Mid-weight solutions to flame-resistant apparel

September 8, 2009
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Earlier this year, the National Electric Safety Code regulated a standard policy for all electric utility workers to wear protective flame-resistant (FR) clothing on the job to protect against electric arc flashes and flash fires. However, for some workers, this new policy has put them in quite a sweat — physically.

FR workwear has the reputation of being too heavy, too hot, too stiff and just plain uncomfortable to work or move in — but this reputation especially holds true if a worker is wearing heavier FR garments during warmer seasons that are purposed for colder working seasons. So it’s not surprising when these workers are fatigued from the weight of bending and stretching, making it extremely difficult to get their jobs done without tiring easily.

In sum, workers want lighter FR workwear alternatives to rotate in and out of their wardrobes during seasonal climate changes to keep them warmer or cooler on the job without compromising their safety. They also want comfortable FR workwear styles developed with more functional FR fabric options without losing the durability and integrity expected from premium FR clothing manufacturers.

Mid-weight solutions
One simple statement will help workers make the first step toward adopting this new regulation: “Acceptance is compliance.” However, compliance does not necessarily have to mean compromising by wearing uncomfortable FR workwear styles that are too heavy for the season or too heavy in general.

Some FR workwear manufacturers have a void in their product portfolio. Their options don’t address warmth without the bulk, or the manufacturers are simply unable to find the solutions to these challenges. Workers who are required to wear FR live and work in a variety of seasonal climates, which makes it even more necessary to introduce products that will comply with the weather in addition to the comfort level of the worker.

Recently introduced into the FR workwear product market is “mid-weight FR.” Workers requiring FR are now able to wear garments that are compliant to their occupational standards, but with less bulk and less heat stress.

Workwear manufacturers who have found ways to launch these mid-weight options offer FR outerwear styles that range in weight as low as 8.5 ounces in various fabric styles such as canvas, denim, cotton, knits, etc. These mid-weight products feature linings weighing only 6.75 ounces, a considerable difference in comfort compared to the heavier options purposed for cooler weather conditions.

Mid-weight options and styles
In general, workwear clothing variety is key to most workers, especially to those workers who live and work in states that have many seasonal changes where heavier to mid-weight options are necessary. FR-required workers want to stay comfortable on the job without compromising their safety. Workwear manufacturers who offer complete lines of FR styles will have options for every seasonal climate change and options for layering during colder seasons.

On warmer days, look for FR styles offered in mid-weight knit fabrics. Styles include long-sleeved T-shirts, Henleys and mock turtlenecks in a variety of colors. You can find all these styles in weights as low as 6.75 ounces.

For cooler days, you may also find styles in long-sleeved twills and zipfront sweatshirts for easy layering. These styles are available in weights ranging from 6 ounces to 10 ounces. Of course, there is a bottom for every top. Look for FR bottom styles offered in denim, mid-weight canvas and other fabrics in lined and unlined bib, coverall, vest or jacket styles. You can also find bottom styles in the mid-weight range as low as 8.5 ounces.

Next year, watch for changes in the FR workwear market as manufacturers begin to focus on launching lighter weight FR tops and bottoms while expanding the mid-weight outerwear category.

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