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How To Choose Superior Fr Clothing
2015-06-22 08:53  Clicks:
Today's marketplace is full of manufacturers of flame resistant fabrics, clothing and uniforms, all of whom tout their products as superior to competitors' with regards to comfort, durability, performance, ease of maintenance, and ability to protect wearers from injuries due to fire. Because manufacturers must comply with key industry standards to make their products marketable, the vast majority of flame resistant (FR) clothing delivers on its protection claims, as long as the wearer encounters the type of fire against which the clothing protects.
 
However, because different materials and fabrics offer different levels of protection, it is important to evaluate your needs before purchasing flame resistant clothing.
 
An Overview of Flame Resistant Fabrics:
A range of branded fabrics are used in the manufacturing of FR clothing, including Protera, Indura, Indura Ultra Soft, Nomex IIIA, Excel FR, Excel FR Comfortouch, and Cool Touch, to name a few. These fabrics also span the range of fibers used to create them, including cotton and wool as well as Nomex, Kevlar, and modacrylic.
 
There are two ways to make a fabric flame resistant: by using an inherently flame resistant fiber, or by treating the fabric with chemicals called flame-retardants. Modacrylic and Nomex are both inherently flame resistant fibers, meaning that garments made with these fibers will never lose their FR properties. Other FR garments made of brand-name fabrics use everyday fibers treated with flame-retardants to infuse them with flame resistant properties. For example, Indura and Indura Ultra Soft are made of 100 percent cotton and a cotton/nylon blend respectively, which are then treated with an ammonia curing process to obtain their flame resistant properties.
 
NFPA 70E:
Fabric characteristics like fiber type, weight and construction affect the level of protection offered by clothing. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) 70E is a set of standards for electrical safety in the workplace that identify various levels of Hazard Risk Categories (HRC) and recommend the level of protection a worker's FR clothing should provide.
 
Flame resistant fabric that is sold as FR clothing will denote an arc rating that indicates the amount of thermal energy against which the FR clothing protects. If a person encounters a higher amount of thermal energy than that specified on their FR clothing, they run the risk of sustaining serious burn injuries.
 
In order to ensure that you are selecting the right level of protection, you need to follow two steps. First, you need to determine the level of hazard associated with the job for which you are purchasing apparel. NFPA 70E provides a method to assign potential arc flash risk and then classifies these risks into Hazard/Risk Category (HRC) ratings. Second, once you know the level of risk faced by your employees, you should select the garment that meets that risk category. To simplify this process, a number of manufacturers use HRC ratings to categorize their garments. Thus, if you purchase a shirt marketed as HRC 2, you know that the garment is in compliance with tasks associated with this Hazard/Risk Category.
 
Other Properties of Flame Resistant Fabric:
While safety and protection are the highest priority when purchasing FR garments, comfort plays a key role in ensuring compliance and improving worker performance. As far as fabrics go, fabric blends that use a high percentage of modacrylic fibers are considered significantly more comfortable than fabrics using high percentages of Nomex. While Nomex has historically been considered the gold standard in terms of protection, many end users find it less comfortable due to lack of breathability and wicking properties.
 
Effective wicking and fast-drying properties can significantly increase the comfort of wearers of FR clothing. Regulating a wearer's body temperature in conditions where fire is a threat can help wearers stay focused on the task at hand. Blends that combine highly absorbent fibers, such as lyocell/TENCEL, and inherently flame resistant fibers, such as modacrylic, can provide safety without sacrificing comfort. Lyocell, which is made from wood pulp cellulose, is 50% more absorbent than cotton, making it very effective at pulling moisture from the wearer's skin. Combined with an inherently flame-resistant fiber like modacrylic, fabrics made from these fiber blends can keep a wearer's skin temperature regulated, skin dry, and can be easily layered for additional protection and warmth.
 
A wealth of options exists in today's market for flame resistant clothing, and it is important to understand that not all are created equal. Choosing fabrics that provide an appropriate level of protection while maintaining wearer comfort will help to ensure maximum levels of compliance with vital safety and protection standards.
 
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