Table of Contents – Module 1: February 2021:
- What Is Flame-Resistant Clothing (FRC)?
- Who needs to wear FRC?
- Is there a difference between Primary and Secondary Protection?
- What should be worn under the FRC?
- Flame-Resistant/ Fire-Resistant/ Fire-Retardant – What is the difference?
- What is FRC made of?
- What are the benefits of FRC?
- How to Shop for FRC?
- Which Flame-Resistant Standards Apply to My Business and Me?
There is a lot of discussion and information available on Flame resistant clothing (FRC) on different platforms. However, we thought a refresher course on basics of FRC would be really helpful for all concerned. This refresher course has been divided in 2 Modules thru blogs to be issued in February & March 2021. Here we are going to walk you through the basics of FRC once again to refresh our knowledge and information set.
1. What Is Flame-Resistant Clothing (FRC)?
Let us start at the beginning with a FRC definition. Based on the name alone, it might be easy to assume FRC is entirely or mostly fireproof. Is that true? As it turns out, not really.
To break this definition down further, we can look at the specific ways in which FRC is engineered to protect the wearer from injury due to flames. These clothing items will not easily catch fire and even when they do they are designed to self-extinguish. This ability helps to reduce the wearer’s risk of burn injury and can often provide the wearer with valuable time to escape the unsafe environment. The most important function of the FRC materials and fabrics is to prevent the further spread of fire.
These attributes work together to provide a far greater chance of escape and survival if the wearer finds himself suddenly in the middle of a flash fire, an electric arc or some other unexpected thermal exposure that has the potential to cause injury. In situations like these, FRC can be the difference between being severely injured or escaping unharmed.
2. Who needs to wear FRC?
There are three broad categories of workers who should wear FRC for protection, based on the type of hazard the worker will be exposed to while in job. Here are the three primary hazards:
- Electric arc: People who are exposed to this hazard include electricians, as well as utility workers and others.
- Flash fire: Workers in Oil & gas, pharmaceutical and chemical industries are exposed to this risk.
- Combustible dust: The category covers workers in food processing plants, the paper and pulp industry, etc.
3. Is there a difference between Primary and Secondary Protection?
When reading or hearing about FRC, we should be aware of terms like – Primary protection and Secondary protection. What exactly do these terms mean? Does secondary protection offer less safety than primary protection? The difference between these two terms lies in the FRC intended usage and the level of protection it offers.
Primary protection is needed in activities where the wearer is constantly exposed to risk of flames, radiant heat and potential molten substance splash. One easy example to this is the job of a fire fighter.
Secondary protection is designed for situations where the wearer may encounter exposure to intermittent hazards. This may still include radiant heat, molten substance splash and flames, but the odds are that these will not be constant hazards. Rather, they may appear briefly before disappearing again.
In other words, the wearer of secondary protection is not likely to be in as much constant danger as the wearer of primary protection.
4. What should be worn under the FRC?
We did cover this subject in our blog of August 2020, in brief. In case you missed reading this, here is the crux. The garments you choose to wear underneath your FRC have a significant impact on your safety and the effectiveness of your FRC. Whenever you wear FRC, you should always take care to wear only non-melting garments underneath them. There are two primary reasons for this caution. The first is that by doing this, you are essentially adding a second layer of FR protection. Even if your first layer of outerwear gets damaged or burned accidently, you will still have a second layer to protect you. The layer of air insulation between the two layers also helps keep you safe.
Another reason to dress in non-melting under garments is the intense environment you may be working in. Even though your outer layer provides protection, it is still possible your under garments will be affected by the heat and begin to melt or become overheated at times.
5. Flame-Resistant / Fire-Resistant / Fire-Retardant – What is the difference?
If you are not extremely familiar with this information and these terms, you might assume these three terms are synonyms. The confusion is understandable, given the similarities of the terms. Two of the terms are in fact inter-changeable but the other one is quite different. Here are the major differences between them:
- Flame-resistant (FR):Flame-resistant textiles are made from inherently non-flammable fibers. The fibers have a chemical structure that is naturally resistant to flames. These types of fabrics may catch fire but they will burn extremely slow and will self-extinguish.
- Fire-resistant (FR): This term is a synonym for flame-resistant. If you hear this term used in place of flame-resistant, don’t be confused. They mean exactly the same and it is correct to use them inter-changeably.
- Flame-retardant (FR): Flame-retardant fabrics are those Non-FR fabrics that have undergone chemical treatment to acquire similar properties that FR fabrics inherently have. As a result of the chemical procedures, flame-retardant fabrics become slow-burning and self-extinguishing. Cotton fiber is majorly used globally for the FRC. These fabrics duly meet all the international standards for Flame & heat protection.
6. What is FRC made of?
There are multiple material combinations available in FRC and no one is perfect for all conditions. Fibers which are inherently FR like aramids, modacrylic, FR viscose etc are used majorly. Even cotton fiber which is naturally not FR can be treated to impart FR properties to the FRC. These fibers can be in complete proportion or in blends with each other to produce FRC. Each comes with different benefits and therefore suitable for specific hazards and industries. They are carefully engineered and designed as per various applications or risks in industrial atmosphere.
Each company is best served by choosing the FRC that will be most suited to their needs and working environment. FRC that keeps an employee safe in one location may not be exactly what keeps an employee safe in another location.
7. What are the benefits of FRC?
FRC allows workers to conduct work in potentially hazardous industrial locations with a greatly reduced risk of injury. While no FRC is guaranteed to prevent every injury, every time but the risk while wearing these specialized technical garments is significantly lower than it would be if the worker was wearing everyday clothing which is Non-FR.
With FRC, the promise is not that the garments will not catch fire. They are designed to resist ignition and will generally fulfil this purpose in all but the most extreme situations. The great strength of FRC however, is that it prevents fires from spreading. Even if the clothing does catch fire, it will always extinguish itself quickly. These self-extinguishing properties mean the wearer is less likely to suffer from burns and will have time to retreat from the hazardous environment without the added danger of spreading the fire via their clothing. The fire will be more likely to remain contained, and the worker will be more likely to escape unharmed.
8. How to Shop for FRC?
If you have never shopped for flame-resistant clothing, there are a few points that you should certainly consider while deciding what to buy.
- Industrial risk assessment and what FRC can cater to the requirements?
- How are the garments supposed to fit?
- Are there any additional considerations you need to be aware of?
In most cases, the company’s Health & Safety department should assess and identify the risks involved within an industrial unit and create a safety program for the benefit of the company’s most important asset – It’s Manpower. They should provide specific instructions about what FRC is needed to ensure complete protection to its workers. The program should highlight the primary and the secondary protection levels desired within an organisation.
When it comes to FRC the thumb rule is that a slightly loose fit offers more protection. When a garment is loose there is an added layer of air between the wearer and the garment, providing extra insulation against the heat or flames that can be encountered in case of accidental fire. If you wear skin-tight FRC the flames will be almost directly up against your skin. Even with the clothing as a protective layer it is safer to allow this air cushion between your skin and the fabric.
However, you should not take this as an invitation to buy the baggiest and loosest fitting clothing you can find. While this might initially seem like a good idea, it could very likely lead to a disaster. It is important to remember baggy clothing can easily snag on surrounding objects and hazards, trapping you and leaving you immobile, or ripping and leaving you vulnerable to environmental hazards.
While buying FRC please keep in mind that like most clothing items it will shrink a little bit during the first few washings. With this concern in mind, you may want to buy a slightly bigger size than you ordinarily would so the garment has room to shrink down to the correct size after washing.
For this, specific size charts can be defined to cover the requirements within an organisation.
One additional thing to be aware of is the manufacturer you choose to buy from. Every manufacturer will likely have a different selection of fabrics and styles. The clothing quality may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, as well as factors like price, various guarantees and the quality-control system. Tarasafe provides multiple options of tested and certified fabrics, garment styling and fits which can fit your budget and keep the work force protected.
9. Which Flame-Resistant Standards Apply to My Business and Me?
There are extensive rules and regulations in place to keep workers safe as they complete their tasks in hazardous locations and environmental conditions. Each company will require their employees to work in different kinds of conditions performing a variety of tasks. This means that virtually every situation will be different. Because of this, different standards will apply to nearly every situation. You will likely not be subjected to the same standards another worker at a different company will be subject to.
For more specific information, you should do more research into your industry and working conditions. Remember, it is your and your company’s responsibility to learn what rules and standards apply to your working conditions, and then to follow these rules.
Hope the above details have been able to refresh your understanding on FRC.
We will see you soon with the Module – 2 of this refresher course next month.
Stay Safe…. Stay connected !!