FR/AR clothing plays two distinct roles across three hazard “zones.”
Are you a March Madness fan? Chances are, you’ve never contemplated the similarities between the zone defense of your favorite basketball team and the “defense” that flame-resistant and arc-rated (FR/AR) PPE plays in mitigating thermal hazard risks in workplace settings. In either case, solid zone defense and FR/AR PPE do more than just one job. Much like a team of five defending the basket with the classic 2/3 zone defense, FR/AR clothing plays two distinct roles across three hazard “zones.”
FR/AR PPE, as part of a comprehensive protection program against thermal hazards, serves the dual purpose of limiting the thermal exposure time and providing insulation to mitigate burn injuries. No matter the type of thermal hazard, this clothing must offer self-extinguishing and insulating properties according to appropriate industry safety standards. These two areas work together to help reduce both burn extent (the overall body burn percentage) and severity (resulting second-and third-degree burns), thereby increasing the chance of survival should an incident occur.
Let us explore the two roles FR/AR PPE plays:
Self-Extinguish. Self-extinguishing is arguably the most important job. FR/AR PPE self-extinguishes upon removing an ignition source thanks to the FR/AR fabric. A hallmark of short-term thermal hazards, the ignition source is often a powerful yet fleeting force; however, once something is ignited, it can continue to burn long after the event is over. If you aren’t wearing FR/AR PPE, then your clothes can act as fuel and continue to burn. The self-extinguishing property, often known as flame resistance, is the most critical component of FR/AR PPE—no matter the thermal hazard you might face—because it makes the difference between whether your clothes burn or not.
When utilizing proven, branded FR/AR fabric in your protective apparel, this key characteristic is woven directly into the fabric and remains for the life of the garment. So long as the FR/AR PPE is maintained according to the manufacturer’s care instructions, the garment will remain flame-resistant.
This article originally appeared in the March 1, 2022 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
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