FR is short for Flame Retardant or Flame Resistant and refers to the ability of a fabric or product to resist a flame and heat. By definition, the FR fabric is self-extinguishing once the source of ignition is removed from the fabric. FRC is an abbreviation used for FR Clothing, quite commonly used in the industry to indicate Safety Garments or Flame Resistant Apparel.
The major industries that use FR clothing include oil and gas industry, electrical and welding industry, chemistry laboratories, mining industry and other industries with potential hazard risk such as open flames, flash fire, welding sparks, electric arc, molten metal splash, ignitable chemicals etc. Although the risks are seen globally, still local legislation in every country governs the standards of protective clothing required to be followed by the industry, resulting in different requirements for the same operation in different regions.
PPE is short for Personal Protective Equipment and includes everything that an employee needs to wear in a workplace to minimize exposure to any serious hazards that may result in injuries. This means everything from contact with heat and flame, chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, to airborne particulate hazards or biohazards.
Personal Protective Equipment includes items such as safety helmets, gloves, shoes, goggles, workwear, high-visibility clothing, safety, and harnesses etc.
The treated FR fabrics such as cotton, cotton-polyesters or cotton-nylon mixes are textiles applied with flame retardant chemicals in order to achieve flame retardancy. After treatment, these fabrics then possess self-extinguishing qualities and are used to minimize the damage caused by an accident with heat and flame. Treated FR fabrics retain their protective qualities given they are used and laundered according to recommendations. Daletec treated FR materials are guaranteed to keep their FR performance throughout the lifetime of the garment, and the ability of protection even after 200 washing cycles is documented by an external lab.
An inherently resistant fabric is made from a manmade fiber or a blend of fibers that is not flammable itself and possesses resistance to heat and flame. Inherent fibers are made by adding fire resistant compounds in the initial stage of fiber production, or that the fiber itself is developed as a flame resistant fiber.
These fabrics retain their resistance qualities for life and protection cannot be removed or washed away over time.
Primary Protective Clothing is the clothing used by employees in a certain situation where there is an increased risk of exposure to a particular hazard such as molten substance splash, radiant heat, or flame. For instance, a firefighter turnout gear and aluminized suits would fall under primary protective clothing. (For personnel going into a risk aria, such as a house on fire)
Secondary Protective Clothing is designed for routine use in a work environment where there is an intermittent chance of exposure to risk situations is possible, such as molten metal splash, radiant heat, or flame. (For personnel that needs protection in case a incident happens, and they can be protected and get out of the situation)
The wear life of FR fabric depends on a number of factors:
a) Quality of fiber(s) used and fabric construction
b) Strength and performance of the flame-retardant chemicals applied
c) The care applied in use and laundering of the fabric
Usually, the wear life of a good quality FR fabric, handled with care, can easily extend over many years. This is off course dependent of the work situation and roughness in use, like with all other textile garments.
Usually, you are able to repair holes in an FR garment, as long as FR fabric patches are used.
Rule of thumb is to use the same or comparative fabric, in order to avoid compromising the safety features of the garment. When repairing an FR apparel, also keep in mind that the safety requirements and size regulations are not compromised.
Which kind of accessories need to be used in FR garments such as sewing thread, buttons, and zippers?
The accessories such as buttons, zippers, sewing thread etc., used in the making of the garment should be carefully chosen to not negatively affect the protection provided by the fabric used in the garment. Which accessories that needs to be used will depend on the protective standard which the garment is supposed to be certified against.
As the clothing underneath the FR workwear provides the second layer of protection, it should also offer some degree of heat resistance. The undergarments – pants, shirts, and underwear – should (according to ISO11612) include non-melting fibers such as 100% cotton, wool or silk or in many cases other FR materials are also used to increase the level of protection.
The importance of the undergarments is often underestimated and if the wrong choice is made it could actually increase the risk of injuries. If underwear based on fibers which can melt are used, the wearer could be badly harmed e.g. in a flash fire or in an arc flash. Even if FR outer garment is worn, heat could still penetrate the garment-. Therefore, fibers that are melting when exposed to heat should absolutely not be worn under FR clothing, as this is identified as a risk.
Yes. FR clothing can be leased or rented with the added advantage of catered launder and repair services. This model is particularly useful where workers are exposed to dirty work conditions, or where the user does not have the opportunity of laundering on site.
Daletec is supplying to various companies who are offering leasing services.
Some people are allergic to different fibers and chemicals, and these persons may need to be careful in the selection of which FR solution they choose.
Daletec products are certified according to Oeko-Tex standard 100, which is a guarantee that they are not harmful to wearers.
Every country has its own set of local laws regulating which protection is required in different industries. Some international safety and health organizations are developing standards that are used by countries as their national standard. The best known international standard organization is ISO (International Standards Organization) but also national standards such as NFPA and ASTM standards are being referred to as a requirement by international corporations.
Many combinations of fibers can be made flame-retardant through chemical treatment. However, some fibers such as wool and silk, are naturally more flame-retardant than other materials like cotton, nylon and linen. Having this said, even if some fibers are less burnable, the same fiber may not be suitable for FR fabric use due to other parameters such as fiber strength, wash ability, melting temperature etc.
Yes, FR fabrics are used not only for protective garments but also for different domestic applications such as curtains, upholstery, kitchen textiles etc.
Yes. FR garments can be washed at home given the manufacturer’s instructions are carefully followed. Avoid using bleach, oxidizing agents or fabric softener for garments made out of FR fabrics. It is also best to wash such garments separately from regular clothing, especially when contaminated with e.g. oil or chemicals.
No. There are no known hazards associated with the domestic use of FR fabrics.
What types of chemicals/ contaminants can damage the protective qualities of FR fabric/ FR clothing?
Some substances can either reduce or remove the protective properties of the FR garments if used in washing and must not be used. This includes regular chlorine bleach and oxidizers; also, strong acids and other chlorine-containing chemicals may affect the properties of the FR garments.
The lifetime of the FR properties is first of all a result of the producer’s capabilities as well as which chemistry that is being used in production. When garments are later washed after use, it is important that the washing instruction is being followed in order to retain the FR properties.
One of the requirements for materials that is being tested according to the NFPA 2112 standard is that it should meet the test standard after 100 washing cycles. This is normally well above the lifetime of a regular garment. The FR properties in most of Daletec fabrics are proven up to 200 washes and Daletec therefore guarantees the FR protection for the lifetime of the garment.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international standard-setting organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
ISO 11612 is a performance standard for the FR fabrics and specifies the requirements for garments, made from flexible materials, to protect a wearer’s body from heat and flame in a given hazard situation.
The ISO 11612 contains different tests and parameters that in combination is giving insight in which hazards the FR fabric is protecting against.
The case of inherent and treated fabrics take a back seat when it comes to FR fabric selection. It is the individual characteristics of a fabric that determine their suitability in a particular environment such as their weight, thickness, strength, shrinkage, breathability, comfort and wear life. All of these factors should be considered in the selection of the right FR fabric and not just how the FR protection has been achieved.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is an American trade association that proposes standards and codes to be adopted by local governments, headquarters in Quincy, Massachusetts, United States.
NFPA 2112 provides minimum requirements pertaining to the design, construction, evaluation, and certification of industrial flame-resistant garments in order to protect wearer’s body and reduce the severity of burn injury caused by exposure to heat or flash fires.
An electric arc, or arc discharge, is an electrical breakdown of a gas that produces an ongoing electrical discharge. The current travel through a normally nonconductive medium such as air, and produces a plasma; the plasma may produce visible light.
It can look like a spark or a huge lightning depending on the intensity (power) of the electrical discharge. An electrical arc can generate and radiate a lot of energy/heat that can injure people within a certain distance from the arc (depending on the energy of the arc).
Risk Assessment can be described as a systematic process of evaluating the potential risks that the employees may be exposed to in a hazardous work environment.
Risk Assessment is a requirement to ensure the safety of the employees.
Risk assessment involves three major areas for analysis:
- Hazard Identification – Determine which hazards and risks in a work environment that could potentially cause injuries or damage to workers
- Risk Evaluation – analyze the extent of risk associated with the workplace hazards
- Risk Control – Determine proper measures that would lead to elimination of the hazard or at least minimize the risk if the hazard cannot be eliminated
Risk assessment are regulated in ISO 27001 (under the overall standard ISO 31000 on the implementation of risk management), and in NFPA 70E, where ISO is a global standard and NFPA 70E is a norm regulated in the USA but which is commonly referred to in many other countries.
If an FR fabric is to be used in a garment that is to be labeled with arc rating symbol, the fabric itself has to be certified according to either IEC 61482-1-1 or ASTM F1959, meaning that all certified fabrics will have a test report showing the arc rating value.
Depending upon your risk assessment you will be able to determine the level of protection that is applicable in your work situation. As the producers of arc rated garments in certain countries are required to list the minimum arc rating on their labels, you can easily pick and choose what sort of fabric will be suitable for your workspace requirements. For your convenience, below is the table with minimum arc rating listed for each hazard risk category.
|Hazard Risk Category||Minimum Arc Rating||Proper Apparel Needed|
|HRC 1||4 cal/cm2||Arc-rated shirt and pants or arc-rated/flame-resistant coveralls|
|HRC 2||8 cal/cm2||Arc-rated shirt and pants or arc-rated/flame-resistant coveralls|
|HRC 3||25 cal/cm2||Arc-rated shirt and pants or arc-rated/flame-resistant coveralls and arc flash suit|
|HRC 4||40 cal/cm2||Arc-rated shirt and pants or arc-rated/flame-resistant coveralls and arc flash suit|
The level of arc protection required by an organization is determined based on their own risk assessment of the items, situations, and processes involved in a workplace that pose a risk to the employees. According to NFPA 70E, almost 90% of all the electrical trade workers require Category 1 and 2 protection, Category 1 has minimum Arc Rating of 4 whilst Category 2 has minimum Arc Rating of 8.
ATPV is short for Arc Thermal Performance Value, which refers to the maximum incident energy that a protective clothing can prevent against in a hazardous situation, with 50% probability of enough energy getting through the garment to cause a second-degree burn, according to test standards ASTM F1959 and IEC 61482-1-1.
The Arc Thermal Performance Value is measured as calories/cm², which is seen as the amount of energy which the fabric is protecting against where it is still not resulting in a 50% chance of a second-degree burn. The necessary Arc Rating which is needed in a certain work situation is determined by a Hazard/Risk Assessment which clarifies which HRC level is needed.
EBT is the Energy Break-open Threshold of a fabric. EBT indicates the incident energy measured during testing, at which point the fabric is not able to withstand the energy and results in a 50% probability of breaking open. A hole/opening of an area of 1.6cm² (0.5 in.²) is referred to as break-open. When there is a hole in the fabric there is no barrier protecting the skin, therefore the EBT value will be the limitation of protection. EBT is measured as calories/cm².
Both ATPV and EBT are Arc Ratings. Both ratings exhibit a 50% probability of reaching performance threshold but using different parameters for considering the performance.
Both Arc Ratings are practical equivalents and as such, both are equally applicable in hazard assessment. A material either receives an EBT or an ATPV as its Arc Rating according to ASTM F1959 and as specified by NFPA 70E and IEC 61482-1-1; only the lowest of the two parameters is used as the Arc Rating on the garment label.
There is no definition of what the best FR product is. This will depend on the risks in the work environment which the garment should protect against. Also, the relevant temperatures, humidity, weather conditions and expectations about how long the garment should last etc. needs to be considered when choosing the right FR workwear for the exact situation.
The textile industry is very well regulated and serious and respected producers are following international legislations that are implemented. These regulations are being updated as a result of constant health and environmental research.
As long as you select a product that is meeting the requirements of OEKO-TEX there is no need to worry.
FR fabrics are more complicated to produce compared to normal clothing. The reason is that the stricter standards of performance that needs to be met in the FR fabrics is resulting in very different end products with respect to choice of fibers, dye stuffs, chemical treatments etc.
In certain situations, the differences in static electricity between a person and his or her’s surroundings can result in an accident where a discharge can cause a spark.
If the work situation contains the risk of explosive gas, aerosols or dust in the air that could be ignited by sparks, then workers whom are working in these areas need to be wearing FR garments that contain antistatic properties to avoid electrostatic charging.
The norm that is most frequently used for these garments is EN 1149-5.
The antistatic protection in clothing is made using man-made fibers of mainly carbon or metal. These fibers are blended in the yarn of the fabric to prevent static electrical buildup in the garment. This is to avoid a sudden static electrical discharge in form of a spark that could ignite explosive gasses, aerosols or dust.
Oeko-Tex is an international, independent testing and certification system for assessment and removal of harmful substances at all levels of fabric construction, from raw or dyed yarns to woven or knitted fabrics, and garment production including accessories used such as buttons, zippers, embroideries, labels etc.
There are many different options available on the aramid market, Nomex is a branded form of a meta aramid and comes in different variants. There are different qualities within the aramid fiber selection which are meant for different applications and environments.
An aramid is a form of a man-made high-performance fiber that contains molecular structures with rigid polymer chains. Aramid fibers exhibit high strength, good resistance to heat, abrasion, and organic solvents, non-conductive, high melting point, and low flammability. These characteristics distinguish aramid fibers from other synthetic fibers.
There are different variants of aramids, best known as meta-aramids and para-aramids. These fibers have different sets of properties which are useful for different applications.
Meta-aramid is highly resistant to temperature, chemical degradation an abrasion.
Para-aramid (such as Kevlar and Twaron), is an extremely tough fiber with even higher tensile strength.
Modacrylic fiber is synthetic fiber which is inherently flame-resistant.
The name ‘Modacrylic’, is a fusion of the words ‘Modified’ and ‘Acrylic’. It was basically manufactured as an improvement upon Acrylic fiber with some of the properties being altered in order to achieve FR properties.
The use of FR garments can be wrong in different ways:
- The zips and buttons in FR garments need to be closed in order to give the expected protection
- They fit should be right. The fitting should be comfortable and also balanced, in that the FR garment should neither be tight nor too loose. There must be room for air between the garment and the wearer’s skin as the air allows for added insulation. Also, the fitting should allow for the regular amount of shrinkage in the FR fabric.
- The garments should be cleaned regularly in accordance with the provided washing instructions in order to prevent that stains, oils and dirt will negatively affect the FR performance.
It is recommended to wear FR garments over non-meltable fabrics or other FR fabrics. A 100% cotton underwear is also a good choice, it increases thermal protection by providing insulation by way of ‘air gaps’ in the clothing system. Wool however is less flammable than cotton and can improve the protection compared to cotton underwear as well as insulate better towards both cold and warm climate.
Yes, industrial laundering can be used for FR fabrics. But just like domestic washing, it is important to follow manufacturer’s instruction for laundering of the garments. Also, garments made using FR fabrics should be washed separately from the regular clothing.
With the quality of FR fabrics available in the market today, they are generally comfortable. Although in hot climates, long-sleeved shirts and long pants could still feel hot. In such working environments, the use of more breathable FR fabrics should be considered but still the most important factor is the protection.
The wickability in a fabric is the ability to absorb and transport moisture quickly through the fabric. The effect of a good wickable fabric is that it accelerates evaporation and allows the body to cool itself and maintain the appropriate temperature.
Electric arc protection is relevant in environments with the risk of an electrical short circuit, which is especially relevant for industrial electricians. Still, such protection is needed for other workers who are working nearby equipment which could cause an electric arc.
These two things are not at all the same, and must never be mixed up!
While antistatic protection is designed to dissipate a static buildup of energy.
The protection against electric arc provides safety from a sudden burst of radiation energy from an electric arc.
What is a Stoll curve? The Stoll Curve is used to determine for pass/fail criteria for personal protective equipment, and is a threshold for predicting burns. The graph of the Stoll Curve represents the reaction of human tissue if a second degree burn happens.
In arc flash testing, copper calorimeters behind the exposed fabric panel report the energy which passed through the material, and other uncovered calorimeters record the energy incident on the fabric.
The Stoll Curve is to determine the time and energy and if a fabric/garment will prevent the influx of pain and second degree burn.
NFPA 70E, considers a ‘survivable burn’ as only a 50% probability of second degree burn. This means the heat flux only has a 50% probability of crossing the Stoll Curve.
No. The FR garments shrink just as much as the regular work clothing or less than that.
In the ISO 11612 standard there is a clear demand that the fabric does not shrink more than 3% after 5 cycles of wash and dry, all garments that is to meet this standard therefore cannot have shrinkage above this limit.
Best known for its preservative and anti-bacterial properties, formaldehyde is a colorless, distinctive smelling chemical compound, with a wide range of commercial uses in manufacturing, value-added and domestic products.
Formaldehyde is often a necessity in textile processing as it is a needed part of some processes. In these cases, the formaldehyde level is minimized in the end of production through washing and rinsing of the fabric.
Since long time exposure of higher levels of formaldehyde may cause a health risk, the content of formaldehyde in textiles is strictly regulated in Oeko-Tex standard 100.
The recommended level of formaldehyde in a textile which is to be used in contact with skin is corresponding to Oeko-Tex standard 100 class 2.