Fire Protective Clothing: How It Works and Why You Need It

Workers in industries such as oil and gas, fire service, electricity or some research facilities often require special flame-resistant (FR) clothing to protect them from on-the-job hazards. But how does this specialized fire-resistant PPE gear work, and how do you know if you should be using flame-retardant clothing at your workplace? The team at CarbonX has answers for you.

How Fire Protective Clothing Works

Conventional clothing, when exposed to high heat, fire or an explosion, will catch fire and continue to burn. Some fabrics will even melt onto the wearer’s body, which can result in catastrophic injury.

Fire-resistant clothes, on the other hand, are made from special fabrics that can withstand high heat. Some fire-resistant work safety gear has been made with highly fire-resistant materials such as Kevlar or Modacrylic, or has been treated with special chemicals to become more heat resistant. As a result, fire-protective clothing can resist ignition and, if it does ignite, can quickly self-extinguish once the wearer is away from the initial source of ignition, protecting them from burns and heat transfer.

Just keep in mind that fire resistant means exactly that — FR clothing can resist flames, but it is not 100% fireproof, and will ignite if it is exposed to enough heat, for long enough.

Do You Need Fire Protective Clothing at Your Workplace?

Flame-resistant clothing is a necessity in many workplaces, and often local workplace regulations will outline whether FR PPE is required. But in situations where it’s up to you as a workplace manager to decide, how do you know if you should require workers to wear FR clothing?

As we touched on above, there are industries in which fire-resistant protective clothes are commonplace. Employees who work with electricity, open flames or in settings where they might be exposed to high heat or explosions should wear flame-resistant (FR) clothing.

Additionally, electric arcs are a serious hazard that can be ameliorated by FR clothing. If your employees work around damaged or uninsulated electric equipment, switching devices or sliding electrical parts such as rack-mounted circuit breakers, they should be equipped with flame-resistant clothes.

Besides the hazards mentioned above, there’s also risk if for those who work around less-obvious flammable material, such as combustible dust.

A Note on Fit and Layering

Flame-resistant clothing should never be snug-fitting; fabric that sits tightly alongside the skin will easily transfer heat. Fire-resistant clothes should be baggy, with air and space between the fabric and other clothing, to maximize protection.

Additionally, layering flame-resistant garments will multiply the amount of protection you get from your FR PPE. Many workers prefer to wear heavier, more fire-resistant garments such as coveralls, coats and jackets over lighter, less fire-resistant garments such as T-shirts, sweatshirts and underwear. Just be sure that you don’t wear conventional synthetic materials under your FR clothing, as they could melt from the heat that penetrates through your fire-resistant clothing.

Contact CarbonX with any questions you have about FR clothing for your industry.

Posted in Blog on Dec 14, 2021.