Flame resistant Frequently Asked Questions
A wide variety of flame resistant fabrics are available on the market today. Each fabric has a balance of properties that may make it best suited for a specific wearer and application. Factors to consider in fabric selection include protection, cost, wear life, comfort, color selection, care requirements and availability. We also know that you may have questions about this unique apparel so a list has been compiled of commonly asked questions to help you better understand the nature of Flame Resistant fabrics
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Flame-resistant (FR) clothing significantly reduces burn injury, giving the wearer time to escape and increasing the chance of survival if caught in a flash fire. People working in any industry that are at risk of clothes igniting should wear flame resistant garments. The bottom line is that FR clothing saves lives!
Numerous performance standards and test methods exist that help define the performance of FR garments. The purpose of test methods and standards is to enable users to evaluate the materials, and define minimum performance criteria for their particular fabrics or garments needed. Crude FR™ fabrics help to promote OSHA Flame Resistant compliance and adhere to NFPA 2112 standards by ensuring workers stay comfortable and safe in a wide range of work environments.Using FR products that meet the performance requirements of industry standards is a good way to ensure that employees as well as employers are protected.
FR garments will not provide significant protection from burn injury in the immediate area of contact with the ignition source. However, flame-resistant garments do provide protection against clothing ignition and sustained flame spread. Remember FR garments are "NOT" fire proof.
No. There is a common perception that untreated 100% cotton fabric is somehow “flame-resistant”. This is simply not true. While heavyweight untreated 100% cotton fabrics may be more difficult to ignite, they can and will ignite and continue to burn if exposed to an ignition source.
100% cotton is flammable. It will ignite and continue to burn after being exposed to an ignition source. Most people understand the burning and melting hazard of fibers such as nylon and polyester. However, cotton burns just as readily as these fibers, and sometimes propagates flames more quickly. 100% cotton is acceptable for use in some electric utility applications when the energy of exposure is not sufficient to ignite the cotton. However, 100% cotton is flammable and should not be used in applications that require FR clothing.
Inherently flame resistant fibers are materials that have flame resistance built into their chemical structures. Aramid fibers from companies like DuPont™ create inherently flame resistant fibers with brands such as Nomex®. For inherently flame resistant fibers, the protection is built into the fiber itself and can never be worn away or washed out.
All of the products offered by RPS Solutions offer proven protection in a variety of applications. With our extensive history and close relationships with fabric manufacturers, RPS has the technical expertise to help educate clients on the relative merits of each product. There are often trade-offs between criteria such as price, comfort and appearance. It is up to the end user to make the final choice. Please see Crude FR Benefits to gain a greater understanding of the Crude FR brand and the extreme versatility it provides.
The FR performance of the products offered by RPS Solutions is guaranteed for the life of the garment. For some products, the FR performance is inherent in the chemical composition of the fiber, and therefore the FR performance cannot be removed. For other products, the flame-retardant treatment is guaranteed for the life of the garment, provided that proper laundering procedures are followed.
Flame resistant garments are generally made from either flame resistant materials such as those made from aramid fibers (Nomex) or those treated with flame resistant "FR" treatments such as Ammonia or Heat Cure. FR treatments can "wash out" over time, shorting the life of the garment; but because many garments are often laundered under industrial wash conditions, they must be capable of withstanding a number of such industrial launderings in order to have an acceptable useful life. It is extremely important to follow the laundry care instructions provided in the "Products" section under "Fabrics" because any improper laundering will drastically shorten the life of the garment.
What sets RPS Solutions apart from the rest is our factory direct relationships for procurement of Milliken FR, DuPont Nomex IIIA® and Westex UltraSoft® fabrics depending on your FR garment needs and budget. With RPS Solutions you are dealing directly with the manufacturer which means our Crude FR products can meet any budget guidelines and allow for much shorter lead times delivering quality products faster than any other company.
Unfortunately, there is no way of testing the FR performance of a garment in the field without destroying the garment in the process. Further, test results from one garment are not necessarily indicative of the performance of other garments in the program. Therefore, we recommend only using FR products for which the manufacturer guarantees the protection lasts for the life of the garment.
FR clothing is a safety item for personnel working in hazardous environments prone to the ignition of garments. There are many climates where long pants and long sleeve shirts are hot, no matter what the fabric is made of. A variety of FR fabrics are available today, some of which are perceived as being more comfortable than others. FR clothing does not necessarily need to be more uncomfortable than standard clothing.
The looser fitting the FR garments, the more thermal protection the clothing system will provide. Air is a very effective insulator; therefore, maintaining an air gap between the clothing and skin will improve thermal protection. However, a loose fit must be balanced against the hazard of clothing being caught in moving equipment. Most FR products will shrink either the same or less than standard work clothing, and should be sized accordingly.
FR garments should be worn over non-melting fabrics or other FR materials. For example, one recommended combination is wearing a Nomex coverall over a 100% cotton tee shirt and underwear. Layering garments in this manner dramatically increases the thermal protection of the clothing system by adding "air gaps" that provide excellent thermal insulation.
The outermost layer of clothing should be flame resistant. Wearing flammable garments (such as nylon parkas) over FR clothing will compromise the protection of the FR clothing system. Even though the FR garment will not ignite, the flammable jacket can become a burning fuel source close to the skin that can burn the wearer by heat transfer through the FR fabric.
Most flame resistant garments can be laundered at home using "normal" detergents and procedures. Most FR products prohibit the use of chlorine bleach for a variety of reasons. FR garments should be laundered separately. Fabric softeners used in the dryer (such as "Bounce" sheets) are safe for use with FR clothing. Many FR products can be industrial laundered. It is extremely important to follow the laundry care instructions provided in the "Products" section under Fabrics because any improper laundering will drastically shorten the life of the garment.
The wear life of flame-resistant clothing is dependent on the type of fabric used and the garment construction. Some types of garments can last several years, while other types may last 9 to 18 months. Garments should be replaced when they are beyond repair or excessively contaminated.
Proper cleaning and maintenance of any flame-resistant garment is essential to remove potentially hazardous soils and avoid a build up of materials that could mask performance. This includes flammable soils and greases as well as other contaminants such as build up of hard water ions that can coat fibers with flammable material. ASTM Standard F 1449 Guide for Care and Maintenance of Flame, Thermal, and Arc Resistant Clothing is a good general reference for care and maintenance of flame resistant and thermal protective clothing.
RPS Solutions has received a number of customer inquiries questioning the need for NFPA 2112 certification at the garment level - particularly cotton and cotton blends. Unfortunately, the March 2010 FED OSHA memorandum regarding this issue was unclear in its specificity under NPFA 2112, leaving many thinking it was a requirement. RPS Solutions, as an industry leader in FR garments, took it upon ourselves to get an answer in regards to this supposed requirement. We quickly received a formal declaration from OSHA that FR garments are not required to be NFPA 2112 certified at the garment-level to meet OSHA requirements. If you would like to read more about the FR guidelines and standards required, check out our FR Education Manual.