Wearing flame-retardant or flame-resistant clothing is a safety requirement in various industries. Most people call these types of clothing FR gear, and although the terms are similar, there are a few differences you should know. Let’s explore clothing that is flame-resistant vs. flame-retardant: what’s the difference?
Fire-resistant clothing material is self-extinguishing, and it doesn’t disintegrate, drip, or melt from extreme heat exposure. The chemical structure of flame-resistant fabric is what makes it so unique.
While not completely non-flammable, flame-resistant clothing only burns if exposed to flames for an extended period of time. Still, it catches slowly, allowing the clothing to put out the fire on its own.
Flame-retardant clothing isn’t made of the same special flame-resistant materials. Flame-retardant clothing is made from various fabrics, and must be treated with chemicals to become flame-retardant. These chemicals include halogenated hydrocarbons such as bromine and chlorine.
The main difference between flame-resistant and flame-retardant clothing is the fabric. Without the chemical treatment, flame-retardant clothing will burn. For this reason, flame-retardant clothing is more common than flame-resistant clothing because manufacturers can create it from a greater variety of sources.
National Fire Safety Standards
To help consumers understand the differences between these materials, the National Fire Protection Agency created a list of standards that determine whether textiles are fire resistant or fire retardant. They call this set of standards NFPA 701: Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films. Most municipalities and state governments require materials that follow these standards in certain industries, but NFPA 701 is not a law.
While these two types of clothing are similar in name, they function differently on the job. Now that you know the difference between flame-resistant vs. flame retardant clothing, you can easily choose the correct garments for your particular industry.