When it comes to safety apparel, there are a variety of hazards that business owners need to protect their employees from. From cuts to burns to impacts to falls, you need to consider all the potential risks commonly found in your workplace and implement safety solutions to avoid them. For workplaces with fire hazards, fire-resistant clothing (or FR clothing) is absolutely essential!
What Are Fire-Resistant Materials Made Of?
Some fire-resistant fabrics can be made from a single material (such as kevlar or Nomex), while others are made from a blend of fibers (including Modacrylic fibers). They can also be made from synthetic or natural sources. For example, aramids and nylon are synthetic fire-resistant materials. Wool, silk, and cotton are natural and fire-resistant (though cotton can undergo treatments to become even more so).
How Are They Made?
Fire-resistant fabrics can be created using a variety of techniques. In the case of aramid fabric, a thin layer of aluminum is bonded to the fabric along with a heat-reflective coating. The seams are made from aramid fibers to create a cohesively flame-resistant material. A similar process is used for discount fire-resistant clothing made from nylon fibers. For cotton clothing, each cotton fiber is treated with a flame-resistant substance, usually THPC. The fabric may turn black when exposed to fire but shouldn't burn if it was properly manufactured.
What Makes Them Different?
The difference between regular fabrics and fire-resistant fabrics is in the name. When ignited, regular fabrics don't reflect heat effectively, causing serious burns. They may even melt onto the wearer's skin, continuing to burn until the fabric is consumed or the flame is extinguished. On the other hand, fire-resistant fabrics resist igniting and can extinguish themselves when the source of the flame is removed. While no one type of fire-resistant fabric will protect every employee in every situation, having the correct fabric for the working conditions in your business can significantly reduce the severity of injuries (and, in some cases, may prevent them).
OSHA's regulations regarding FR clothing state that employees who are working in conditions that might expose them to flame must not wear clothing that could increase the extent of their injuries. Employees cannot wear any clothing made from nylon, rayon, polyester, or acetate unless you're able to prove that they've been treated to hold up against the conditions your employees could encounter while working. Generally speaking, if your employees could be exposed to an electrical arc, flash fire, or combustible dust, they should be using custom fire-resistant clothing. Beyond that, the specific working conditions present and tasks your employees perform will determine the guidelines you should follow to maintain compliance with OSHA standards.
In a work environment where fire hazards are present, having protective clothing made from the appropriate fire-resistant fabrics is crucial to the safety of workers. To pick the proper protective gear for the job, business owners and employees need to understand what fire-resistant fabric is made of, how it's made, what makes it different, and what OSHA regulations everyone needs to comply with. Protect your employees and your business by making sure that all fabrics are regulation compliant and in good condition.