No matter where your business operates, all state and federal OSHA organizations require employers to provide adequate protection from dangerous hazards in the workplace, especially with regard to burn injuries. Recent government reports have noted that the number one cause of severe and fatal burn injuries on the job is an individual’s clothing igniting and continuing to burn — not the source of ignition itself.

In fact, companies are often cited and fined by OSHA for not providing flame-resistant (FR) clothing to their employees under 1910.132 “Occupational Safety and Health Standards: Personal Protective Equipment.” Future changes to the requirements are expected to be even more stringent.

With that in mind, it’s important to be aware of some of the common myths and misconceptions about FR clothing.

Myth #1: Cotton provides sufficient FR protection from electrical hazards.
This is the most dangerous misconception of all. Not only is cotton 100-percent flammable, it will ignite and continue to burn long after being exposed to an ignition source. Cotton can sometimes even propagate flames more quickly than other fibers.

Myth #2: FR garments are rigid and uncomfortable.
In the past this may have been true. But today, a variety of new FR fabrics are available that include inherent blends and FR cotton blends that offer superior comfort over those from decades ago.

Myth #3: “I don’t need FR clothing; I’ve never had an accident.”
Accidents can happen anytime, anywhere, and to anybody. The use of FR clothing and other PPE could be the last line of defense when incidents occur.

Myth #4: FR clothing is too expensive.
While FR clothing may be priced higher than standard work clothing, the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial costs. For one, many FR garments tend to have a significantly longer wear life than basic work clothing. If FR clothing saves one life, there is no cost too great.

Myth #5: Flame resistance doesn’t last. It washes out.
Some FR garments are protective for life. Their fabrics are either flame-resistant inherently through man-made, synthetic fibers or via special fiber treatment. Most FR garments can even be laundered at home, although some FR fabrics’ protective qualities may be compromised if laundered with certain chemicals, namely chlorine or hydrogen peroxide bleaches. It is best to let a professional industrial laundry service care for these garments. As long as the garments are laundered to the fabric manufacturer’s recommendations, the flame resistance will not wash out.

Myth #6: Aren’t all FR fabrics the same?
No, some FR fabrics are inherently flame-resistant, while others are specially treated to provide such protection. Different fabrics also provide different levels of protection against various hazards. FR fabrics and garments should match your company’s safety needs.

Myth #7: “We contract out our maintenance work, so OSHA can’t fine us if our contractors don’t wear proper FR clothing.”
Safety is your concern no matter who is employing the workforce. Even though you may have contracted employees working near an ignition source, you are responsible for ensuring their safety. OSHA can issue citations and fines to companies who do not require contractors to follow the same safety rules and use the same safety equipment (including FR clothing) as full-time employees.