Fire-resistant (FR) clothing is designed to withstand extreme heat in industrial environments where fire and heat safety is a primary concern. Though this clothing is incredibly durable, it won’t last forever. Eventually, you will need to replace your FR clothing.
However, buying new FR gear too soon wastes money and material, but waiting too long can put your safety at risk. While replacement is almost always the best solution to ensure safety, these suggestions will show you how to decide when to repair or replace FR clothes.
Is the Fabric Worn or Damaged?
Most types of work clothes wear out fairly quickly on the job. Treated materials are only as safe as the clothing’s quality allows. Stretched, punctured, or worn-thin fabric won’t provide adequate protection to wearers. Sometimes, you can repair damaged clothing instead of replacing it, but you must ensure it’s safe before going on-site.
Industrial workers must take the time to inspect their FR clothing before each use carefully. Materials that have developed holes or have threads coming loose are unsafe for industrial settings. Generally, if your FR gear is lacking in any way, you should replace it as soon as possible.
Has Your FR Clothing Reached EOL?
FR clothing is only meant to last so long. Depending on its manufacturer, your clothing’s material may last up to five years or only a couple. Knowing the expected life span of your FR clothing will help you replace it once it has reached the end.
It’s essential to dispose of your FR clothing properly once it has reached EOL. The chemicals involved in FR clothing manufacturing can be dangerous to the environment and human health if you simply throw your gear in the waste. Instead, you can find upcycling companies that reuse the material for new products.
Is Your FR Clothing Loose or Shrunk?
You must immediately replace any FR clothing that’s become too loose or shrunk. Not only can it be uncomfortable and distracting, but it also takes away from the protective properties of the material. Loose FR clothing increases your exposure to hazards, while items that fit too tightly can cause skin irritation.
FR clothing provides an essential layer of protection for workers while on the job. It won’t function as well as it otherwise could if it doesn’t fit properly. The base layer of your clothing should fit snugly but not too tightly to maximize protection and keep you comfortable throughout the day.
Was Your FR Clothing Involved in an Incident?
If your FR clothing has already been involved in an incident, it may be time for a replacement. Most regular clothing will continue to burn once it has caught fire, presenting a hazard to wearers. Conversely, FR clothing resists flames and extinguishes itself immediately.
However, these protective properties may be less effective if the FR clothing has already caught fire. FR clothing that has experienced a fire, arc flash, or another safety-related incident may no longer be effective. Workers must inspect their FR clothing after an incident and repair or replace it as necessary to stay safe.
Is Your FR Clothing Covered in Dirt or Grime?
Your work clothes can get dirty in the course of operations. Grime and chemicals can get embedded in the fabric of the material, becoming difficult or impossible to remove. It won’t take much to ignite if your clothing is covered in a flammable substance.
Although FR clothing is designed to reduce the potential for burns, it can only do so much. Workers should take the time to clean their clothing to ensure safety and maximize its life span. However, if your FR clothing is dirty past the point of no return, you should replace it instead of relying on a cleaning.
Has Your FR Clothing Been Through Plenty of Wash Cycles?
While washing your FR clothing is essential, they can only handle so many cycles before the FR properties begin to degrade. Depending on the quality of the materials your FR clothes consist of, you may need to replace items regularly.
Wash your FR clothes separately from your everyday attire for the best results. If possible, turn items inside out to reduce wear. Most garments will lose FR properties after about 50 wash cycles. Consider staggering the wear schedule of your FR items to ensure they last as long as possible.
Have There Been Product Recalls?
Certified FR clothing has been through a rigorous manufacturing process and examination to ensure it’s as safe as possible. However, mistakes can happen, so paying attention to your clothing’s manufacturer for updates on safety information and product recalls is essential.
You should return recalled products to the store for a refund as soon as possible. Never wear them on the job since they may not have the necessary protective properties and could present a threat to your safety. Even if you can’t return them, you should still dispose of them properly.
Are There Newer, Safer Designs Available?
While it’s good to make your FR clothing last as long as possible, you need to know when there are updated FR products on the market. Keep an eye out for FR apparel that you want to purchase. Whether for style or comfort, you can always upgrade to something new.
This is especially important if your existing FR clothing isn’t cutting it, as you can always purchase a newer design. Finding a new jacket, some socks, or some lightweight FR bibs can make work safer and smoother. Purchasing the latest FR gear is the best way to ensure you’re always protected.
Does Your FR Clothing Still Meet Your Workplace Needs?
Some FR clothing may not have the necessary functionality for a specific position or task. If you recently got a new job or moved to another position, you may need additional gear to stay safe.
FR clothing is incredibly versatile, but finding the gear you need for your job may require some additional purchases. In some cases, replacing your entire FR wardrobe may be a good idea just to be safe. If your items are no longer adequate for protecting you at work, it’s time to get new gear.
Ensure Your FR Clothing Is Up to Standard
In any work environment, there are hazards that you must avoid, but especially in industrial environments. Fire, chemical spills, and electrical shocks pose serious risks that workers must be equipped to handle with emergency procedure knowledge and protective gear. FR clothing is an example of such protective gear. If you wear FR clothing at your job, knowing how to decide when to repair or replace FR clothes will ensure you stay safe during operations.