If you are a safety manager or otherwise responsible for the apparel of employees in the oil and gas industry, you know that fire-resistant (FR) fabrics are not an unnecessary precaution. Choosing the right FR fabric and gear for employees can be a tricky business, though, especially if you've never had to do so before. Here's an overview of fire-resistant fabrics to help you narrow down what you're looking for.
How Does FR Clothing Work
How does FR fabric combat flame and heat, you may ask? Fire-resistant apparel is specifically designed to be less likely to ignite. If FR apparel does catch fire, it minimizes injury and does not continue to burn when the heat source is gone. The FR fabric is non-conductive and won't melt onto the skin, allowing the wearer time to escape and prevent further injury. Generally, fire-resistant workwear is made with char-forming agents like cotton, high-temperature fibers, or modacrylics, which trap radical molecules that react with oxygen to keep a flame going.
Oilfield FR Clothing Requirements
When is fire safety apparel required on the job? The OSHA has standard circumstances for oil and gas companies about when employees should wear fire-resistant fabric for clothing. For example, it is required whenever an underground producing zone has a history of fluid or gas kicks or when the potential for a flash fire is high. In all other cases, a certified safety and health official will determine when it is necessary. As for the clothing itself, the cloth is qualified as FR if it is 100% cotton or wool, if its weight is appropriate for conditions, and if it meets the standards for present hazards. No rayon, polyester, or acetate is allowed.
Types of FR Clothing
Next, let's look into the different categories of FR clothes: fire-resistant or flame-resistant, versus fire-retardant. In the case of fire-resistant clothing, the terms are equivalent; it's essentially the same product. However, the term fire-retardant cannot be substituted for fire-resistant; they refer to different products. Fire-retardant cloth has undergone chemical treatment to self-extinguish, while fire-resistant cloth is made of material that is naturally resistant to flame.
You may also hear the terms primary protection vs. secondary protection when it comes to fire-resistant workwear. These terms refer to how much exposure to heat and flame hazards an employee will encounter. In environments where employees face constant exposure to hazards, they should wear primary protection. In environments where employees face the possibility of exposure to a hazard, they should wear secondary protection.
Fireproof Clothing Suppliers
After all this, you may be wondering: where can I buy fire-resistant clothing? Whether your employees need FR pants, FR shirts, FR winter clothing, FR jumpers, or just FR T-shirts, many FR fabric suppliers offer custom FRC clothing with options to include company logos or name emblems. FR clothing companies often use third-party certification such as Safety Equipment Institute (SEI) and will give you an accredited report demonstrating compliance with OSHA guidelines. At the least, they'll include a general overview of OSHA compliance and information on the material in their product descriptions.
In the oil and gas industry, there are hazards at nearly every turn. FR garments are an essential part of keeping employees safe and accidents minimal, so make sure you're informed on how they work and what is required for the hazards your employees face. Moving forward, you can find the right FR apparel for your company by remembering these guidelines.