Your Guide to FR Clothing

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People often get confused about flame resistant clothing being fireproof. Well, they are, however, they are not exactly fireproof, the fabrics used to make the fire-resistant garments have the ability to self-extinguish the fire. First things first, let us begin with what is the difference between flame retardant vs fire resistant clothing?

FR” has two distinct meanings as it relates to protective clothing, and they’re far from interchangeable.  FR can be:

  • Flame Retardant – A chemical treatment
  • Flame Resistant – A property of a material

Flame retardants, or FR treatments, are chemical finishes that are added to fabrics to make them flame resistant.  They can be made up of a variety of different chemistries that are often proprietary.  The treatments are applied to fabrics that are made of naturally flammable materials, like cotton.  Two very common fabric types with FR treatments are “FR Cotton” (i.e. 100% cotton, treated with a fire retardant), and “88/12” (i.e. a blend of 88% cotton and 13% Nylon, with the resultant fabric being treated with a fire retardant).  

A key takeaway is that a fabric is not fire retardant.  Fabrics are treated with fire retardants to make them flame resistant. 

FR – Flame Resistant

Flame Resistance is a property of flame-resistant materials.  Being categorized as flame resistant typically means that the fabric will quickly self-extinguish after a flame source is removed.  The amount of time it takes to self-extinguish is measured using the Vertical Flame Test, ASTM D6413.  Nearly all protective clothing specifications allow for up to 2-seconds of after flame time in this test for a fabric to be considered Flame Resistant.  

FR” has two distinct meanings as it relates to protective clothing, and they’re far from interchangeable.  FR can be:

  • Flame Retardant – A chemical treatment
  • Flame Resistant – A property of a material
  • Flame Retardant Fabrics are chemically treated while flame retardant fabrics are not flame-resistant or flame-proof, but they are designed to slow down the spread of fire. They might also be self-extinguishing.

  • Fabrics made with Modacrylic/ Nomex® aramid fibres are inherently flame resistant. These fabrics will not melt, drip or support combustion in the air.

A Flame-resistant clothing, commonly known as FR clothing, refers to all clothing specially designed and manufactured to protect wearers from potential intermittent flames and thermal exposure. To further understand the meaning, we will check out the precise ways in which flame retardant clothing protects the wearer from injury caused by flames. Flame resistant clothing does not ignite or catch fire easily and even when they do, the fabric has the properties to self-extinguish the fire.

If the workers are exposed to the intermittent flame while wearing FR clothes and it catches the flames, the fabric naturally extinguishes the fire. This capability greatly reduces the risk of burns to the user and can often provide valuable time to escape the hazardous environment. These attributes work together to provide a greater chance of escape and survival if the user suddenly finds themselves in the midst of a sudden fire, electric arc, or another unexpected thermal issue that can cause injury. In situations like this, FR clothing not only gives the wearer enough time to escape from the hazard but also eliminates the risk of any serious injury.

What Is The Importance Of Fire Resistant Clothing?

FR clothing is an essential part of the personal protective equipment for many professionals. FR clothes protect the workforce from burns caused by flammable dust, flash fires, electric arcs or other risks of fire hazards. This allows professionals in various industries to tackle potentially dangerous tasks.

FR clothing is ignition resistant and automatically extinguishes once the ignition source is removed. This is to avoid burns from initial exposure to flame and transfer of residual heat.

According to various occupational safety and health organizations, flame retardant clothing should not melt or stick to the skin, when exposed to heat. FR clothing must be able to withstand certain types of direct flame exposure to be certified as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that meets standards and is suitable for the protection of employees who may be exposed to fire hazards.

Safety Standards For Fire Resistant Clothing

The general service obligation of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) provides employers with a legal obligation to ensure that employees wear flame retardant clothing in situations where there is a risk of exposure to fire or intense thermal energy (heating). OSHA establishes specific guidelines for such clothing and any flame-resistant clothing required by a workplace must meet these guidelines.

The purpose of FR clothing is to protect the user from an emergency where their clothing could catch fire. Several workers operate in fire-prone industries on a daily basis, such as manufacturing, foundry, metallurgy, etc. While the rate of fires occurring in these fields can be low, it is imperative to prepare for the worst-case scenario in advance.

Manufacturers dealing in producing flame-resistant clothing use specific fabrics like non-conductive fabrics and components that do not melt on the skin, thereby minimizing the spread of burns. FR jackets, shirts and pants can provide the thermal insulation necessary to protect the wearer from extreme heat. Quality FR garments are also torn resistant, preventing the wearer’s skin from being exposed to hazards.

Who Needs To Wear FR Clothing?

All the workers dealing or operating where there is a risk of electrical, fire or heat hazards, these workers should wear fire-resistant clothes. According to the guidelines specified by OSHA, the following should mandatorily wear fire-resistant clothes, depending on the level of dangers faced:

  • Arc Flash – People exposed to this hazard include electricians and utility workers, among others.
  • Lightning: This category includes workers in the factory, chemicals, melting, welding, foundries, refineries, etc.
  • Flash Fires This category includes workers working in Oil and Gas.

Now that you know what fire-resistant clothes are and are looking for the best FR clothing for your workforce, visit Mallcom. Mallcom is one of the leading manufacturers of all types of personal protective equipment, ensuring the safety of your workers from head to toe.

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