Choosing the right flame resistant (FR) garments for welding applications isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Unlike foundries, petrochemical plants or other dangerous environments, FR fabrics in welding environments must maintain their protective characteristics through repeated, daily exposures to intense sparks, high heat, molten metal and industrial launderings.
Not all welding applications are alike, and choosing the correct FR garment for your specific application requires taking a number of other factors into account. First consider the welder and their specific application, and then any additional factors such as the environment, cost constraints, product durability, protection, comfort, laundering and disposal requirements.
Flame resistant cotton is popular because it is relatively inexpensive, lightweight (about 9 ounces per square yard) and breathable. An FR cotton garment often provides the ideal combination of protection, cost and operator comfort in applications where sparks and spatter are relatively mild, ambient heat is of a concern and washability is important.
FR fabrics are treated with a chemical that “off-gasses” when it comes in contact with flames, molten metal or other intense heat sources. This off-gassing process deprives the area of the oxygen that would be required to cause combustion. Although most FR cotton fabrics will not start on fire, they can be charred when exposed to sparks, spatter and molten metal.
Two elements to consider when purchasing an FR cotton jacket are: the quality of the cotton fabric and the flame retardant application process. A higher quality, thicker base cotton will provide improved comfort and durability over the life of the garment.
Flame retardant processes may vary depending on the manufacturer. High quality control standards are needed to ensure that chemicals are applied consistently to garments, resulting in safe, reliable products that protect your workers. Indura® cotton is treated domestically in the United States and guarantees the material’s flame resistance for the life of the garment, regardless of launderings.
Although cotton is an inexpensive, lightweight FR solution, it is not enough protection for all welding applications. Many welding tasks require more durable garments that hold up to intense heat, sparks and spatter.