There are many professions that require FR clothing as mandatory PPE. You may be a hobbyist metal worker and need to buy clothing that is flame resistant. There are many types of flame resistant or flame retardant clothing. There are differences in the materials used, design, and comfort level for the wearer. Yes, buying FR clothing is not a simple matter. This FR clothing buying guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to make the right decision.
Working in a fire-hazardous environment obviously requires a good understanding of what safety rules are important. There are other factors to consider too. Working conditions may treacherous because of the ambient temperatures. When there’s a risk of fire, you’re probably working in a very hot environment.
Generally, buying flame resistant clothing is about both safety and general comfort. Clothing that keeps you cooler in hot conditions will make your life more pleasant and improve productivity. In the end, fire safety is your biggest concern. Fire PPE is but one of many precautions against the danger presented by fire.
While this article is essentially an FR clothing buying guide, it is important understand how fire resistant and fire retardant clothing fits into general fire safety. Knowing your enemy is the first line of defense. Regardless of what PPE you use to protect yourself, avoiding fire and its potential risks should be your number one priority.
Understanding the Basics of Fire
There are three elements that need to be present for combustion to take place. You may have seen the fire triangle, also called the combustion triangle. This is a common warning diagram used to explain what causes a fire in the workplace or at home.
The three sides of the fire triangle are:
All three of these factors are needed in order for combustion to take place. Remove any one of these from the equation, and the threat of fire is removed. Generally, removing oxygen is the most common method used to extinguish a fire.
Protecting Yourself From Fire
Safe working practices are the best way to avoid a fire. Though, with all the health and safety regulations that exist, fires still occur. When this danger is a reality, there are two ways in which we protect ourselves from fire:
There are two types of materials used to make FR clothing. These are flame resistant and flame retardant fabrics. They are not the same. Before buying flame resistant clothing, it’s important to understand the difference between flame resistant vs flame retardant:
Flame Resistant Material
FR clothing made from flame resistant fabric uses nonflammable materials. This means that the fibers used to make the clothing will not burn. When in close proximity to a fire, these fabrics will not melt or drip.
The science behind flame resistant material is to remove oxygen, thereby eliminating a critical side of the fire triangle. To achieve this effect, a blend oxidized fibers are used. When exposed to extreme heat, these fibers carbonize and expand. This basically suffocates the fire due to a lack of oxygen.
Since FR clothing is not usually made 100% flame resistant materials, the possibly exists that they may burn. However, this will happen very slowly, giving you enough time to reach safety before your clothing combusts.
Flame resistant materials are inherently non-combustible, meaning that the fabric will not lose their ability to resist flames over time. Flame resistant clothing can be washed indefinitely and remain safe.
Flame resistant materials have a very high Thermal Protective Performance (TPP) index and are more expensive when compared to other materials used for FR clothing.
The benefits of flame resistant material can be summarized as follows:
Flame resistant clothing is the best option but is the most expensive.
Flame Retardant Material
FR clothing made from flame retardant fabric is often more comfortable and versatile as these can be made from any material, often denim. The fabric is chemically treated to be self-extinguishing or slow-burning when in close proximity to an open flame.
Flame retardant chemicals are applied to the fabric, unlike flame resistant material that is inherently non-combustible. For this reason, flame retardant fabrics will fade over time. Detergents used for washing the FR clothing will gradually deteriorate the flame retardant coating. This will reduce their efficacy.
Flame retardant material benefits:
While FR clothing is more affordable, they don’t last as long as the fire resistant treatment slowly deteriorates when washed.
Buying FR clothing is about more than simply choosing the best materials. As with any purchase, affordability will always be a concern. Good value flame resistant clothing is about choosing a product that will last a long time and offer the best protection for the money that you’re spending.
Determining the quality of the FR clothing that you’re buying requires a thorough inspection, beyond the material used. Stitching, buttons, and zippers are also very important quality considerations.
Since you’ll be wearing these garments for long hours, often in tough working conditions, comfort is another important factor. Clothing that is too loose or too tight can affect your comfort. In a hot working environment, cooling can be an important issue. In the end, uncomfortable FR clothing will affect your productivity.
Here’s what you should look at when choosing the best FR clothing:
Before buying FR clothing, your first decision has to be whether you want to pay extra for more durable flame retardant material or is flame resistant material good enough for your needs? Take a serious look at the general quality, like stitching and the zippers or buttons that are used.
Then you should consider your comfort and convenience. How does the clothing fit? Does it have the type of pockets that need? Does the FR clothing have sufficient cooling for your working environment?
There are a lot of great options for FR clothing that will perfectly suit your needs and budget. With such a great selection available to you, it may be tough to go through all the catalogues and online stores to find what you’re looking for. It’s often best to start your search by reading trustworthy reviews to narrow your search and save time.