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For many industries, flame-resistant (FR) clothing has been widely adopted as a means of protecting employees from burn injury or even death. However, while the fire service community takes firefighter safety very seriously, it’s estimated that only a quarter of fire departments require flame-resistant station wear. This paper demonstrates why FR station wear should be considered an integral part of every firefighter’s personal protective equipment (PPE).
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Even the most comprehensive safety program can only mitigate—not eliminate—risk associated with the flash fire hazard. A reliable and controllable means of protecting employees from harm is the proper use of PPE. In a flash fire context, flame resistant clothing provides further protection and offers a foundational defense. This paper guides safety managers and purchasers in the selection, use, care and maintenance of clothing for flash fire protection that’s compliant with the industry consensus standard NFPA® 2112.
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Have you ever wondered how FR apparel came to be? Believe it or not, the earliest uses of flame resistant materials can be traced back to Ancient Greece! Needless to say, a few things have changed over the centuries. This whitepaper will take you through the history of FR fabrics, from the days of antiquity to its modern day applications.
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There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to the terms “treated” and “inherent” FR. What’s the difference? And, more importantly, does one offer better protection than the other? In short, the answer is no. But in order to understand why, we must start by understanding what these terms mean and why they were applied to FR fabric in the first place.
Definition & Engineering
“Inherent” FR refers to a fabric that has FR properties—defined by the fabric’s ability to self-extinguish when the ignition source is removed—by its very nature, as a core property. In other words, a fabric is FR without any additional finishing. “Treated” FR on the other hand, refers to a fabric that has been engineered with flame-retardant chemistry to have FR properties that were not present prior to the treatment.
There are 3 levels at which FR properties can be achieved:
• The Molecular Level – Synthetic derivatives are engineered at the molecular level to be FR (e.g., Nomex, Kermel, Twaron, Kevlar, etc.)
• The Fiber Level – At this level, flame-retardant chemicals are added to the process prior to the fiber being extruded (e.g., FR Modacrylics, FR Rayons)
• The Fabric Level – FR properties are permanently imparted into flammable fabrics through a combination of chemical and mechanical processes (e.g., FR Cotton, 88/12)
When these terms were adopted by the FR world over 30 years ago, they reflected the durability of flame resistant technology at that time. Back then, the intent was to imply that “Inherent” was superior to “treated.” Why? Because at one time, it was true. Cotton and other cellulosic materials are naturally flammable, so they do have to undergo a chemical process, or “treatment,” to impart FR properties. And these early “treated” garments did lose their FR properties over time and after repeated washings. Treated fabrics, prior to 1987, could not compete with aramids as a durable FR alternative.
Over the past 30 years, however, we’ve made dramatic advancements in FR technology that have blurred the lines between these two terms. “Inherent” and “treated” have become so common and so misused that the terms now create more confusion than clarity. Most popular FR fabrics today are blends of several different fibers, and this has created confusion on where and when to apply the current labels. Because “inherent” and “treated” refer to single fiber types, they fail to accurately represent today’s complex blends—which sometimes combine all 3 engineering levels. For example, what should we call a fabric that is 35% Aramid (engineered at the molecular level) and 65% FR cotton (engineered at the fiber level)? When a fabric is a combination of both inherent and treated FR fabrics, and with no rules in place about how to apply the terms, they become more confusing than helpful.
FR technology has come a long way. The fabrics in use today are far superior to those of just a generation previous, and the terms we use to discuss them must make the same evolution. The bottom line is, when it comes to selecting FR fabrics, the most important considerations should always be protection, comfort and durability. No matter which fabric you select, be sure that you can count on the FR properties to last, wash after wash. Bulwark offers an FR guarantee for the lifetime of the garment, on all of our products. To ensure your safety program does what it’s supposed to do: keep you and your guys safe.
OXNARD, Calif. (Feb. 19, 2018) — From fires and explosions to sharp objects, pathogens and dangerous chemicals, laboratories are home to a variety of hazards. To help promote lab safety, Workrite Uniform Company — a manufacturer of protective workwear, including lab coats — recommends following these safety tips.
1. ESTABLISH A COMPREHENSIVE SAFETY PROGRAM
Based on the hazards in your laboratory and the applicable safety standards and regulations, determine the equipment, procedures, emergency protocols and environmental conditions that will best facilitate safety. Be sure to document the program and complete ongoing audits as needed.
2. CREATE A CULTURE OF SAFETY
Once you’ve established a safety program, it is important to communicate all safety information clearly and ensure laboratory personnel and visitors fully understand the actions they need to take. Make sure that safety is treated as a top priority and that each individual has the safety resources they need and feels comfortable bringing up safety concerns.
3. FOLLOW SAFE WORK PRACTICES
Outlining safety procedures is one thing — following them consistently is another. Even basics such as keeping food out of the lab, storing chemicals correctly, practicing good housekeeping in work areas and washing your hands can easily be forgotten. Remember that skipping a step even once can have devastating consequences.
4. USE THE PROPER PPE
Personal protective equipment (PPE) can include lab coats, safety glasses or goggles, gloves, and beyond. Always ensure that the equipment you select is designed for the hazards present in your laboratory. For example, you may need lab coats that are flame-resistant (FR), offer chemical-splash protection (CP) or provide a combination of both (FR/CP).
5. REGULARLY RE-EVALUATE YOUR APPROACH
Even if you have a strong safety program in place and have gone awhile without an accident, it is still important to be vigilant. Stay on the lookout for potential safety issues as well as new innovations in laboratory safety, and continue to improve your program over time.
Workrite Uniform manufactures chemical-splash protection (CP) lab coats, flame-resistant (FR) lab coats and FR/CP lab coats that combine thermal and chemical-splash protection in a single garment.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have introduced FR face coverings, to help keep you protected from the virus without compromising your FR safety. But many of you have been wondering if it is safe to breathe through FR-treated fabric for extended periods of time. We’ve released a new technical briefing to answer your concerns.
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