Professionals who own or operate an organization that exposes workers to open flames, combustible materials, or extreme heat must establish specialized safety policies. The policies decision-makers set regarding the use of flame-resistant (FR) garments have wide-reaching benefits. Workplace injuries can be avoided by understanding the protection disposable FR clothing affords and its place in company culture.
What is FR Clothing?
Although some common clothing materials are naturally resistant to fire, most will ignite and continue to burn when exposed to flames or extreme heat. Employees who work in heightened temperatures and face potential contact with fire or embers are generally required to wear specialized clothing.
Garments that are strategically manufactured to protect the wearer from flames and thermal energy are typically considered flame resistant or “FR” for short. Disposable FR clothing resists igniting from direct flame contact and is engineered to self-extinguish once removed from the extreme heat source.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) and disposable FR clothing are widely mandated in occupations that require workers to navigate flames or high-energy heat sources. Certified FR clothing lines prevent fire from spreading across clothing and engulfing workers. It serves as a front line of defense against serious injury and workplace fatalities.
What Makes FR Clothing Work?
Unlike clothing sold online or at retail outlets, FR clothing uses material designed to provide enhanced heat resilience. Materials such as Nomex, Kevlar, and Modacrylic, among others, possess flame-resistant qualities. These and other industry-recognized materials are widely used in disposable FR clothing.
By contrast, cotton jeans, synthetic shirts, and other off-the-rack items cannot provide protection—they will not char on contact with flames and flames will spread to other areas of the body or clothing. Along with using heat-mitigating materials, disposable daily wear FR clothing undergo treatment to ensure the clothing chars and the flames are deprived of their fuel source. This prevents molten drips and stops the flames from spreading.
What Industries Commonly Wear Disposable FR Clothing?
The need for daily wear or task-based FR clothing is more wide-reaching than many companies realize. Industries that leverage extreme temperature furnaces and tools with exposed flames rank among the obvious environments that require disposable FR clothing. But any landscape that involves searing temperatures or even remote open flames places a significant responsibility on decision-makers to maintain an adequate inventory of disposable FR clothing. These include the following.
- Electric Utility Line Workers: Performing duties in confined spaces near high voltage put line workers in harm’s way. Sparks and high-energy arcs can result in hazardous fires.
- Electricians: Licensed professionals often repair outdated mills and buildings. Potential fires from old wiring and high voltage can put electricians in harm’s way.
- Chemical Plant Workers: These and other manufacturing facilities pose a dual threat to employees. Chemical fires remain a clear and present danger. But chemical splashes can also result in severe burns.
- Oil and Gas Industry: Few materials are as combustible as diesel, gasoline, and other petroleum products. Although commonly used liquids and substances appear harmless, a single spark can result in a massive fire.
- Mine Workers: Working beneath the Earth’s surface exposes people to unexpected conditions. Confined underground spaces can feel claustrophobic, damp, dry, cold, or hot. But elements such as natural gas pockets can ignite as miners chip away at rock and ore. Flash fires are more common in mines than many realize.
- Pulp and Paper Workers: Many consider breathable masks the most logical type of PPE for mill workers due to the presence of hazardous chemicals. But pulp and paper raw materials are also highly flammable.
Employers should consider work conditions, materials, equipment, or processes that produce heat, flame, or rank among potentially combustible elements. Disposable FR clothing is a relatively inexpensive investment, especially when you consider the alternative.
Daily FR Garments vs. Task Based FR Garments
The decision to allow workers who are not consistently exposed to heat, fire, or potentially combustible material to generally wear street clothes requires thoughtful consideration. Some conventional thinking revolves around employees enjoying the comfort of their preferred attire.
When tasks such as using a blow torch or feeding a furnace arise, task-based FR clothing items are worn. Some companies have their employees carry a small backpack with breathable and lightweight, disposable FR clothing items such as coveralls. In theory, this seems like a best of both worlds approach. Workers are reasonably happy about their comfy work clothes, and safety risks seem to be mitigated.
But the boots-on-the-ground application of task-based FR clothing policies doesn’t always end on a positive note. Unsupervised employees sometimes avoid putting on disposable FR clothing over their pants and shirts. This all-too-common chain of events puts workers at risk of injury and leaves otherwise responsible corporate leaders exposed to liability at no fault of their own.
Implementing a company-wide policy that requires employees to utilize daily wear FR clothing improves workplace safety, can lower insurance premiums, and largely alleviates business professionals of liability. Such policies are supported by the fact disposable FR clothing materials and products have evolved substantially in terms of comfort and breathability.
Seasonally Appropriate Daily Wear FR Clothing
We are not that far removed from flame- and heat-exposed workers adorning thick, heavy outerwear that led to dehydration and heat-related illness concerns. Today’s disposable daily wear FR clothing is relatively lightweight and possesses breathable qualities.
The advanced technology used to develop comfortable daily wear FR clothing changes the logic behind a task-based safety. Industry-leading disposable personal protective clothing manufacturers have also adapted products to meet seasonal employee comfort guidelines, such as the following.
- Daily wear FR clothing for summer prioritizes breathable and lightweight options that allows users to remain cool, comfortable, and hydrated.
- Transitional seasons such as spring and autumn utilize performance-based materials that can be layered appropriately. A worker’s base layer can be covered by temperature- and weather-specific FR clothing that maintains flexibility and comfort.
- Frigid winter temperatures and accompanying conditions typically require heavier-weight outer layers that also provide weather protection. Daily wear FR clothing lines overcome challenges involving flexible movement and breathability.
Perhaps the best FR clothing policy is the one more likely to keep team members safe from injury, even if it could result from an unforced error. Business leaders and supervisors must consider all the relevant factors and decide whether people are safer with daily wear FR clothing or a task-driven policy. Requiring disposable daily wear FR clothing offers the best option to reduce workplace injuries of all types—accidental, by error, or non-compliance.
Benefits of Daily Wear FR Clothing
Although properly worn FR clothing protects people in the moment, safety experts generally favor daily wear cultures. Prioritizing safety through daily wear FR clothing requirements delivers the following benefits.
- Decreased Injury Rates: Workplace accidents usually occur when people do not expect them. Wearing disposable FR clothing at all times greatly reduces potential heat or fire injuries.
- Increased Efficiency: Asking employees to retreat to a changing room to put on safety equipment and clothing when a task arises results in wasted work hours. Given the lightweight and comfortable nature of daily wear FR clothing, changing before and after a shift is more efficient.
- Increased Compliance: By requiring daily wear FR clothing, workers are protected at all times. This helps prevent workers from not donning their safety clothing, which is often done due to discomfort or the feeling of “that won’t happen to me”.
- Protection for New Hires: An increased number of people suffer injuries while they are learning the nuances of a new job. That means new hires are more likely to make a misstep involving a heat or fire hazard. Mandating new staff members to wear FR clothing at all times reduces the risk of injury and fatality.
- Company Culture: Investing in a complete inventory of disposable clothing transforms a workforce. Matching disposable protective clothing becomes a type of uniform and reinforces corporate identity. Leading manufacturers can provide department-specific uniforms that enhance company culture.
The upside to implementing a daily wear FR clothing approach helps insolates companies from liability due to workplace errors or worker non-compliance. It also allows decision-makers to rest easy knowing they proactively established guidelines that maximize the health and safety of everyday people.
International Enviroguard manufacturers a complete line of disposable personal protective clothing and accessories, including FR products that exceed industry standards.