A History of Flame-Resistant Clothing

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Many industries require personal protective equipment. One form of personal protective equipment is flame-resistant clothing. Many industries use flame-resistant clothing, as do individuals who work in oil, mining, welding, electrical, and manufacturing. If you’re wondering where this PPE got its start, here’s a history of flame-resistant clothing.

Early Stages

Flame-resistant clothing took a while to develop. Before this form of PPE existed, people were already trying to “fire-proof” certain items. In the 16th century, there was an interest in protecting and preserving theaters. This led to the application of alum, ammonium, and clay to theater curtains. People applied this mixture to reduce the risk of the curtains catching on fire. In fact, alum is still used today in some fire extinguishers.

Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac

The history of flame-resistant clothing starts with Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac. In 1821, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac made the first step toward creating flame-resistant clothing. Gay-Lussac was a Frenchman who studied chemistry, and he was known for his studies regarding gas. He used his knowledge of chemistry to understand and produce the first version of flame-resistant clothing. Gay-Lussac came up with two methods of fire resistance. Both methods were done using ammonium phosphates and borax. Ammonium phosphate is a salt of ammonium and phosphates; borax is a salt of boric acid.

Although the work of Gay-Lussac was revolutionary, it couldn’t be utilized for clothing. This is because the agent washed out of the fabric upon cleaning. In 1912, a different chemist continued to work on this project. William Perkins added stannic oxide to the mix, which allowed the clothing to remain fire-resistant for two years of washing. Although this was a revolutionary discovery, things continued to develop later in the 1900s.

Flammable Fabrics Act

After the initial development of flame-resistant clothing, things continued to improve. Society began noticing the dangers associated with flammable clothing. The Flammable Fabrics Act was established in 1953. The Flammable Fabrics Act essentially regulated manufacturers of highly flammable clothing. Additional layers of safety precautions were added to ensure consumers were safe.

Under this act, the Consumer Product Safety Commission could demand flammability standards. This standard was established to monitor clothing textiles, carpets, rugs, vinyl plastic film, mattresses, and sleepwear for children. It expanded in 1967 to include materials used to make interior furnishings and apparel. These materials included paper, plastic, and foam.

The Flammable Fabrics Act meant that clothing couldn’t be made from highly flammable fabric anymore. Plus, it had to pass Consumer Product Safety Commission tests before being sold. These steps were important because it meant manufacturers had to be careful which materials they used to make products. These mandatory flammability standards symbolized an awareness of the risks associated with flammable fabric, as well as the attempt to limit those risks.

Modern Day

As clothing became safer to wear, the development of fire-resistant clothing continued to develop. More research was done, and more funding became available. As development continued, standards were put in place to ensure people were protected. These standards deemed which clothing was considered safe in specific situations or hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Act, otherwise known as OSHA, was established in 1970. Today, many industries and employers refer to the information put in place by OSHA. When it started, the purpose of OSHA was to reduce injuries and deaths related to workplace hazards.

Things didn’t end with the establishment of OSHA. Research continued as more hazards were uncovered. The NFPA 70E Standard was established in 1967. The NFPA 70E standard is focused on electrical safety. In 1995, arc flashes were mentioned in this standard. Arc flashes are extremely dangerous and can be fatal. Additional updates continued to be made as more information was uncovered. The more research that took place, the more specific the standards got.

For example, tables were included within the 2000 edition of NFPA 70E Standard to include information about selecting the proper PPE. Hazards were grouped from zero to four, and workers could choose PPE based on the category number. From there, standards continued to develop into what we have today.

Today, there is a wealth of information available about the various standards and hazards. Flame-resistant clothing is required in many industries because of its ability to protect workers. Flame-resistant clothing can protect workers from arc flashes and flash fires. Today, flame-resistant clothing also offers many other benefits. For example, some flame-resistant clothing is made to make workers more visible while on the job. A construction worker who is wearing flame-resistant clothing might prefer a reflective jacket to ensure they are easily seen by other people.

The options are endless when it comes to flame-resistant clothing. For example, there are options for any season. If you work outside daily, you know the importance of wearing the proper gear. There are flame-resistant options that can keep you warm while working outside. For instance, you can invest in flame-resistant outwear. You could also invest in flame-resistant rainwear for use on rainier spring days. Whether you want a heavy coat or a light jacket, you can find a flame-resistant version. Bibs or coveralls are also an option. These are a nice option because they have pockets for storage.

Because flame-resistant clothing is so well-developed at this point, many companies have begun to focus on aesthetics. Based on where you work, your employer might require specific flame-resistant clothing. If you have the freedom to choose, there are many options. For example, you can choose which pants you prefer. There are flame-resistant jeans available, as well as khaki-colored pants. When it comes to shirts, you also have many options. Whether you prefer a work shirt or a t-shirt, there’s something for you. You can also choose any color you prefer. Flame-resistant clothing is unisex, so there are options for everyone.

At FR Outlet, we are your one-stop-shop for all things flame-resistant. We are an FR clothing store with a wide variety of high-quality products. We have everything from FR shirts and pants to safety toe boots. Whatever you’re looking for, we can help you find it. Please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions, as we’re more than happy to help.

A History of Flame-Resistant Clothing
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