How Does Flame-Resistant Clothing Work?

Uniforms and Apparel

A flame is the result of a chemical reaction that requires oxygen, heat, and fuel, which further breaks down into radicals, which are highly reactive molecules. The interaction between all these results in a fire. In a work environment where flash fires, electrical arcs, and exposure to flammable dust is common, flame-resistant clothing may be worn to protect workers.

What Is Flame-Resistant Clothing?

Flame-resistant (FR) clothing is engineered to protect wearers against intermittent flames and high heat. It may be chemically treated or consist of a fabric made of fireproof fibers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets standards for occupational use, materials, and the conditions specific types of flame-resistant clothing are suited for. These also consider factors such as weave, color, weight, and texture in relation to the amount of heat required to ignite a material.

Flame Resistant Clothing

What Makes FR Clothing Flame Resistant?

For the most part, it is made of a blend of flame-resistant fabrics, which are usually synthetic. Modacrylic fibers combine different materials meeting various requirements. Nomex is often used standalone, as it has sufficient flame-resistant qualities. It may also be combined with Kevlar, which is an inherently flame-resistant, high-strength material.

FR clothing can also contain char-forming agents. Mainly used with cellulose fibers such as cotton, these fire retardants contain phosphorous that reacts with fuel molecules. A stable, solid char will form that consumes gaseous molecules and forms a barrier between the fabric and flame. Molecules called gas-phase radical scavengers may also be used, which integrate with clothing fibers and form relatively stable radicals in the presence of high heat.

Additionally, there are fibers with a molecular structure that allows them to withstand high temperatures. If there’s a thermal event, the fibers remain intact, eliminating the fuel needed to ignite a fire.

What Industries Use Flame-Resistant Clothing?

Flame-resistant clothing is often worn by electricians and employees of utility companies who are routinely exposed to hazards that can lead to fires. It’s also worn in the pharmaceutical industry and in any job that involves working with chemicals. Refinery workers may wear clothing that protects them against heat and flames. Individuals who work in environments where combustible dust may be present do as well; these include employees in paper and pulp processing facilities as well as food processing plants.

What Types of Flame-Resistant Clothing Are There?

The term fire-resistant is sometimes used, but it means the same as flame-resistant. If a material is labeled fire-retardant, it has been chemically treated to be self-extinguishing and slow-burning. Fire-resistant clothing may be considered primary protection, in which it withstands constant exposure to flames, high heat, and molten substances. This includes gear worn by firefighters. Secondary protection is more suited for intermittent hazards in which wearers may be briefly exposed to hazards.

Order FR Clothing from Prudential Overall Supply

We carry protective apparel that resists flames and other hazards in industrial settings, including work shirts, pants, lab coats, and more. Browse our online catalog to view our selection of high-quality items from top flame-resistant clothing brands. If you have questions or need help, call 800-767-5536.