Flame Resistant Clothing Frequently Asked Questions
Flame Resistant Ratings & Category Levels
What is meant by the term FR (Flame Resistant)?
It refers to the ability of a material to self-extinguish upon the removal of an ignition source. FR is a short name for Flame Resistant Protective Apparel. Remember Flame Resistant Clothing is NOT fire proof.
What is Hazard Risk Category Level?
Hazard Risk Category is the level of arc flash protection clothing you must wear to protect against a minimum level of incident energy measured in calories per centimeter squared. Meaning, electrical equipment, depending upon the energy delivering capability, under fault conditions can cause an explosion, or arc fault of a certain level, again measured in calories per centimeter squared. That explosion can deliver a certain amount of heat to a certain distance. Each level, 0-4, is rated at a certain amount of flame resistance, again measured in cal/cm2. Each level is considered a category. Click here to find more info on NFPA® 70E and Hazard/Risk Classifications.
(Typical number of clothing layers is given in parentheses)
Arc Rating of PPE
|FR shirt and FR pants or FR coveralls (1 layer)||
|Cotton underwear plus FR shirt and FR pants (1 or 2 layers)||
|Cotton underwear plus FR shirt and FR pants plus FR coveralls, or Cotton underwear plus two FR coveralls (2 or 3 layers)||
|Cotton underwear plus FR shirt and FR pants plus multilayer flash suit (3 or more layers)||
What is an ARC rating?
A value of the energy necessary to pass through any given fabric, to cause with 50% probability, a second or third degree burn. This value is measured in calories/cm². The necessary Arc Rating for an article of clothing is determined by a Hazard/Risk Assessment and the resulting HRC. Usually measured in terms of ATPV or EBT. Simply put the ARC rating determines the protective characteristics of the fabric. The higher the ARC rating value the greater the protection. When the product is sold to protect workers from arcing faults, clothing manufacturers are required to indicate the ARC rating. Click here to find more info on NFPA® 70E and Hazard Risk Categories.
What is ATPV? EBT?
ATPV stands for Arc Thermal Protective Value, which is a rating of the Arc burn protection capability of a garment. The HIGHER the Arc Rating, the more protection a garment gives because it has a higher resistance to catching on fire. The ATPV is expressed in calories per cm2 and represents the thermal exposure from an electric arc that will create a second-degree burn in human tissue. If the ATPV cannot be calculated because the fabric breaks open, the energy causing the fabric to break open is expressed as the Energy of Breakopen Threshold (EBT). The higher the value the greater the protection. Click here to find more info on NFPA® 70E and Hazard Risk Categories.
What is NFPA® 2112?
NFPA® 2112 provides minimum performance criteria and sets clear guidelines for minimum design, performance, certification requirements and test methods for Flame Resistant garments for use in areas at risk from flash fires - such as those where flammable gases or vapors, or combustible dusts might be present. The standard calls for flash fire testing to be conducted at three seconds with a pass/fail rate of 50% total body burn under ASTM F1930 (Standard Test Method for Evaluation of Flame Resistant Clothing for Protection Against Flash Fire Simulations Using an Instrumented Manikin) testing protocols. Bulwark garments have been certified by Underwriters Laboratories to the requirements of NFPA® 2112, Standard on Flame Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire and Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Standard 155.20, Workwear for protection against Hydrocarbon Flash Fire. For more info visit www.nfpa.org. . Click here to find more info on NFPA 70E and Hazard Risk Categories.
NFPA® 2112 Compliant
Bulwark Products marked as NFPA® 2112 Compliant are Certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or other independent third party laboratories to meet the requirements of NFPA® 2112 Standard on Flame Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire, 2012 Edition.
How do I find the correct ARC rating that I need?
Bottom line is to verify with your employer as to the HRC Level and ARC ratings required for your job. Arc ratings are included on Bulwark garment labels and in the Bulwark catalog and price list. Typically an FR garment is chosen based on the employer’s hazard analysis because its arc rating exceeds the potential incident energy in the work environment. Click here to find more info on NFPA® 70E and Hazard Risk Categories.
Who decides the minimum FR standards needed for my job?
Only your employer can tell you what is required. It’s the employer’s responsibility to identify risk and hazards in the workplace with a hazard analysis and seek out appropriate protective garments and equipment for protection of workers. Click here to find more info on NFPA® 70E and Hazard Risk Categories.
How do I choose the correct Flame Resistant garments?
Remember verify with your employer the Hazard Rating Category Level and ARC ratings needed for your particular job.
Any flame and thermal protective fabric must provide the wearer with the expected degree of protection for the useful life of the garment. Garments are specified based on the employer’s evaluation of workplace hazards. Click here to find more info on NFPA® 70E and Hazard Risk Classifications. Protective garments, which function as wearing apparel for normal work activities, must be comfortable and durable while achieving appearance that is acceptable to both the employer and the wearer. Click here to find detailed descriptions of the fibers and fabrics currently used to manufacture FR work apparel. In addition to these general considerations, there may be other hazards present such as chemical or molten substance exposure. Finally, these multi-use garments must be able to withstand laundering to remove soils and flammable contaminants and be returned to service without excessive color loss, fuzzing/pilling (surface appearance change) or excessive shrinkage.
What key points should I consider when choosing FR garments?
Your review of fabrics should consider thermal protection, static resistance, comfort, durability, stability, employee acceptance, appearance, ease of laundry maintenance, color availability, and relative cost. You also need to be aware of any special circumstances, such as electric arc, molten substance, or chemical hazards. Verify with your employer the Hazard Rating Category Level and ARC ratings needed for your particular job. Click here to find detailed descriptions of the fibers and fabrics currently used to manufacture FR work apparel.
Flame Resistant Protective Apparel
Who needs FR clothing?
Anyone who works with a risk of ignition in the workplace. For instance anyone who works in a foundry or refinery environment, dealing with flam cutting and welding, firefighters, any one in an aluminum casing or petrochemical industry, as well as electrical utility and the chemical, oil, and mining industries.
Is there a need for flame resistant protective garments?
All fabrics made of untreated natural fibers and most synthetic fibers are combustible. It is normal and expected that they will ignite and continue to burn when exposed to an ignition source such as flame or electric arc. Because clothing constructed from these normal fabrics meets flammability requirements established by 16 CFR Part 1610, it is generally accepted as having no unusual burning characteristics. Resistance to ignition and burning is an abnormal condition of wearing apparel. When work environments or occupations pose a risk of garment ignition and burning, flame-resistant apparel should be considered and selected. Click here to find detailed descriptions of the fibers and fabrics currently used to manufacture FR work apparel.
How do normal fabrics react to ignition?
Normal fabrics and garments will burn away from the point of ignition with an increasing rate of flame spread and continue to burn after removal of the ignition source. Normal fabrics will continue to burn until they are extinguished or all flammable material is consumed.
How do FR fabrics react to ignition?
Flame-resistant (FR) fabrics and garments are intended to resist ignition, prevent the spread of flames away from the immediate area of high heat impingement, and to self-extinguish almost immediately upon removal of the ignition source.
Do FR garments prevent burn injury?
FR garments will not provide significant protection from burn injury in the immediate area of contact with the ignition source. However, flame-resistant garments do provide protection against clothing ignition and sustained flame spread. Remember FR garments are NOT fire proof.
What type undergarments should be worn?
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, states that non melting, flammable fiber undergarments may be used in conjunction with FR garments. Flame-resistant t-shirts, Henleys and base layer garments can provide additional wearer protection. Click here to find more info on NFPA® 70E and Hazard Risk Classifications.Top of Page
Is 100% untreated cotton fabric “flame resistant”?
No, there is a common perception that untreated 100% cotton fabric is somehow “flame-resistant”. This is simply not true. While heavyweight untreated 100% cotton fabrics may be more difficult to ignite, they can and will ignite and continue to burn if exposed to an ignition source.
Flame Resistant Fabric
What is meant by the "Life of the Garment"?
Flame resistant garments are generally made from either flame resistant materials such as those made from aramid fibers (including meta-aramids and para-aramids), melamine fibers, or those treated with flame resistant "FR" treatments such as Ammonia or Heat Cure. FR treatments can Wash Out over time, shorting the life of the garment. Because many garments are often laundered under industrial wash conditions, they must be capable of withstanding a number of such industrial launderings in order to have an acceptable useful life. It is generally considered by the purchasers of these garments that the garments must last through a minimum of 125 industrial launderings. However, Bulwark laundry care instructions must be strictly followed, any improper laundering will drastically shorten the life of the garment. Remember the FR protective treatment can wash out over time, diminishing the flame resistant quality of the garment, yet the garment looks good. Note: Nomex does not require any FR treatment, as it is an inherently flame resistant material. Nomex garments will cost more initially, however, because the FR protection will not wash out so the "life of the garment" is much longer.
What is meant by Ammonia Cure and Heat Cure?
Cotton or Cotton blend fabrics are made flame-resistant by application of a flame retardant. This finish can be either a phosphonium salt precondensate polymerized with gaseous ammonia (THPOH-NH3), or a heat-cured dialkylphosphonamide. These processes bind the flame retardant to cotton fiber FR for durability. Either process has little effect on fabric hand and performance. Among fabrics produced by the “ammonia cure” process are AMTEX® by Mount Vernon Mills, Inc., Banwear® by ITEX, Inc. and INDURA® Ultra Soft® by Westex Inc.
What is the best FR fiber or fabric?
There is no perfect flame-resistant garment system that meets all needs. Each FR fiber or treated fabric has certain properties that, depending on end use requirements, can be either benefits or shortcomings. Blending different fibers attempts to balance these properties for maximum fabric performance. It is important to be aware of these properties so garments may be selected to meet the specific requirements of a given application. Click here to find detailed descriptions of the fibers and fabrics currently used to manufacture FR work apparel.
What FR fabrics does Bulwark use for its FR work apparel?
Bulwark stocks the following flame-resistant protective garments: EXCEL FR Durable FR 100% Cotton EXCEL FR ComforTouch Durable FR 88% Cotton/12% Nylon Particle and chemical resistant FR Disposable non woven garments NOMEX COOL TOUCH 65% NOMEX/35% Lenzing FR blends COOL TOUCH 2 48% Modacrylic / 37% Lyocell / 15% Para aramid FireWear PBI Gold Tencate Oasis PVC/Kevlar/NOMEX rainwear. Click here to find detailed descriptions of the fibers and fabrics currently used to manufacture FR work apparel
Durable FR Cotton Blends 88% Cotton /12% Nylon
Blends of cotton and nylon are designed to increase abrasion resistance compared to similar woven and knit fabrics. Woven fabrics are constructed with a 75% cotton/25% nylon warp and a 100% cotton filling. The overall blend is 88% cotton/12% nylon. Knit fabrics may be made with an intimate blend of cotton and nylon, or by other methods like plating. These fabrics are made flame-resistant by application of a flame retardant. This finish can be either a phosphonium salt pre condensate polymerized with gaseous ammonia (THPOH-NH3), or a heat-cured dialkylphosphonamide. These processes bind the flame retardant to cotton fiber FR for durability. Either process has little effect on fabric hand and performance. Among fabrics produced by the “ammonia cure” process are AMTEX by Mount Vernon Mills, Inc., Banwear by ITEX, Inc. and INDURA Ultra Soft by Westex Inc. Many knit and fleece fabrics are produced by the heat cure process.
Effect of Acids and Alkalis
Cotton and nylon are resistant to alkalis and most solvents, but many acids will destroy cotton fiber. The fabric does not provide personal chemical protection to the wearer. Where chemical exposure is a hazard, specialized barrier garments should be selected.
Effect of Bleaches and Solvents
Cotton fabric is unaffected by chlorine bleach. However, repeated chlorine bleach launderings will destroy the flame-resistant finish. Chlorine bleach must not be used on durable flame retardant treated cotton fabrics. Detergents containing bleach alternatives (sodium perborate) are acceptable for home laundering. Industrial laundry detergents containing hydrogen peroxide must not be used. Effect of Mildew, Aging, Sunlight and Abrasion Cotton has relatively poor resistance to mildew, aging, and sunlight. Nylon in the blend improves abrasion resistance. Direct exposure to ultraviolet rays in welding causes actinic degradation resulting in fabric strength and color loss.
What garments are offered by Bulwark?
Bulwark offers a selection of flame-resistant industrial work apparel. These garments are designed to provide protection against clothing ignition and sustained flame spread by self-extinguishing upon removal from the flame. The insulation value, or thermal protection, is a property that further reduces injury potential. However, these garments will not provide significant protection from burn injury in the immediate area of high heat contact and protection can be negated by an overwhelming exposure. Most Bulwark flame-resistant protective garments are wearing apparel for secondary protection and are designed to be worn continuously in the work place. These garments are not intended for fire entry or structural fire fighting activities. They provide no personal protection from chemical exposures and should be removed immediately if they become fouled with a flammable substance. Bulwark garments are not designed for use in hazardous static control environments. Where such conditions exist, such as an oxygen rich or flammable vapor atmosphere, engineering controls are required to address the hazard. In any case, to prevent the possibility of generating a static charge, Bulwark garments should not be donned or removed in situations where static discharge may be a hazard.Top of Page
Laundry & Repair
How important is the cleaning of FR garments?
Proper cleaning and maintenance of any flame-resistant garment is essential to remove potentially hazardous soils and avoid a build up of materials that could mask performance. This includes flammable soils and greases as well as other contaminants such as build up of hard water ions that can coat fibers with flammable material. ASTM Standard F 1449 Guide for Care and Maintenance of Flame, Thermal, and Arc Resistant Clothing is a good general reference for care and maintenance of flame resistant and thermal protective clothing. Always follow garment manufacturer’s care label recommendations and other published instructions or recommendations. Click here to access the latest information on laundering FR on our website
Where can I get information on laundering FR garments?
Bulwark Care and Cleaning Information Bulletins provide laundry instructions for our flame-resistant protective apparel. Click here to access the latest information on laundering FR on our website or at www. bulwark.com. The Care and Cleaning Information Bulletins are also available from VF Imagewear Technical Services at 545 Marriott Drive, Nashville, TN 37214
Can Bleach be used when laundering FR garments?
No. Bleach should not be used when washing FR garments and fabrics because repeated chlorine bleach launderings will destroy the flame-resistant finish. It is best to replace bleach with detergents containing bleach alternatives. Industrial laundry detergents containing hydrogen peroxide must NOT be used either. Click here to access the latest information on laundering FR on our website
What if our cleaning procedures are different from the manufacturer’s recommendation?
To ensure continued flame-resistant performance, it is necessary to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for textile maintenance processing of each type of flame-resistant garment. Whenever deviations from manufacturer’s recommendations are necessitated by local conditions, testing must be conducted to ensure that the protective properties are maintained through the expected service life of the garment. Click here to access the latest information on FR laundering on our website
Are FR garments still effective if contaminated with flammable substances?
Flammable substances on FR garments will ignite and continue to burn on the surface of the FR garment. Flame resistant garments should be immediately removed and replaced with clean FR apparel if they become fouled with flammable material. If laundering or dry cleaning cannot remove flammable contaminants, the contaminated garments should be removed from service.
What is the best way to repair FR garments?
Minor repairs that do not affect the integrity of the garment should be made with like materials by sewing on patches or darning small holes. To provide continued flame resistance, garments must be repaired with materials that have at least the same FR performance characteristics as the original fabric and sewing threads.
Can emblems and embroidery be added to FR garments?
The question of garment identification and personalization is always difficult to answer. The only comment of the consensus standards writing organizations, such as NFPA and ASTM International, is that nothing on an article of clothing may increase the extent of wearer injury in case of garment ignition. No OSHA or military standards address this area. SFI, the race car driver’s association, has not addressed this issue. Bulwark does not recommend the use of non-flame resistant embroidery or emblem attachment to flame resistant garments. However, wearer identification is a safety issue in itself. In the final analysis, the end user must weigh the benefits of identification and personalization against the potential risk from using non-FR materials.