FR clothing is an essential part of an employee’s uniform. But, employees will sometimes resist wearing it. They don’t like having to wear thick, heavy layers over their clothing. That’s understandable. But these days, FR clothing comes in a variety of styles and options.
Manufacturers are introducing products that are lightweight and comfortable. You can’t even tell the difference in some of these clothes! Not everyone is familiar with the options out there. Are you? If you’ve ever had to purchase FR clothing, then you might be.
But why is FR clothing so important anyway? Let’s review.
Hazards in the Workplace
FR clothing protects workers from fire-related hazards. It’s a special kind of PPE that is crucial for many employees. Maintenance workers and electricians wear FR clothing on a regular basis. But others can be exposed to fire hazards, too. So, many companies require all of their workers to wear it. Check out our blog on the FR Clothing Requirements for Oil and Gas to learn more.
Employees should wear FR clothing whenever they perform hot work activities. Welding, cutting, and grinding are examples of hot work. These kinds of tasks can generate sparks and slag. These applications can create fires when in close proximity to combustible materials.
Electrical Arc Hazards
Electricians can receive significant burns from electrical arc flash hazards. When there is potential for an arc flash, employees must wear what’s known as arc-rated clothing.
High Risk Operations
Certain jobs and industries have a higher risk of fire hazards than others. Employees who work in these environments should wear FR clothing. For instance, oil and gas companies typically require FR clothing for all of their employees. The same goes for workers who deal with combustible dust, explosives, and other high risk operations.
FR and AR Clothing
There are two kinds of FR clothing you may need to purchase: flame-resistant clothing and arc-rated clothing.
FR clothing is the basic minimum. It’s made from materials that will self-extinguish when ignited. These garments can be constructed from inherently resistant fabrics. Or, they can be made from other materials and chemically treated to resist flames. Treated garments are referred to as flame-retardant. Inherently designed fabrics are considered the “true” flame-resistant garment.
Inherent fabrics are designed and engineered to last. They retain their FR properties for life. The garment will continue to protect employees, no matter how many times it’s washed and laundered.
Treated fabrics work different. The garments get coated with a chemical that makes them flame-resistant. Over time, the protection level will degrade. The garment is only good for a certain number of washes.
Both kinds of fabrics are widely accepted. Remember, FR clothing is designed to self-extinguish. It will catch fire, but won’t continue to burn. The purpose of these garments is to minimize the extent of burn injuries.
AR clothing protects against electrical arc flash hazards. An arc flash is a sudden, violent release of thermal heat and energy. Arc flash occurs when there is an unexpected fault in electrical equipment. Electrical workers need to wear AR clothing for protection from these hazards.
AR and FR are two very similar garments. The difference is in the fabric and the levels of protection. All arc-rated garments are flame-resistant. But not all flame-resistant garments are arc-rated.
Why Comfort is Important
Are you going to purchase FR clothing anytime soon? If so, remember to evaluate how comfortable the clothing is. Employees aren’t going to be happy about something that is heavy, bulky, or too restrictive.
You need your workers to comply with your policies and wear their PPE.
But, put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Would you want to work in something all day that’s hot and uncomfortable? Probably not.
So, take the time to assess your options. Look for something that provides a sufficient level of protection. Choose a garment that is reasonable for someone to wear for an extended period of time. Check out our post, "How to Choose the Best FR Coveralls " to learn more about what to look for in quality fr clothing options.
Lightweight clothing is about more than just comfort. It’s also about the health of the employee. Moisture-wicking garments remove perspiration away from the skin. They help regulate body temperature. These garments allow the employee to dry more quickly. Staying dry protects them from hypothermia and other serious health hazards.
Heavier fabrics tend to absorb moisture. That moisture can contribute to too much cooling. Hard-working employees will work up a sweat. Especially if they are outdoors on a hot summer day. When they sweat, the moisture can get trapped between the skin and their clothing.
When the employee slows down or takes a break, that’s when problems can arise. The trapped sweat and moisture will quickly start to cool. That can cause the employee’s temperature to drop.
So, lightweight options are important for both comfort and health.
When shopping for new FR clothing, look for something that serves a dual purpose: FR for protection from fire-related hazards. And moisture-wicking for protection from health hazards.
Lightweight garments come in several different styles. Shirts in particular are fairly easy to find. Make sure though, that when you are looking for a lightweight option it will still provide sufficient protection for the employee.
For instance, a lightweight option doesn’t necessarily mean short sleeves. In fact, short sleeves should only be worn as a base layer. If a worker is at risk, he needs to protect himself entirely. Not just his torso. Long sleeves are critical.
Also, pay close attention to lightweight clothing that will be used for arc flash hazards. AR clothing must meet a specified level of protection. The employer needs to identify what level of protection is necessary. It will vary for the different kinds of jobs performed at your facility.
For example, an electrician might need to wear clothing with an ATPV rating of 20 cal/cm2. ATPV is the Arc Thermal Protection Value. Check the labels on your FR garments to know what the ATPV level is.
Related Post: The Difference Between AR and FR Clothing
More on FR Clothing
As the safety manager, you’re responsible for providing workers with the appropriate PPE. So, when it comes to FR clothing, make sure you get something that is lightweight and comfortable. There really are plenty of options to choose from. Give your team something that they will be happy to wear.
Because if it’s not comfortable, they won’t want to wear it. And not wearing it should never be an option. The risks are far too significant. Employees could end up killed or seriously burned and hurt. It just isn’t worth it.
Check out more of our recent blog posts for more information on FR clothing. Give us a call and let us know what you’re looking for. Our team is here to help.