Flame-resistant (FR) clothing is a form of personal protective equipment (PPE) that manufacturers create for workers in industries with a significant risk of exposure to serious fire hazards, such as the electrical, automotive, oil, and gas industries. Typically, this type of clothing is provided to workers at no cost, thanks to the mandates set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The purpose of OSHA is to reduce safety risks in workplaces throughout the country. OSHA requires certain employers to provide FR clothing to workers if the job requires frequent exposure to hazardous environments. In this guide, you’ll receive an overview of OSHA’s FR clothing standards.
The OSHA Standards That Cover FR Clothing
As a government entity, OSHA can create standards that employers must follow by law. OSHA has passed many regulations, statutes, and pieces of legislation related to the usage of FR clothing since its founding in 1971.
For instance, the General Duty Clause of the OSHA Act of 1970 says that employers must comply with creating a safe working environment free of known hazards or anything that could seriously harm employees. Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 1910, line 269 elaborates further on this subject. In essence, this legislation requires workers to wear clothing that electric arcs or flames can’t burn when the workers are on the job in a particularly hazardous industry. Part 1910, line 132 also says that employers must provide PPE for employees working in particular industries at the employers’ own expense. Unless they receive an exemption, companies that put workers in hazardous conditions must provide them with FR clothing as mandated by federal law.
Working Conditions That Require FR Clothing
OSHA eventually revised the provisions in 29 CFR 1910.269, stating that employers must make sure that the outer layer of clothing that an employee wears is flame resistant, except for what the employee wear on their head, feet, and hands. The employee must also wear fire-resistant clothing when working in certain conditions. These conditions include coming in contact with circuit parts operating at over 600 volts, an electric arc that could ignite flammable material, and molten metal from faulted conductors.
Another significant update to this section of the CFR is that the wording changed from “FR should do no harm” to “FR clothing is personal protective equipment.” This new ruling means that FR clothing is now treated the same as other PPE, as described in a different section of the code.
Appropriate Forms of FR Clothing
Some forms of FR clothing are more acceptable than others per OSHA standards. The hotter materials get, the more likely they are to ignite and burn. Materials will only ignite under the right conditions, depending on the color, weight, weave, and texture of the clothes.
If the working conditions in a particular industry match the conditions for certain materials to burn, then workers are not allowed to wear those materials. The 269 standard is the section of the CFR that details which conditions are safe enough for employees to wear certain materials.
For example, wool or cotton FR clothing might be appropriate depending on the electric arc or fire conditions as well as the weight of the clothes. Although wool and cotton clothing won’t melt when exposed to high heat, the likelihood of ignition is great enough for OSHA to only allow them under certain conditions.
If someone goes to work wearing non-FR clothing, then their employer must determine whether the working conditions will be safe enough for them to proceed with what they’re wearing. Both the employer and the worker could face serious consequences under federal law if the worker isn’t wearing PPE when OSHA requires them to wear it. For this reason, it’s in an employer’s best interest to discourage workers from wearing clothing outside of OSHA guidelines, especially if it breaks the law.
Clothing That OSHA Prohibits
Any material that you can expect to burn is not safe enough to be worn in a risky environment. OSHA outlines this principle in sections of the CFR. Materials such as acetate, nylon, polyester, and polypropylene will melt when exposed to heat, which is why OSHA prohibits workers from wearing clothes made from these materials.
In addition, OSHA bans any clothes made from a mixture or blend of these materials. However, if a company can turn these materials into fire-retardant clothing, it may be able to let its workers wear them without violating OSHA’s code.
Washing FR Clothing
A section of 29 CFR 1926.95 says that PPE “shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition.” However, the CFR does not go into further detail on how employers should carry out this task. There are two interpretations of what an employer should do with this information.
The first is that the employer could handle the cleaning of PPE such as FR clothing to ensure that it always meets federal standards. On the other hand, employers could require their employees to wash their uniforms thoroughly at home.
It’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the laundering of FR clothing doesn’t cause the clothing to lose its protective ability. Nonetheless, an employer could terminate someone’s employment with the company if they aren’t complying with OSHA standards. Still, the employer must make sure to properly train employees on safe laundering techniques if they want employees to wash their work gear at home.
Overall, OSHA’s guidelines are thorough and legally binding. Anyone who works on site in an industry with certain safety hazards, both big and small, should familiarize themselves with the applicable sections of the CFR.
This is a brief overview of OSHA’s FR clothing standards. Regardless of which industry you work in and whether or not OSHA requires you to wear it, you can benefit from wearing FR clothing. Manufacturers design both men’s and women’s FR clothing to be comfortable, fashionable, and affordable. With this in mind, go ahead and order some today, because it’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around.