3 Things You Need To Know About Flame Resistant Clothing

If you operate practically any kind of industrial enterprise, then chances are that at least some of your employees will need to have flame resistant clothing. FR clothing make the difference between life and death in situations where any potential for electrical fires, open flames or combustion are involved. Here are three basic things you should understand about equipping your personnel with FR clothing.

1. The Need for FR Clothing

Flame resistant clothing is necessary for electricians, welders, foundry workers, firefighters, and other employees who work with flammable fuels or chemicals. The garments are not actually "fireproof" -- workers can still suffer burns from direct exposure to flame or sparks -- but they are very slow to catch fire themselves, sparing additional injury from burning fabric.

Both OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the NFPA (the National Fire Protection Association) have issued rules requiring the use of FR clothing in occupations where fire is a risk. OSHA supports the NFPA 70E standard of compliance regarding workplace hazard evaluation and protection. Failing to protect your workers could not only permit injury and death, but it may also saddle your business with industry fines and civil suits.

2. Choice of Materials

The most dangerous types of work garb are those that melt easily when exposed to flame. Rayon, polyester, and other synthetics can melt right onto the worker's skin, making removal difficult or impossible. Even blends of synthetics and natural materials are considered overly risky. This does not mean that all-cotton fabrics offer the worker full protection -- they will burn readily, but they are easier to extinguish and remove. Applying FR clothing in layers, such as a uniform on top of cotton undergarments, reduces the risk to workers considerably.

3. FR Clothing Classifications

How do you evaluate the flame resistance of clothing for your employees? The NFPA has done that for you by classifying different types and combinations of clothing according to the degree of workplace hazard and the thermal properties of the garments. Pay attention to these terms when making your selection:

  • HRC (Hazard Risk Category) - These clothing categories are based on their ARC rating -- the amount of heat energy (measured as calories per square centimeter) required to cause serious burns at close distance. HRC ratings are ranked from 1 through 4. If your employees need protection from an ARC rating of only 4, for instance, then you need only equip them with HRC1 single-layer clothing. If they must be protected from an ARC rating of 40 or above, they'll require multi-layered HRC 4 clothing.
  • ATPV (ARC Thermal Protection Value) and EBT (Energy of Breakdown Threshold) - The ATPV rating refers to the actual thermal resistance of the material itself against a sudden flash of energy, such as an electrical arc strong enough to result in a second-degree burn. The EBT rating is a measure of how much heat energy it takes to break the flame resistant material open.

Now that you know some of the basic terms and issues related to FR clothing, contact some providers of these garments and discuss your specific workplace needs with them. Protecting your employees from danger is not only for their health -- it's also good for your business!