Flame resistant (FR) clothing protects workers from unexpected accidents. Electricians, electric utility linemen, firefighters, and people who work with explosive or highly flammable materials rely on flame resistant clothing to protect them from explosions and fires.
FR clothing now comes in all types of designs and styles. Some fire resistant materials even look like everyday work clothes.
The Science Behind Flame Resistant Clothing
FR materials share one thing in common: They protect the wearer from flames and other forms of thermal energy.
Fire safety apparel does not ignite, unlike flammable materials like linen and rayon. If a fire comes into contact with flame resistant work wear, the garments self-extinguish.
This does not mean that FR materials are fireproof. The materials do slowly degrade when exposed to heat, but they will not contribute to burning. This quality can prevent severe skin burns.
FR materials will not melt onto the skin of the wearer in the event of a fire. Certain synthetic materials like rayon melt onto the skin when exposed to a flame. This can significantly exacerbate the severity of a victim’s burns.
Nomex, Modacrylic, and heat-resistant Kevlar are three common examples of FR materials. Manufacturers can add special chemicals to fabrics to make them flame resistant.
Not every FR material is ideal for every situation. If you are unsure which FR material is ideal for your workplace, consult with the industry experts for advice.
How Is FR Material Rated?
You wouldn’t want to spend a day out in the heat without the right SPF-rated sunscreen. The same is true for matching certain workplaces with FR clothing ratings.
Manufacturers assign FR materials Arc Thermal Protective Values (ATPV). These values rate how much heat is passed through materials. The value effectively measures how badly a fire would burn a wearer in the event of a fire or accident.
ATPV ratings are given as calories per squared centimeter. To enjoy the greatest protection from flames and fire, you’ll want to buy FR wear that has a higher ATPV rating. Low-level hazard tasks can safely be performed with an ATPV rating of around 4.
Jobs that place workers at a more severe risk of being burned may require an ATPV rating 10 times that amount. Manufacturers of FR clothing are required to indicate the ATPV rating of the garments they make.
You can also increase the protective qualities of FR clothing by wearing multiple layers. Highly hazardous work may require a minimum of three layers to safely protect workers.
Protect Your Workers Using FR Materials
Flame resistant clothing does not guarantee that your workers will be completely protected in the event of an explosion, fire, or electrical accident. Certain jobs do come with a risk of exposure to flames, though, and finding the right FR garment can protect your employees from serious burns.
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