The proper way to wear FR/AR Clothing and why.

Properly donned coverall. Picture courtesy of Tom Moore and Neese Industries.

Properly donned coverall. Picture courtesy of Tom Moore and Neese Industries.

I have been asked on many occasions, “what is the proper way to wear Flame Resistant Clothing?”. The National Fire Protection Association offers up standard NFPA 2113, which is the standard on selection, care, use and maintenance of Flame Resistance Garments for protection of industrial personnel against short duration thermal exposures. This is a great tool developed by the NFPA primarily for garment end users to reduce health and safety risks associated with incorrect selection, use, maintenance, as well as contamination and damage of flame resistant garments but offers no actual guidance on how to properly wear the garments and why it is so important to do so. Without a formal standard to go by, most employers look to industry consensus for reference. The following guidelines are taken directly from industry consensus and may help you to choose secondary Flame Resistant Clothing to keep you as safe and comfortable as possible in the workplace.

First of all, choose proper fitting clothing. You will want the garments to be large enough to create a thin layer of air in between the FRC and your undergarments. This layer of air works as insulation in a flash fire and can reduce the amount of heat that can transfer or pass through the FRC in a thermal event. You must always wear 100% natural fiber undergarments that will not melt. Most man made fabrics that are used in athletic under garments will melt in a thermal exposure and would cause significant injury even though the FRC performed exactly as it should. A small amount of elastic is permitted in undergarments made of natural fibers like un-treated cotton. Also be sure that the garments are not too big. Many industrial workers suffer injury every year from getting loose fitting clothing caught in equipment and machinery. Proper fitting clothing will be more comfortable and will last longer than garments that are too small or too big. You must always keep your FRC free of any flammable soils. This can be difficult when working at chemical plants, refineries, or in oil and gas drilling operations but the rule of thumb is to always replace soiled FRC with clean garments when they come in contact with anything that is flammable. Many fabrics can absorb flammable materials if contacted literally making the FRC a wick and the flammable soils will ignite if introduced to an ignition source such as a spark created during a welding activity. Bulwark Protective Apparel and Workrite FR among others offer a disposable FR coverall to be worn over your regular FRC that can be used in heavy soil environments like the oilfield. Please know these disposable FR coveralls are only to be worn over your main FRC and cannot provide adequate protection from a flash fire by themselves.

The garments must always be worn with the shirt or coverall buttoned, zipped, or snapped as high as possible up the chest. The sleeves on FR shirts and coveralls must always be worn down and never rolled up. You should always make sure sleeve cuffs are buttoned or snapped at the wrists and shirt tails should always be tucked in. Always remember the chances of surviving a thermal event is greatly determined by percentage of body burn and your age. Just remember, the more of your body that is covered by FRC, the greater the chance of survival. Always ensure that your outer most layer is FR. In all my years of providing quality FRC I have seen many companies offering secondary FRC but not providing their employees with FR outerwear or rainwear. Your FRC will not provide the protection you need in a thermal event if your jacket or rainwear burns or melts!

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