Flame Resistant Uniforms: Do You Need Them?
If you, or your crew, are working in area that is at risk from electric arcs, flash fires, or flames, you should consider supplying flame resistant protective garments. Many synthetic fabrics, and all untreated natural fibers are combustible. You should expect them to ignite and burn when exposed to fire. Most clothing is made from cotton, or cotton and polyester, making them a hazard should you, or your employee, be in an accident involving an electric arc or flash fire. Why is it so important that you have the proper protection on the job? Let’s look at what happens with normal fabrics, and with flame resistant fabrics, when exposed to ignition.
Normal Fabrics. If you are on the job, wearing your normal cotton jeans and a cotton/polyester t-shirt, when an accident happens, you will find that your garments will catch fire and burn. A flash fire or electric arc can ignite your clothing, and normal fabrics will burn away from the point of ignition, increasing in speed until the flames are extinguished, or the garment is consumed. Polyester is a synthetic material that will shrink wrap when exposed to such high heat, making it incredibly harmful to workers in a flash fire. Cotton contains oxygen filled fibers, giving fuel to the fire. So, normal fabrics are not going to protect you from burn injuries, and will contribute to spreading the fire across your garments, making your injuries worse.
Flame Resistant Fabrics. Flame resistant (FR) fabrics are designed to resist ignition, and self extinguish within seconds, preventing the fire from spreading on the garment. There are a variety of flame resistant fabrics used for protective garments. Treated cotton is a great choice for soft, comfortable clothing that can still protect you. The oxygen filled fibers are filled with a substance so that the garment will self extinguish. Other great fabrics for flame resistant fabrics include Nomex IIIA and ComforTouch. Wearing FR uniforms in an accident involving an electric arc or flash fire can save your life. Will it prevent burn injuries? Let’s look at that next.
FR Garments and Preventing Burns. FR garments are not fireproof, but they do provide protection against the spread of fire on the garment. While you may sustain burn injuries at the point of ignition, the garments will prevent your clothing from burning further and causing more injuries. Wearing FR garments on the job can mean the difference between minor burns and serious, life threatening injuries.
If you are unsure if you need flame resistant uniforms, determine the hazards at your job site. Talk to your safety manager to find out what sort of garments are recommended. If you are the safety manager and not sure, call in an independent third party to determine the nature of your hazard and what garments will best protect your employees. Wearing flame resistant fabrics can make a huge difference. The safety of your workers is vital to the success of your business, so make sure to offer the best protection you can from on the job hazards.