Flame-resistant (FR) clothing is a type of personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to self-extinguish upon ignition. Though FR clothing can still catch fire, these garments will not continue to burn and effectively reduce the risk and severity of burns.
Flame-resistant clothing is not synonymous with flame-retardant clothing. Both kinds of garments will self-extinguish, and both will reduce the risk of burns, but the difference lies in the materials. The latter is made from chemically-treated materials to self-extinguish while FR clothing is made from a material that will naturally self-extinguish and is inherently resistant to flames. FR fabrics require specific laundering and maintenance to ensure they stay flame resistant and can be more costly than flame-retardant clothing, but fabrics naturally resistant to flames will not need to be replaced as often.
Additionally, FR clothing is not the same arc-rated (AR) clothing. AR garments like gloves, pants, and boots, were designed to protect the worker from electrical arc hazards and are rated based on the protection it provides. NFPA 70E requires employers to conduct an analysis, calculate arc flash boundaries, and determine the appropriate flame resistant and arc rated PPE. These analyses should always be completed to determine the Hazard Risk Category.
FR clothing is labeled with a Hazard Risk Category, established by the NFPA to specify the level of protection the garment offers; the higher the rating the more protective it is. For instance, HRC 1 FR clothing is typically a single layer of clothes like jeans and long sleeve shirt, but HRC 4 requires multiple layers of PPE and almost always includes coveralls or an arc-rated suit.
Flame-resistant clothing comes in a wide variety of styles and options. Thick, heavy-duty FR jackets are a great option in the winter, but there are also lightweight FR t-shirts to keep cool in the summer. This will not only reduce the risk for burns, but also protect the worker from heat stress and any cold-related injuries. Hi-vis FR vests and pants are a popular option on construction sites and there is even FR raingear to keep workers dry. It is important for the safety manager to carefully assess the needs of their facility, think about the comfort of the worker, and consider additional FR items (like gloves or a balaclava) for a higher level of protection.