Fire / Flame Resistant Workwear
Fire / Flame Resistant Workwear
Each year, hundreds of industrial workers are either killed or very seriously injured in flash-fire situations. This is due to working around highly flammable and explosive materials, a common fact in petrochemical, oil & gas, and chemical industries.
The main thermal hazards in industrial applications against which workers need protection are heat from the flames of a fire, molten metal splashes and heat of an electric arc. A few seconds can mean a significant difference between minor burns and life-threatening injuries in a flash-fire situation.
These needless injuries could have been prevented or minimized had workers been provided and wearing flame-resistant protective apparel. The survivability factor depends on the amount of second-degree and third-degree burns received. It can thus be said that the lower the level of total body burn, the chance of survival stands greater.
Flame Resistant Clothing
Flame-resistant clothing made from cotton and cotton/polyester blends is not flame resistant. Thus, they do not protect against the hazards of flash fires in the workplace. Such fabrics can compound the potential for burn injuries to personnel, given that they can ignite.
Moreover, certain synthetic workwear can also melt and drip onto the wearer’s body. Therefore, to gain protective qualities, some fabrics rely on certain special chemical additives into the very fibre of the material or a special chemical treatment on the fabric, which can provide some flame retardancy.
How Does Flame-Resistant Clothing Work?
Thus, there is often an increased requirement to provide and use flame-resistant workwear in the workplace, especially when there is an increased risk of fire, flashfire, arcing and explosion, irrespective of the industry that one works. This special workwear is primarily made from aromatic polyamide fibres, also known as aramid fibres.
Top Branded Flame-Resistant Clothing
Of the various flame-resistant fabrics available in the open market, the Nomex® brand manufactured by DuPont is a well-known and widely used material for inherent flame-resistant and flame-retardant properties. The Nomex fibre’s inherent flame-resistant property does not diminish during its life, nor can it be effaced through multiple washes or wear out.
Types of Flame-Resistant Clothing
DuPont’s Nomex® fibre belongs to the aramid family of fibres that offer excellent flame resistance properties, including dimensional stability, and suitable textile properties. Apart from the flame-resistance property, Nomex® fibre does exhibit excellent resistance to a wide range of hydrocarbons, industrial chemicals and organic solvents.
DuPont’s Nomex® fibre is primarily available in three distinct variants.
The Type 430 Nomex fabric is used in firefighter’s suits, including applications for electrical insulation, fabric coatings, and radiator hose lagging.
The Type 450 Nomex® fibre fabric is also used in firefighter’s suits and balaclavas, sewing threads, zipper tapes and industrial applications for hot gas filtration.
Type 455 Nomex®, commercially known as Nomex® III, the most widely known fabric, is used for thermal protective workwear due to its superior performance.
Type 462 Nomex®, commercially known as (Nomex® IIIA) is a staple blend of the Nomex and Kevlar fibres. Along with offering the same features of Type 455 Nomex fabric, Type 46 has static dissipation properties, given the added anti-static fibres in the material, thus effectively reducing the static nuisance and the apparent electric field strength.
Anti-static property is achieved through the addition of P-140, which is a proprietary static-dissipative fibre reduces static that is generated when fabric-to-fabric and fabric-to-surface rubbing occurs.
Nomex® III and Nomex® IIIA are primarily used to manufacture shirts, coveralls, pants, and general outerwear garments. They can be easily drycleaned or laundered conventionally at home in a washing machine or via industrial cleaning methods. Laundering causes a very minimal decrease in fabric strength, given the superior abrasion and chemical resistance properties of Nomex fibres.
Nomex fibre apparel is widely used in all industrial workwear in various industries such as oil & gas, marine, petrochemical, electrical utility, aerospace, metal furnace, military, aviation, emergency services etc. Nomex protective workwear is also used as a protective barrier against the intense high-temperature heat arising from electric arcs and flash fires. Nomex’s essential characteristic is its inherent flame resistance that is built into the chemical structure of the fibre, and it does not burn or ignite in air, neither does it melt or drip.
In fact, this protection is permanent, meaning it cannot be washed out or worn away. It thus serves as a protective barrier and helps significantly to reduce severe burn injuries.
DuPont NOMEX® IIIA’s effectiveness in protecting against serious burn injuries has been well-documented in various test laboratories, in-field tests, and real-life situations.
Upon exposure to intense heat, the Nomex fibre carbonises and becomes thicker. It forms a protective barrier between the heat source and the wearer’s skin. The protective barrier stays supple and flexible until it cools down, giving the wearer several seconds of valuable protection to escape from the fire.
Nomex Fibre Fabric Complies with Various Industry Standards
- NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the workplace
- EN 1149-3:2004 Protective Clothing – Electrostatic properties – Part 3: Test methods for measurement of charge decay
- EN 1149-5:2008 Protective Clothing – Electrostatic properties – Part 5: Material performance and design requirements
- NFPA 1975 standard for firefighters’ station wear
- ASTM F1506 standard for workers’ apparel as protection from electric arc exposure
- NFPA 2112 Standard on Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire
The Primary European Standards for Body Thermal Protective Clothing are:
For Heat and Flame:
- EN 531:1995 Protective Clothing for industrial workers exposed to heat (excluding firefighters’ and welders’ clothing)
For Electric Arc:
- EC 61482-1-1:2019 Live working – Protective Clothing against the thermal hazards of an electric arc – Part 1-1: Test methods – Method 1: Determination of the arc rating (ELIM, ATPV and/or EBT) of clothing materials and of protective clothing using an open arc
- EN-IEC 61482-2: 2020 Protective Clothing against the thermal hazards of an electric arc
For Small Molten Metal Splashes:
- EN 470-1:1995 Protective Clothing for use in welding and allied processes – Part 1: General requirements
- EN ISO 11611 Protective Clothing for use in welding and allied processes
For Electrostatic Discharge Hazards and Antistatic Properties:
- EN 1149-5:2018 Protective Clothing – Electrostatic properties -Material performance and design requirements
For Chemical Hazards – Low Volume Splash and Mist:
- EN 13034:2005+A1:2009 Protective Clothing against liquid chemicals – Performance requirements for chemical protective clothing offering limited protective performance against liquid chemicals
For Electrical Current Hazards (Low Voltages):
- EN 50286:1999 Electrical insulating protective clothing for low-voltage installations
For Environmental Hazards:
- EN 343:2019 Protective Clothing – Protection against rain
- EN 14360:2004 Protective Clothing against Rain – Test method for ready – Made Garments – Impact from above with high energy droplets
- EN 342:2018 Protective Clothing – Ensembles and garments for protection against cold
- EN 14058:2017 Protective Clothing – Garments for protection against cool environments