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What you need to know about the difference between flame-resistant and fire-retardant clothing

Fire-retardant and flame-resistant clothing are both “personal protective equipment,” also known as PPE, used for work environments facing high temperatures and working in industries that require fireproof work. 

In the event of a fire, PPE is essential to protect workers. And whether you’re trained or work in an environment where a fire doesn’t affect you much, a burn injury can sometimes pose a health hazard.

But can you tell the difference between fire-retardant and flame-resistant clothing? If you are still confused between these two concepts of “personal protective equipment,” the following article will help you answer the question.

1 Some things to know about fire-retardant

Many people choose to wear fire-retardant clothing as a top layer of casual clothing. The design of this type of protective gear is quite similar to a jacket. Of course, you can completely use a jacket instead of specialized protective gear, but that’s only if you are in a normal working environment. The main thing you need to protect is your skin from the sun.

- What you need to know about the difference between flame-resistant and fire-retardant clothing

Fire-retardant is used for working environments frequently exposed to high heat, such as welders. Bomber jackets and coveralls also provide the user with extensive protection from potential hazards. This protective gear helps the user to prevent continuous hazards while working. Fire retardant is the primary and secondary protection for workers.

2 Some things to know about flame-resistant

Flame retardant (FR) clothing is also a type of personal protective equipment (PPE) that helps protect people working in hazardous environments such as chemical environments and high-heat environments.

When the fire comes in contact with FR clothing, it will not continue to burn. In other words, this type of clothing can still catch fire but does not maintain the burning of the flame to help protect the user when in use.

Compared with ordinary fabrics, when a fire or an explosion will be burned or melted and stick to the wearer’s skin, the fabric used to make fireproof (FR) clothing has the ability to prevent fire and prevent more danger.

- What you need to know about the difference between flame-resistant and fire-retardant clothing

3 How does the fabric used to make fireproof clothing work?

Specialized fabrics used to sew protective equipment (PPE) such as flame-resistant are the most durable and sturdy fabrics to ensure absolute safety for users. And with protective gear used in environments exposed to flames, it is necessary to use fabrics with flame retardant properties such as 100% cotton yarn that can resist flames.

In addition, there are fabrics that are treated with specialized chemicals before being used to sew flame-resistant fabrics to increase heat resistance and also increase their protective quality. But whether it’s a naturally heat-resistant fabric or a chemically treated fabric, it works the same way.

These materials will generally cancel the flame burn on contact, so these materials will not be easily removed. This helps because the user’s skin does not burn when exposed to high heat environments. Unlike normal fabrics, they will burn or melt and stick to the wearer’s skin in a high-temperature environment.

Different flame retardant materials offer different benefits to users. And the consequences will be unpredictable when using protective equipment that is not suitable, so employers and professionals always need to pay attention to the use of PPE suitable for the work environment.

- What you need to know about the difference between flame-resistant and fire-retardant clothing

4 Using natural FR or chemically treated FR?

As mentioned above, there are two common and commonly used types of FR: FR obtained from natural fabric fibers and FR from fabric fibers treated with chemicals.

Natural FR is made from tightly bonded fibers such as cotton, modacrylic, and aramids that have many obvious benefits such as fire resistance and breathability. The ability of this fabric to absorb moisture is excellent. It can be used on hot days and the user will still feel dry and comfortable. For natural FR fabrics, at least one of the fibers will have its own FR properties.

FR fabrics are made from fabrics that have been chemically treated to increase their flammability before the manufacture of protective gear, which are usually based on cotton fibers mixed with polyester, paraaramid or polyamide.

- What you need to know about the difference between flame-resistant and fire-retardant clothing

The flame retardant ability of this fabric when FR-treated is almost the same as that of the inherent flame-resistant fabric, and the cost will not be as high as the FR fabric obtained from natural fibers.

FR is obtained from the heat resistance properties of natural fibers

  • good breathability.
  • Expensive
  • Enduring quality
  • It will be biodegradable, so it will be more environmentally friendly.
  • FR properties are permanent and non-abrasive.
  • make the user feel comfortable when using it.

FR obtained by chemical treatment

  • The ability to breathe is not so amazing.
  • It is cheaper than FR fabric obtained by natural FR properties.
  • Good quality
  • may be harmful to the environment because it is not biodegradable.
  • FR properties can be worn out after a long period of regular use.
  • If used on a hot day, the user will feel quite uncomfortable because sweat is not absorbed perfectly.

5 Things to keep in mind to choose the right FR

It is essential to choose to buy fireproof clothing and know the level of protection that protective gear can provide. Protective gear is graded based on thermal protection value (ATPV) or ARC rating.

This rating can show how much heat is transferred through the fabric in an arc flash environment, against which the protection of the wearer can be seen. The more clothing has a higher ability to prevent heat transfer, the more valuable it is to protect the wearer from the bad effects of high-temperature working environments.

The values used to determine the protection of protective gear are based on calories per square centimeter. The ARC ranking will be based on the ability to protect users across each level of risk and danger, with HRC1 being the lowest risk, and HRC4 being the highest risk, being the most serious. Manufacturers are required to rate arcs with their FR and must list these important metrics on their product labels.

- What you need to know about the difference between flame-resistant and fire-retardant clothing

As more layers of protective clothing are worn, increasing heat and flame resistance, situations arise where wearing three or more layers of protective clothing is required to tackle the most dangerous tasks. It is true that all clothing may be rated by ARC and ATPV, but not all protective clothing is rated by ARC.

6 Some disadvantages of flame-resistant

The use of flame-resistant clothes will sometimes also encounter certain limitations that users need to know to minimize the possibility of bad situations affecting their health.

In the most extreme case, the garment will catch fire, and even though it won’t melt on the wearer’s skin and it will burn for a minimal amount of time, it can still have serious consequences. Users need to ensure that flame-resistant clothes are safe enough by choosing for themselves reputable apparel brands.

The minimum safety level for flame-resistant clothes is HRC1 of 4, HRC2 of 8, HRC3 of 25, and HRC4 of 40. It can be said that layering FR clothing is an effective way to protect users from potential dangers. Even if this top layer is burned or damaged, the lower layers will also contribute to preventing heat and flame, which will help users avoid burns in bad situations.

Since flame-resistant clothes prevent the flame from burning on contact with the fabric but do not provide fire protection, it is important to avoid wearing synthetic fabrics under FR clothing because even if flame-resistant clothes do not catch fire, heat can also cause synthetic fabrics to melt and adhere to the wearer’s skin, causing burns and serious injuries.

That’s why it’s so important to wear the right clothes from head to toe. Flame-resistant clothes also cannot resist extremes like explosions, bullets, and other dangers while working that don’t coincide with their protective abilities. Professionals need to make sure they are wearing the correct PPE for the situation.

7 Meaning of flame retardant (FR)

Flame retardants are used extensively in industries such as oil and gas, mining, and manufacturing. Flame retardant is extremely necessary for employees and is also one of the personal protective equipment at work, especially for employees working in environments that may be at risk of exposure to explosion incidents, photovoltaic or dust explosions to minimize the risk of injury.

- What you need to know about the difference between flame-resistant and fire-retardant clothing

Although flame retardant clothing does not completely prevent skin burn injuries, it can provide protection and minimize the worst-case scenario. A growth retardant is added to the fabric mix during the manufacturing process to make the finished product capable of slowing down the combustion process. Thanks to this process, the fabric is fireproof and protects the user’s health and property throughout its entire life.

8 Industries that need to use flame retardant clothing

Protective clothing is necessary to protect the health of workers, and providing workers with necessary items to work is a very important thing to protect the health of workers. It is also one of the things that proves your business has complied with safety regulations. If your business includes the following types of workers, you should provide flame retardant clothing for employees.

  • Welder
  • Professional racing apparel
  • Air Force Pilot,
  • Craftsmen in the factory
  • Electrician
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Machine operator
  • Mechanics

9 Final words

Flame retardant clothing is extremely necessary for workers. The use of fireproof clothing helps to ensure worker safety. Especially for high-temperature work environments, good quality fireproof clothing is important to minimize the worst-case scenario for workers, and the use of unsecured flame-retardant clothing can also cause serious problems with inadequate protection and injury to workers.

Fireproof clothing is also one of the safety regulations in the working environment, so use fireproof clothing to both ensure the health of employees and increase the reputation of the business.

Henry Pham (Pham Quang Anh), CEO of DONY GarmentHenry Pham (Pham Quang Anh), CEO of DONY Garment

This year, we have found that many international buyers are seeking new suppliers based in nations outside of China and Thailand to purchase many goods and products, including uniforms, workwear, reusable cloth face mask, and protective clothing.

At DONY Garment, we are proud to welcome international customers, especially those based in the US, Canada, the Middle East, and the EU market to discover the professional production line at our factory in Vietnam.

We guarantee our products are of the highest quality, at an affordable cost, and easy to transport across the world.

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