Clothing - Who’s It For?
Working in essential and extremely hazardous power industries requires special clothing that can protect against flash fires and electric arcs. Whether you’re working in the oil and gas industry or for the integrated power utility companies, you could use a high-quality piece of FR clothing for protection.
Besides electricians and workers in the energy sector, chemical plant workers can also benefit from an added layer of safety. Flame resistant clothing can protect hard-working people from severe physical harm and even save lives.
A Uniform that Protects
FR protective clothing is a must-have for any occupation where there’s a high risk of injury due to fire or arc burns. You’ve seen the kinds of uniforms firefighters and electricians wear to work. They have a crucial function to perform in case of an accident.
However, what you wear beneath your uniform also matters. As you know, working in hazardous environments requires you to wear more than a single protective layer. That’s especially true when there’s a danger of exposure to high temperatures.
Even if you’re wearing flame resistant clothing, any non-FR clothes you might be wearing underneath the outer layer can still melt when exposed to high enough temperatures, causing serious injury. Make sure that you’re wearing a full set of FR clothing to minimize burn damage in case of an accident.
How Can FR Clothes Protect You?
Regular clothing made from common synthetic fibers will keep burning even after you’ve removed the source of the heat. Most clothing will also melt and cause more damage than the initial fire would have.
FR clothing will not continue to burn after you remove the heat source. It is self-extinguishing clothing that doesn’t fuel the fire, unlike regular clothes you wear on an everyday basis.
It’s also less likely to catch fire in the first place or break open when exposed to high temperatures. When a material breaks open, it exposes the skin and makes a bad situation even worse.
Of course, fire-resistant doesn’t mean fireproof. If you’re exposed to enough heat for long enough, even FR materials will catch fire. FR clothing can give you the time you need to respond in case of an accident and escape before you’re more seriously injured.
FR Clothing Arc Rating
Arc Thermal Protective Value (ATPV), also known as arc rating, is the measure of how much heat will be transferred through FR clothing in the event of an arc flash or flash fire. It’s measured in calories per square centimeter, with a higher number denoting better protection.
Manufacturers of FR clothing need to outline the arc rating of their garments. That goes for any type of clothing, from simple shirts to specialist clothing such as FR lab coats.
A good arc rating will protect the wearer from fire or arc flashes and reduce their impact. However, not every hazard is equally dangerous, so wearing a low score FR gear won’t protect you against every fire hazard. The hazard risk categories (HRCs) and their arc requirements are as follows:
- HRC1: 4
- HRC2: 8
- HRC3: 25
- HRC4: 40
If you’re wearing clothes with an arc rating of 8.9 calories / cm2, you’re well-suited for tasks assessed as HRC1 and HRC2.
Wearing additional layers of FR clothing adds up, increasing your effective arc rating. It’s not uncommon for people working in highly hazardous environments to wear up to three layers of fire protection.
Chemically Treated Flame Resistant Fibers
Applying a flame retardant chemical to the fibers during the fiber forming process results in flame resistant fibers. The fabric made from these fibers is fire-resistant for life. You can launder it in any way you want, and it will still retain its FR properties. The only way to lose the FR quality is to tear the material or soil it so much so that it becomes impossible to wash out the soil.
However, you need to be more careful with treated fabrics. Treated fabrics also have flame retardant chemicals applied to them, but you can’t clean them any way you like.
Cleaning Your FR Work Clothes
One of the faqs we often get regarding FR clothing is how to clean it properly, and it’s a very important question.
You should take care to wash treated fabric in water that’s less than 1.5 grains (25ppm) hard. The hardness of water can impact treated fabric by leaving mineral deposits of salt on the clothing, negating its FR capabilities.
Inherent Fabrics and Fibers
Inherent fabrics and fibers do not require chemical treatment. They are fire-resistant from the very moment the fiber is created. Just like chemically treated fibers, they are fire-resistant for life and aren’t affected by laundering or normal wear. Again, soft water is recommended when laundering your FR clothing.
Nomex is one of the most popular inherent fibers, and so is Kevlar. As you know, Kevlar is also used in tactical military gear as it can protect the soldiers against cuts, chemicals, and flame. Inherent fibers make for some high-quality flame protection.
Style and Function
When asked about FR clothing, most people tend to think about unappealing, out-of-style clothing that’s no different than a safety hat in function.
While the primary reason to wear both a hard hat and FR clothing is workplace safety, it doesn’t mean that what you’re wearing can’t be stylish (not the hard hat obviously).
Flame resistant clothing comes in all shapes and sizes, just like regular clothing does. You don’t have to wear burly wool jumpers underneath the outer layer of protective attire anymore. Today, you can find FR hoods, pullovers, shirts, henleys, and t-shirts.
They come in various colors, sizes, and designs, just like the rest of the clothes you’re wearing. Plus, they provide a decent arc rating that can easily qualify you for working both HRC1 and HRC2 tasks.
Usually, regular clothing items with arc ratings are considered to be light protection. It’s still a good idea to wear additional FR clothing over it. Despite that, you’ll still be more comfortable and stylish at a workplace than ever before.
How to Choose the Right FR Clothing?
Now that style is also a factor in choosing the right FR clothing, you can pick your attire based on your personal taste.
However, be aware of your workplace’s hazard ratings. You need to have as much fire protection as your workplace’s HRC demands. Work safety and arc ratings should still be your number one concern.
Suffice it to say that FR clothing doesn’t protect against all workplace hazards. It won’t stop explosions, projectiles, or falling objects from harming you. Make sure that the clothing you choose is compatible with the rest of the protective gear you’ll be wearing.
Get the Clothing that Both Suits and Protects You
The fact that you work in a hazardous environment doesn’t mean you can’t wear clothes that are both comfortable, stylish, and protective at the same time. Browse our collection of flame resistant clothing to find good-looking apparel that bolsters the efficiency of your FR workplace gear.