Improving comfort with FR choice options for workers

Flame-resistant garments are used by workforces who are exposed to flame and heat hazards in their work environment. However, the crucial point is to provide physical ease and relaxation added to offering the required protection. Several studies conducted in Call Centres and Textile factories show a 2 to 15% reduction in worker productivity when the workplace temperature is raised a few degrees over the pleasant range of 25°C. Another widely acknowledged fact is that comfort is greatly influenced by humidity. So how can we choose clothing which is both breathable and has the requisite heat and flame protection?

Let’s discuss the various FR clothing options and their functionality.

Comfort is determined by multiple parameters of the clothing worn and prominently by the work environment workers are exposed.

Fabric determinants should include:

  • Blend of fibres
  • Construction
  • Finish
  • Weight

In general, materials with natural fibres, predominantly cotton fibres are more comfortable for the skin. Moreover, fabric with open construction and superior breathability will provide further comfort. Finish such as anti-wicking and anti -microbial helps keep the sweat and foul smell away. Clothing made from a lighter-weight fabric will be light and thus more comfortable.

Though the redundancy of various theories can be misleading and lead to confusion the answer not being straightforward is quite apparent. On one side cotton FR fabric may be comfortable however, to get the same level of protection and functionality a heavier weight cotton fabric will be required. Also, the surface comfort of cotton will depend on how optimally the FR finish is applied. A poorly applied FR finished fabric may also give a rough feel. Inherent FR-based fabric may not have quick sweat absorption, but this can be improved with a hydrophilic or moisture management finish.

Moreover, a vital role player would be the type of work environment workers are exposed to. For people working in a cold climate, lightweight and open construction of the fabric is undesirable. The hotter climate will also have different selection criteria based on the humidity level. A relatively less hydrophilic, finer wicking, and quick-dry fabric would be preferable in a humid climate whereas, for a drier climate, natural fibre-based, relatively hydrophilic fabric would be a better option.

So it is important to understand all the factors that will affect the comfort level and take them into consideration while selecting FR clothing for the workers.

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