Written by Carolyn Kidd
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Ever wondered how firefighters manage to survive those huge flames and out-of-control fires. The answer is that they are protected by flame-resistant (FR) clothing. Other jobs that also require employees to wear different kinds of flame-resistant clothing include workers in factories, oil and gas companies, mines, foundries, and electricity/power companies. Of utmost importance is the use of FR fabric in defense, specifically in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Special Forces and other military groups.
Because fire safety is critically important to workers in the public sector and the military, two types of flame-resistant clothing are available: inherent and treated. The differences between these two types of clothes are significant and choosing the right type for the right job is critical to avoid serious injury as well as life-or death situations.
Inherent flame-resistant clothing is made from material that is totally flame-resistant– its flame-resisting properties are built into the fabric at the manufacturing stage and do not deteriorate or weaken from usage, laundering, or exposure to the elements. Inherent FR clothing is safer than treated FR clothing.
After the fabric has been woven, treated flame-resistant clothing is chemically treated to make it fire resistant. Often this kind of material gradually loses its FR properties with washing, especially after repeatedly using chlorine bleach, peroxide, and with exposure to workplace chemicals. At a later stage, it becomes difficult to estimate how much fire protection remains.
However, some FR fabrics come with a guarantee of flame resistance for the life of the garment provided correct cleaning procedures are followed.
Selecting inherent or treated FR clothing is a call made by an individual company, depending on the probable fire hazards its employees may face. The fabric may be cotton, nylon, tricot, or even include a blend of Kevlar. Treated FR materials may be used in hotels, for example, because they offer guests and employees a greater level of safety than non-treated fabrics.
One additional caution:Workers whose jobs require flame-resistant clothing must not wear any flammable material on top of it as this seriously impairs the efficiency of the FR clothing. Cotton fabrics burn completely, and nylon melts and produces even more heat.
For military personnel, the different features of inherent and treated flame-resistant clothing play a big role in determining the level of protection required for various defense activities. Often these fabrics are chosen on the basis of their FR properties as well as for the climate and situation in which they are used.
Carolyn Kidd is the Marketing Manager of DRIFIRE® in Chicago, IL. DRIFIRE is a leading provider and developer of flame resistant (FR) fabrics and protective apparel to the government, industrial and consumer markets.