Let’s start at the beginning with a flame-resistant clothing definition. Based on the name alone, it might be easy to assume flame-resistant clothing is entirely or even mostly fireproof. Is that true?
As it turns out, not really. Flame-resistant clothing — often abbreviated as FR clothing — refers to any clothing items that are designed and specifically manufactured to protect wearers from potential intermittent flames and thermal exposure.
To break this definition down further, we can look at the specific ways in which FR clothing is engineered to protect the wearer from injury due to flames. These clothing items will not easily catch fire, and even when they do, they are designed to self-extinguish. If you get exposed to a brief, intermittent flame while wearing this clothing and your clothing catches fire, it will naturally extinguish itself. This ability causes the wearer’s risk of burn injury to plummet and can often provide the wearer with valuable time to escape the unsafe environment.
These attributes work together to provide a far greater chance of escape and survival if the wearer finds themselves suddenly in the middle of a flash fire, an electric arc or some other unexpected thermal problem that has the potential to cause injury. In situations like these, fire-resistant clothing can be the difference between being severely injured or escaping unscathed.
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, delineates specific guidelines. Any flame-resistant clothing required by a workplace will need to fall within these guidelines. OSHA stipulates any employee working in conditions where they may be exposed to flames, electric arcs or similar hazards must not wear clothing that “could increase the extent of injury.”
OSHA’s FR clothing requirements then go on to prohibit clothing made of rayon, nylon, polyester or acetate, unless the employer can prove they have been appropriately treated to withstand the conditions the employee may encounter during their work.