Flame Resistant vs Flame Retardant Fabrics

The Definitive Guide To Flame Resistant & Flame Retardant Garments

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What Does Flame Resistant Mean?

Flame Resistant fabrics are inherently nonflammable – this means that the fibres the fabric are made up of have a chemical structure that is naturally resistant to flame and heat. Flame Resistant fibres limit the spread of fire, and will not melt, or drip, when exposed to a heat source such as fire or flame.

The flame resistance found in inherent fabrics can never be washed out or worn away, meaning that garments made from inherent flame resistant fabrics are very long-lasting.

Fabrics that are “flame resistant” must pass stringent tests, such as a vertical flame test, where the fabric is exposed to a heat source for 12 seconds and then removed to monitor the measure of flame resistance, after flame and afterglow characteristics. The greatest means of protection lies in the structural strength of the fabric, the threshold before it’s ignition and the quality of its self-extinguishing properties.

What Does Flame Retardant Mean?

A Flame retardant fabric is a material that has been chemically treated to give it self-extinguishing properties. This means that the fibres of the fabric become self-extinguishing and slow-burning to limit flame or fire spread on the garment.

Like flame resistant fabrics, flame retardant fabrics do not melt or drip, however, this technique of applying flame retardant properties can be done to any fabric. Many other common items such as carpets and furniture use the same method to become flame retardant.

The Importance of Flame Resistant & Flame Retardant Garments

In a high-risk environment, the use of the correct workwear can be the difference between escaping serious injury and saving lives. Flash fires are exceptionally sudden and usually short, giving workers little or no time to escape. The use of flame resistant garments gives workers extra time to escape and avoid serious injury in the event of a fire.

The extra protection that self-extinguishing, hard to ignite and non-melting or dripping garments offer can make a vast difference in a hazardous environment.

In most instances, flame resistant garments are considered to be much safer than the flame retardant alternatives. There have been many discussions about the toxic chemicals that can be found in flame retardants and their negative impact on our health, and even ecosystem.

The Impact of Washing on Flame Resistant & Retardant Garments

Flame Resistant Garments: Because the flame resistant properties are inherent, it means that they cannot be washed out or removed from the garment, or even damaged under exposure to chemicals in your workplace or the laundering process, making them a long-lasting option for workers regularly using such garments.

Flame Retardant Garments: May be damaged by the exposure to hazardous chemicals or some chemicals used in the laundering process, which means as the garment grows older, the less protection it provides and you cannot identify this from the garments appearance. Research suggests that after just ten washes, the flame retardant properties are reduced to zero on treated garments!

Browse Our Range of Flame Resistant Garments

Developed in conjunction with our wearers, the HAZTEC® Workwear range includes our renowned HAZTEC® Flame Retardant & Anti-Static Workwear range, specifically designed for the Petrochemical industry

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Are Cotton Garments Flame Resistant or Retardant?

Many still hold the idea that 100% cotton fabrics provide flame protection, and other hazardous elements which is not true as cotton as a fabric is still flammable. It is not self-extinguishing, and once exposed to a heat source it will catch fire and is unable to resist in the same way as flame resistant or retardant fabrics are.

The benefit of cotton in the fabric of FR garments is that it doesn’t carry the same risk of melting as polyester or nylon, however, it is suggested by research that it is more likely to catch fire, and henceforth not a recommended or suitable garment for wear where flame resistant or retardant clothing is required.

What Are The Benefits of Flame Resistant and Flame Retardant Clothing?

Benefits of Flame Resistant Garments:

  • The garments retain their flame resistant properties for life – they are unable to be washed out
  • They’re lighter than treated garments
  • Flame resistant garments are more comfortable owing to the more flexible weave of the fabric

Benefits of Flame Retardant Garments:

  • Ideal for temporary or topical work in hazardous areas
  • This makes them a less expensive option

While flame resistant and flame retardant garments cannot be guaranteed to prevent injury, they certainly reduce the risk dramatically, and in the event of an incident, wearing the right clothing allows the wearer to remove themselves from the hazardous area sustaining minimal risk and without the danger of the garments igniting, and if it does ignite, the self-extinguishing fibres will help minimise any risk of harm.

Do I Need Flame Retardant or Flame Resistant Garments?

Whether you need flame resistant or flame retardant garments depends on you, and your risk assessment or the expectations and rules of the sites or locations you may visit. For instance, some oil refineries, fuel terminals and other similar locations demand that the correct workwear and PPE is worn before even entering the site.

Your safety and your employees or co-workers safety is the highest priority. Remember, the cost of an injury on-site can far outweigh the cost of compliance and FR garments in fines, workers compensation and bad PR for your company.

What Fabric Are HAZTEC® FR Garments Made Of?

We use a blend of fabric called Modacrylic Plus+. The fibres are synthetic copolymers and are very strong, resilient, soft, and dimensionally stable. They share similar properties to acrylic, however, they do not combust and are difficult to ignite and will self-extinguish. They are also particularly effective in use on arc flash garments.

Our fabrics contain the Protex® brand of Modacrylic Fibres which is produced by Kaneka of Japan. This fibre is then woven into fabrics with the technical support of Waxman Fibres to produce the Protal® range of fabrics solutions which in turn is then used in the HAZTEC® garment range.

Modacrylic fibres do not make up the entire composition of the fabrics we use. They are combined with other fibres including Cotton, Antistatic Yarns, Viscose, Polyesters, Aramid Fibres. By adding these other fibres we gain other benefits to the finished fabric such as antistatic properties, dimensional stability, hi-visibility reflective characteristics and enhanced flame resistant performance.

EN Standards Relating to Flame Resistant & Flame Retardant Garments

EN ISO 11612 – Protective Clothing to Protect Against Heat & Flame

This EN Norm specifies PPE clothing for use when working where this is a risk that the garments will come into contact with heat and flame. It is divided into different categories where code letters (A, B, C, D and E) indicate which heat and flame requirements the garment needs to fulfil. 

These code letters represent hazards including radiant heat, convective heat and splatters of molten metal or aluminium. Code A1 and/or A2 is mandatory, and a minimum of 1 other letter is required in order to CE mark the garment. The code letters are classified at different levels where the highest number is the highest tested level.

The design of the garments is also a critical factor in garments certified to these EN Norms.

View The Full EN Standard Details Here: EN 11612

EN ISO 14116 – Limited Flame Spread

This European Norm is often used for lower-level Flame Resistant protective garments such as Socks, Rainwear and Hi-Visibility Waistcoats. It is divided into 3 classes, where Index 3 is the highest.

  1. The flame does not spread, there is no flaming debris, nor afterglow, a hole may be formed.
  2. The flame does not spread, there is no flaming debris, nor afterglow, no hole formation.
  3. The flame does not spread, there are no flaming debris, nor afterglow, no hole formation, the after-flame times of each specimen is less than 2 seconds.

It is important to note that Index 3 garments should be worn in conjunction with EN ISO 11612 garments, and Index 1 garments should not be worn next to the skin.

View The Full EN Standard Details Here: EN14116

Browse The range of HAZTEC® Flame Resistant Garments