Advancements in fire-resistant technologies, materials, and processes have created an opportunity for safety professionals to stockpile an inventory of disposable protective garments made by secondary FR clothing manufacturers. These products can be used in conjunction with well-known primary garments to provide enhanced protection and savings.
As the National Volunteer Fire Council notes, firefighter garments should be retired in 10 years or less, depending on use and exposure to heat, fire, molten materials, and chemicals. However, disposable FR clothing manufacturers can help government agencies and private-sector organizations maximize the life expectancy of expensive primary products.
How Does Flame-Resistant Clothing Work?
Flame-resistant clothing is designed to protect wearers by resisting and deflecting intense heat. The personal protective garments are typically made from materials that will not catch fire even when they come in direct contact with fire. Others that possess a natural resistance to heat are treated to provide enhanced protection under duress.
The chemicals used to boost flame and heat resistance provide significant benefits to people who serve as first responders, such as firefighters. It's also important to note this class of protective gear can be broken into two categories— primary and secondary flame-resistant clothing.
How is Flame-Resistant Protective Clothing Tested?
This class of protective clothing and accessories is rated through a process called the Thermal Mannequin Test. Primary and secondary products are assessed based on the EN 14116 or EN 11612 standard. These guidelines determine whether the entire product (“finished garment”) and its accessories have the capacity to perform under real-life conditions.
A “thermal mannequin” wearing the outfit is inserted into a flash-fire environment with four jets producing intense heat and flames at set intervals. Under the garment, 123 sensors track the conditions to determine the heat energy impact on a person.
What is Primary Flame-Resistant (FR) Protective Clothing?
One way to think about primary flame-resistant protective clothing is that it serves as the front-line defense against contact with open flames, searing heat, and substances that have been reduced from solids to molten materials. It’s also essential to note that wide-reaching chemicals have delayed reactions.
After first responders such as HazMat teams and firefighters experience splatters, the toxins may hit hard hours, days, or even years later. Those are reasons why primary FR workwear must meet or exceed the EN ISO 11612 analysis to gain certification as a protective garment. These standards measure flame resistance, shrinkage, splatter protection, and life expectancy.
Common FR Clothing Materials
While flame-resistant protective clothing can mean the difference between life and death during a fire or massive chemical spill, it’s critical that users understand they are not necessarily impenetrable. The materials used are defined as “resistant,” and that means at some point they may be breached. That being said, these rank among the top materials used in certified garments and accessories.
Building an inventory of these non-disposable protective clothing products often proves an expensive proposition. While municipal budgets typically have the budgetary bandwidth to outfit first responders, private companies may not.
And, the same level of fire-rated protective wear used in the public sector is needed in chemical plants, manufacturing operations, and others. The good news is that secondary FR clothing manufacturers offer certified products that keep workers safe.
What is Secondary Flame-Resistant (FR) Protective Clothing?
Disposable FR clothing manufacturers provide secondary products that pass ASTM D6413. ASTM D6413 is a standardized, vertical flame test specifically designed for protective clothing “as sold” by your manufacturer or supplier.
ASTM D6413 is the standard test method for flame resistance of textiles (vertical flame resistance test). This test method determines a fabric’s response to a standard ignition source for both electric arc and flash fire hazards. Parts of the measure of flame resistance include afterflame time, afterglow time, and char length.
The purpose of this test is to determine whether a fabric will continue to burn after the ignition source is removed. Five tests are performed, and the results are averaged and recorded as the final result.
After exposure to a flame in a controlled environment, afterflame, afterglow, and char length are measured:
- Afterflame is the number of seconds in which there is a visible flame remaining on the fabric.
- Afterglow is the number of seconds that there is a visible glow remaining on the fabric.
- Char Length is the length in inches of fabric destroyed by the flame.
The occurrence of melting or dripping (if any) is also recorded. Secondary FR clothing manufacturers have effectively created a cost-saving solution. These products are designed to be worn over primary protective clothing to reduce the impact of heat, fire, molten drips, and chemical splatters that typically reduce the useful life span of expensive primary garments.
Using secondary flame-resistant workwear benefits front-line workers by providing an added layer of protection against sparks, flames, molten drips, and splatters. They also help municipalities and private sector organizations save money by extending the life expectancy of the expensive primary FR garments.
One of the issues that has negatively impacted disposable FR clothing manufacturers involves the few companies that use thermoplastic polymers and then treat them with fire-resistant agents. This class of fabric has a tendency to retract when exposed to high heat, restricting the ability of first responders and others to move freely.
Although the doubling-up of FR protective wear was not common a few decades ago, next-gen technologies and innovation have led to advancements in the safety-wear industry. Disposable FR clothing manufacturers have positioned their products in such a way that they can tout both the added safety benefits and budgetary savings with confidence.
How Do Secondary Flame-Resistant Workwear Benefits Differ?
Secondary products are usually rated based on what is called the Vertical Flammability Test (ASTM D6413). To some degree, it’s basically the same as the flammability portion of EN 11612. The point of this certification is to demonstrate the fabric does not ignite under extreme conditions.
Secondary FR products are not a viable substitute for primary FR protective wear. They do not undergo the heightened thermal mannequin testing and heat sensor data is not necessarily available to measure the impact of heat on human skin.
By that same token, one of the primary secondary flame-resistant workwear benefits involves open flame and chemical repellency. Their ability to serve as a buffer has safety officials and inventory decision-makers stocking these disposable FR protective clothing and accessories.
What Industry-leading Secondary FR Clothing Manufacturers Offer
Before integrating cost-effective secondary FR garments and accessories into the workforce, it’s crucial to make it abundantly clear this upgrade does not open the door to wearing street clothes under primary FR options. Layering primary and secondary protective wear further insulates people from heat throws, open fire, and chemical splashes.
Elevated temperatures can result in heat surging through both protective layers. In this scenario, everyday wear could melt or smolder, resulting in significant injury or fatalities.
These light blue coveralls are engineered for reduced tearing and provide the flexibility to bend, squat, stretch, and move with ease. PyroGuard® is constructed with a phosphate-based fire-retardant material that deprives flames of their fuel source. This garment was specifically designed to be worn on primary FR garments for improved safety and budgetary savings.
Those tasked with making informed decisions about primary and secondary FR protective garments and accessories would be well-served to consider a product line that offers accompanying accessories. The value of being able to quickly outfit a staff member with head-to-toe protection in the event of an emergency cannot be understated.