Types of FR Clothing:

A Comprehensive Guide for Safety and Protection

FR clothing is a broad term used to describe flame retardant or resistant clothing for use when there is a fire hazard.  These can be made from certain natural fibres such as wool and cotton that have less tendency to burn than man-made fibres such as polyester, they are then chemically treated to be made safe for use in flammable environments.  Some fibres are inherently flame retardant, such as Nomex or modacrylic, which can be used to make fabric for protective FR garments.  There are three main purposes for this type of clothing, and they should be worn in the following situations:

  1. Hot works, e.g. welding, brazing grinding etc.
  2. DESEAR or explosive environments where there is a risk of flash fire.
  3. When there is a risk of an ARC flash incident e.g. switch rooms or work near cables

EN Standards 

EN11612 – Limited Flame Spread

There are four main en standards which cover the range of FR clothing, and it is important to be aware of which one(s) are required for your specific hazards.  The standard BS EN ISO 11612:2015 specifies the requirements for protective clothing that offers limited flame spread, heat resistance, and protection against molten metal splashes.  This is usually specified in DESEAR, ATEX and Explosive environments.  There is also a slightly less robust standard BS EN ISO 14116, which verifies that the fabric will not burn after the heat source is removed but does not address conductive heat, convective heat and molten metal splash.  This standard tends to be used for hi-vis outer garments and has three indexes, 1, 2 and 3, of which only 2 and 3 should be used without additional FR clothing underneath.

What are the different types of FR clothing

EN1161 – Welding

If wearers of FR clothing are carrying out welding tasks, it is important that the garments meet BS EN ISO 11611, which covers additional protection which is required for the hazards of welding and allied processes.  The final standard applicable is the ARC standard IEC 61482-2:2018, which protects workers against the Thermals Hazards of an Electric Arc.   The Arc generates a high level of energy for a very short span of time (up to 1 second). The intense heat can create temperatures as high as 19,000°C, and it also produces electric shock, force, and large quantities of thermal radiant energy.

It is then very important to select the most appropriate garment for the tasks that are being carried out.  Coveralls can be very effective for welding and more heavy engineering tasks, but it is essential to ensure that they are correctly fitted, for example, sleeve, leg length, ladies fit etc. as there can be a safety implications if wearers have poorly fitted garments.  Certain roles find that two-piece options are more appropriate, especially in warmer conditions where there can be more ventilation and the option to reduce layers, providing that all layers meet the FR standard.  Sometimes the two-piece option can help the wearer to get a better fit as a different size can be selected for upper and lower garments, and again it is really important that sleeve and leg length is correct and that women have the correct ladies’ fit garments.  With two-piece combinations, FR polo shirts or T-shirts can be worn in the summer instead of the jacket, making them very popular in some environments.

EN20471 and EN13034 Hivis and Chem Splash

There are additional standards which may be applicable for wearers of FR clothing such as the Hi-Vis standard EN20471 and the limited chemical splash standard BS EN 13034.  The coverall and two-piece options do have the option to include these additional standards if risk assessments indicate that this is important.  Finally, the care of FR garments is critical to ensure that the garments perform correctly. Most importantly, they should not be contaminated with oil or flammable materials as this reduces the protection afforded.  It is also essential that washing and drying instructions are followed, as exceeding the temperature that is recommended can reduce the life of the garment and, in some cases, the protection provided by the garment.

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