In hazardous workplaces with fire and electrical hazards, your clothes could be the difference between minor injuries and significant burns. Our guide explains some facts about flame-resistant (FR) fabrics you should know that could save your life.
They Resist Ignition
The primary safety appeal of FR fabrics isn’t that they’re completely resistant to flames and heat, but that they have a high ignition point and will only ignite under extremely hot conditions. If the garments do ignite, they prevent flames from spreading. The self-extinguishing properties put a fire out quickly.
While FR garments are the best protection against thermal injuries and flames, they’re not invincible. Despite the protection, the wearer should act very carefully.
They Limit Burns, but Can’t Completely Stop Them
While FR garments are certainly the ideal protection against flames or electrical hazards, they’re not fireproof. FR fabrics limit the spread of flames to other parts of the garment and eventually self-extinguish.
However, the wearer can still experience flame burns while wearing FR garments. These fabrics are still the ideal protective clothing, but you should wear multiple layers of garments and non-melting fabrics to offset the shortcomings.
Non-Melting Fabrics Are Vital
Many people who wear FR clothing regularly believe they can wear whatever they want underneath the flame-resistant top layer. While the FR clothing will resist ignition and self-extinguish, the fabric can still get quite hot and melt undergarments made with unsuitable fabrics.
Many special fabrics, like Nomex and Kevlar, are recommended for FR undergarments, but cotton undergarments are also naturally resistant to heat.
Guides Tell You How Much FR Protection You Need
FR clothing isn’t as simple as one layer of protection to be set for whatever’s next. The NFPA 70E standard for electrical safety in the workplace sets the bar for how many FR garments to wear.
The NFPA 70E breaks a workplace’s potential electrical and fire hazards into four categories—one being the lowest and the four being the highest. With this standard, workplaces can provide workers with a combination of FR outerwear like FR sweatshirts and undergarments like shirts and pants to stay sufficiently protected.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget about FR footwear and headwear, like boots and balaclavas, for head-to-toe FR protection.
Fit Is Crucial
Next to having the correct number of layers, another life-saving fact to know about FR fabrics is the importance of the fit. FR clothes shouldn’t be too loose or too tight—otherwise, they’ll feel burdensome rather than provide adequate protection.
FR shirts and pants should have comfortable breathing space between fabric and skin, creating a buffer between the heated clothing and the skin, should it ignite.