FR means Flame Resistant and it’s used to describe specialized clothing that will self-extinguish when a flame is present on the clothing. FR dramatically reduces the potential of burns.
FR/AR means flame resistant and also arc-rated. Most FR clothing is rated for flash fire, such as clothing made with Nomex fibre. Other safety clothes are made with Ultrasoft fibre, which is arc rated for electrical-based fires. Wei's carries Nomex and Ultrasoft FR clothing.
The two most common types of fire are flash fires and electric-arc fires. Sudden hydrocarbon flash fires result from oil or gas mixing with air and combusting. Electric-arc fires can occur where an electric current leaves its intended path and travels through the air from one conductor to another, or to the ground.
Flame-resistant products (usually safety clothing) are designed to self-extinguish when a spark or flame touches the clothing. In contrast, flame retardant refers to additives that help make a product flame resistant, such as furniture, drapes or carpet. They are designed to slow down ignition or combustion and provide extra time for house occupants to hopefully escape a fire.
According to a US law firm, “every year, approximately 4,300 people in the U.S. are injured from clothing that ignites on or near open flames. On average, 120 people die from burns each year.” So, in the USA, every day about 15 people are injured from clothing that ignites, and every 3 days, someone dies from that cause. In 2021, in Saskatchewan, Canada, a welder’s clothing caught on fire and his employer was fined $65,000 for not meeting the regulations to provide approved FR clothing and ensuring it was worn on the job.
Your employer will tell you which FR safety codes in Canada apply to your job. Your employer is required by law (in Canada) to conduct hazard assessments of your workplace and review Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provided by material manufacturers to determine the applicable safety codes.Then, employers advise their employees what safety codes their clothing must meet. Check the codes listed in each FR clothing description on Wei’s Western Wear website. If you work at any jobsite where fire or spark are present, you are required to wear flame resistant clothing. Other job sites may have flammable items like dust in the environment so you must or should wear flame resistant clothing. Any processing facility for plastics or wood products or agricultural products can create combustible dust that could explode into a flash fire that could ignite clothing. Remember, it’s your safety on the line, so ensure you have FR bibs or other FR clothing to protect yourself.
Wei’s Western Wear carries a selection of FR coveralls, FR bib overalls, FR parkas, FR hoodies, FR sweaters, FR button-down shirts, and FR long-sleeve T-shirts. Contact Wei’s if you are looking for something specific.
Wei’s carries FR clothing from specialty safety companies that make nothing but safety clothing, such as IFR and Action West. Plus, Wei’s carries FR clothing by major clothing brands such as Ariat, Carhartt, Wrangler and more who have added FR clothing to their line-up.
Nomex and Ultrasoft are two top-level engineered materials that are inherently flame resistant. Nomex is used to self-extinguish flash fire flames. Ultrasoft is used to resist arc fires caused by electricity. These companies have constructed, tested and patented fabric fibres. Then, clothing manufacturers such as IFR or Action West buy these licensed fibres and use them to construct their FR clothing, and Wei’s stocks them for you.
Nomex® IIIA is a blend of Nomex® , Kevlar® and a static-dissipative fibre, made by DuPont. This offers additional protection from airborne static buildup. Wei’s has Nomex IIIA in clothing items by IFR, Action West and other brands.
If a fabric is inherently flame resistant it refers to the engineering of fibre molecules in Nomex or Ultrasoft where the protection does not wash out.
Yes, some companies dip their clothing into chemicals that provide limited flame resistance. However, this protection will wash out over time. The manufacturer should state on the label how many washes the treatment deteriorates. You do not want to wear it and think you are protected, then find out you are not protected at the worst possible time.Do you keep accurate count of how many times you wash your work clothes? Probably not. So, it’s better to buy FR clothing with inherently FR properties.
It’s not a good idea to mix non-FR clothes with FR clothes. A spark or arc might not ignite your FR clothing but may ignite your shirt underneath. Get full protection by wearing an FR shirt underneath.According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) Guide for the Selection and Use of Flame Resistant Workwear, "Inappropriate clothing around fire and explosion hazards includes untreated or light cottons, polyester, nylon and polycotton blends.”
Cotton is not flame resistant. It can burn, and you will be burned.
Some natural materials, such as 100% wool, are naturally resistant to fire, but at higher temperatures they will catch on fire and do not meet modern-day safety codes. And who wants to itch and scratch all day?Other common clothing materials are highly flammable, such as rayon and cotton. Others such as polyester may not be flammable at a lower temperature but will melt at about 500 degrees F (260 Celsius). They may be fine for your day off, but not at the worksite.
In the 1960s, aramid fabrics were created. Without getting into diagrams of chemical molecules, we can say aramids are inherently heat- and flame-resistant, which maintain these properties at high temperatures.With another chemical engineering change, aramids were produced that also have much better mechanical properties (tensile strength) than steel and glass fibres on an equal weight basis. This is Kevlar. Kevlar was the first aramid created for fabrics. Its disadvantage is that it will deteriorate under ultraviolet (UV) light. This means if you are working outside under the sun, the aramid fabric or thread will deteriorate over time. If your job site is inside, UV light has much less effect.
You might see modacrylic listed on an FR garment tag. Modacrylic is a modified acrylic fibre that is flame retardant and does not burn, and also has outstanding resistance to many chemicals and solvents. However its tensile strength and abrasion resistance is fairly low and is similar to wool. This means the fabric may be less resistant to tearing or ripping. Note, acrylic itself does burn, be sure you read the label carefully.
Inherently flame resistant fabrics are research, engineered, patented and licensed so they are more expensive. The flame-resistant (FR) properties of inherently flame resistant fabrics cannot be washed out or worn away, period. This means the flame-resistant properties of garments made of inherent fibres cannot be compromised. It is crucial for the wearer to know the flame-resistant protection is always there.
When fabrics are tested for safety rating NFPA 2112 certification, the test performed to establish the flame resistance of the fabric is ASTM D 6413, Test Method for Flame Resistance of Textiles (Vertical Test). This test is conducted before and after 100 launderings/dry cleanings. The fabric must pass all requirements after the 100 wash cycles to earn the certification.
CAT ratings describe the level of resistance the clothing offers in arc fires or high voltage situations. A CAT III rating is resistant to higher energy transients than FR clothing with a CAT II rating.
Great question, and here’s the answer, courtesy of DuPont: “There are ways to test it. Unfortunately, all of these test methods are destructive — there really is no way to test a garment to determine what its current level of flame resistance or arc protection value is, without destroying the garment in a flame or arc flash test.”
Do you have one set of FR clothing you wear every workday? Or do you have 5 sets, one for each day?Clothing with an NFPA 2112 certification should last 2 years, based on washing it once a week. If you wash it more frequently, or the clothing is compromised by mud and dirt, rips or bleaching, it will not last and may be unlikely to protect you as you expect. Always inspect your FR clothing, wipe debris off it and care for it correctly. Remember, when you wear something for years, it can get “worn”. Worn or thin areas, or cuts or holes, will not offer the same level of thermal protection in a fire. FR clothing with these issues should be repaired with the same certified FR material, or else replaced.
Correct washing and drying are very important to preserve the protection offered by FR clothing. If you do not wash and dry FR clothing correctly, the protection will be diminished and over time your safety will be at risk.Follow these steps: Preparation: Inspect your clothing to make sure there are no burns, tears or other issues. Wipe any debris off with a cloth. If your clothing is covered in mud or dirt then the FR material cannot do its job. If your FR clothing has splashes of oil or grease or paint on it, those are flammable and compromise the FR garment. They must be cleaned away. Washing: Wash FR clothing separately from other clothing. Wash in warm water (140F/60C) but never hot water, since hot water can deteriorate the FR protection. Do you have hard water? Use a water conditioner. Wash with synthetic liquid detergent only. Do not use powder detergent, which is made from fatty acids that can form an insoluble scum on the clothing and deteriorate FR protection. Soap residue must be washed away since it is potentially flammable. Make sure the rinsing is adequate. Do not use fabric softeners. Never use bleach, which will attack the FR protection. Make sure your detergent does not contain bleach either. Dry cleaning can be fine if the dry cleaner has knowledge about FR clothing and knows what they are doing. Drying: dry separately from other garments. Dry at a low temperature. Ironing: If you must iron, use a low temperature.