Buying flame-resistant (FR) clothing is a lot like having an insurance policy. When you’re not insured— whether it’s your car or life— you’re running a risk. You may never get into a car accident or need to use your policy. But if that day comes, you’ll be glad you have it there.
The same goes with FR clothing. FR garments are crucial, technical products for those working in industries where certain hazards may put them at risk of their clothes igniting. You may never be exposed to a flash fire or arc flash, but if it happens, what you’re wearing truly can make all the difference.
When purchasing FR clothing for yourself or your employees, there are several important factors to consider. The top three are: protection, durability and comfort.
The best reason to invest in FR clothing is that it saves lives. FR clothing does not ignite and continue to burn when exposed to flame or other thermal hazards, which can dramatically reduce the severity of burns and provide workers with precious escape time, increasing their chances of survival.
FR garments offer protection against a variety of hazards, including flash fires, arc flash and molten-metal splatter. To ensure that your employees receive the maximum benefits from their FR workwear, it’s important to select clothing that is designed to protect against the particular hazards they are most likely to face and provides the level of protection required by industry safety standards, such as ASTM F1506, NFPA 2112 and OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.263.
For employees who face more than one type of hazard in their daily work, multi-hazard protection (MHP) clothing offers the benefit of protecting against several different hazards simultaneously, offering a cost-effective, practical FR solution. However, it is important to remember that there still may be situations in which the best option is to invest in separate garments for each individual hazard, and the safety of your workforce should always be the top priority.
It is also important to remember that not all FR clothing is created equal, and quality counts. Wear after wear and wash after wash, FR clothing should remain flame-resistant for the life of the garment. FR clothing should also always be designed with safety in mind, even down to the smallest details. There should be no exposed metal on the interior and all components –– thread, zipper tape and pockets –– must also be flame-resistant.
FR clothing is an investment in the safety and lives of your employees, so durability is one of the most important things to consider. Investing in a durable product also means lower long-term costs since the garment won’t have to be replaced as often.
High-quality FR clothing manufacturers use fabrics and materials from reputable suppliers and build each garment using specialized construction techniques to ensure their clothing offers a long-lasting high level of durability.
There are a few construction-related indicators that are useful to look for when evaluating the durability of an FR garment. First, the fabric itself should also be strong and resist abrasion. High stitch-per-inch counts and double and triple felled seams also help counter regular wear and tear. Garment reinforcements — such as pockets, zippers, crotch seams, bar tacks and snaps — contribute to durability and lead to a longer wear life as well.
When it comes to FR clothing, safety should always come first. But to help ensure compliance, it’s also important to make sure the garments you are purchasing are comfortable enough that your employees will wear them correctly. In most cases, workers are more motivated to wear their FR clothing properly when it fits well, keeps them at a comfortable temperature and allows them to move freely while performing their job.
Some examples of features that can increase the comfort of FR garments include moisture control with sweat-wicking and fast-drying properties, wider waistbands for the perfect fit and adjustable cuffs to keep loose clothing out of way. Extra-long shirttails offer the benefit of staying tucked in when an employee’s tasks require them to reach or bend, action-style backs provide better ease of movement, and clothing designed with roomy legs allows a better fit over work boots.
In the end, FR clothing is the sum of its parts. Protection, durability and comfort all work together to create clothing that keeps your employees safe.