What is the Most Protective FR Clothing?

Avoiding Heat Stress in FRC

We often get questions on or recommendations for the “most protective” FRC clothing. However, as you’ll see in this blog post, parity in protection points to the growing importance of other garment qualities leading to employee-level choice.

The Electric Industry

The utility industry innovated approaches to calculating the potential hazard to a high degree of accuracy. This industry supported its innovation by creating products that suit the needs of a variety of different hazards. Today, most companies have voluntarily moved ahead to estimating the hazards their workforce faces and supplying clothing that protects their workers.

Perhaps the defining evolution in the utility industry in the 2000’s was the overarching realization that the vast majority of fabrics provide similar arc protection. As shown in the table below, because the fabrics listed are all of similar weight, each provides about the same level of protection as the others made by different manufacturers:

Woven Shirt Fabric

Arc Rating

7 oz. Westex UltraSoft®

8.7 cal

7 oz. Mount Vernon Amtex™

8.6 cal

7 oz. FLF FRMC®

9.1 cal

7 oz. Tecasafe® Plus

8.4 cal

6 oz. Milliken Amplitude®

8.7 cal

7 oz. DuPont™ Protera®

8.5 cal

6 oz. Tecgen®

8.9 cal

6 oz. Spentex®

9.2 cal

While this might be true in the electric industry, how does this translate into the newly booming oil and gas markets?

The Oil & Gas Industry

Similarities can be seen between the current petroleum industry and the utility industry in the 1990’s. Right now there may not be enough knowledge for the petroleum industry to properly protect workers. Short-term attempts in protection could cause undue cost and worker discomfort without actually protecting employees.

Although the hazard assessment and testing procedures are not as sophisticated for flash fire as they are today for arc flash, the existing consensus standards point to a similar parity in protection (1).

Woven Shirt Fabric

Flash Fire Body Burn

7 oz. Westex UltraSoft®

15%

7 oz. Mount Vernon Amtex™

9%

7 oz. FLF FRMC®

16%

7 oz. Tecasafe® Plus

15%

6 oz. Milliken Amplitude®

41%

7 oz. DuPont™ Protera®

37%

6 oz. Tecgen®

26%

6 oz. Spentex®

18%

Different fabrics have different responses to the intensity of heat and duration of exposure. There is a high correlation between protection and fabric weight. Heavier fabrics hold more heat in and block more heat from the hazard. Lighter fabrics let more heat escape and allow more heat to pass from the hazard through to the wearer.

How to Select the Best FR Clothing

Once you take a look at the parity in protection between competing fabrics, it becomes clear that other factors should be considered.

1. Evaluate fabrics based on traditional methods:

  • Comfort
  • Softness
  • Durability
  • Style or fit
  • Breathability, and

2. Offer employee-level choice between multiple fabrics, as many of the evaluation factors are subjective and vary from individual to individual.

Ultimately, employees are often more comfortable as a result of a choice program. By allowing your workers to choose their apparel based on a wide selection of available styles and personal fit, but still meeting company safety standards and industry regulations, you’re choosing a program that directly contributes to your company’s bottom line.

For more information on Tyndale’s CHOICE program, please visit www.tyndaleusa.com, or see our previous blog post on A Choice Program: The Most Important Factor in Your Employees’ FR Clothing.

References for this post were accessed December 2013:

(1) NFPA 2112: Standard on Flame Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire cites ASTM F1930 Standard Test Method for Evaluation of Flame Resistant Clothing for Protection Against Fire Simulations Using an Instrumented Manikin with a 3 second exposure at 2 cal/second.

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