Flame Resistant FAQs

FR clothing frequently asked questions

Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions about flame resistant clothing and materials.

What does FR stand for?

Flame Resistant. It refers to the ability of a material to self-extinguish upon the removal of an ignition source.

What does FRC stand for?

Flame Resistant Clothing. It is quite common that safety minded customers refer to Safety Garments or Flame Resistant Apparel simply as “FRC.” It is also quite common to see these letters in bids or quotes for safety garments.

Who wears Flame Resistant (FR) clothing?

People who work in hazardous environments that may involve the following hazards: Electric Arc (electricians, electric utility lineman, etc.), Flash Fire (refinery, chemical and pharmaceutical workers, etc.) Combustible Dust Explosion (workers in the paper and pulp industry, food processing, paint, and many more industries). Plus ANY workers who come in contact with energized electrical equipment.

What is ATPV?

ATPV stands for Arc Thermal Performance Value, which is a value attributed to materials that describes their performance to exposure to an electrical arc discharge expressed in cal/cm2. The higher the number, the more protection.

Where do I find a garment's Arc Ratings?

Arc Ratings can be found on many garment labels or are available from your work clothing supplier. Typically Flame Resistant clothing is chosen based on the employer's hazard analysis, which determines the potential incident energy in the work environment.

What are PPE Categories?

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) categories are specified in the NFPA 70E safety standard, based on specific job tasks. Four categories range from PPE category 1, that allows single-layer FR arc-rated shirts, pants or coveralls, up to Category 4, that requires a FR arc-rated shirt and pants, plus a double layer switching coat and pants. (NOTE: As of the 2015 edition of NFPA 70E, all garments for PPE 1 through 4 MUST be Arc-Rated. Older editions of the standard allowed for "layering" solutions using 100% cotton, non-FR T-shirts worn under rated FRC.)

What level of FR clothing protection is typically needed?

Flame Resistant clothing is usually chosen based on an employer's own hazard analysis, which determines the right garments for the potential incident energy exposures in a given work environment. Taking into account NFPA standard 70E, roughly 90% of all electrical trade workers generally fall into Category 1 and 2, meaning they require FRC with an ATPV rating of 8 or higher. Category 1 has a minimum arc rating of 4.

What is Tecasafe® PLUS and why haven't I heard about it before?

Tecasafe Plus from TenCate Protective Fabrics is one of the newest fabric innovations in Flame Resistant technology. You get all the benefits of FR cotton, including higher ATPV ratings and softer, more comfortable fabric. Tecasafe Plus is “inherently” Flame Resistant, combining the best features of all fabric options. Tecasafe Plus is a blend of three fibers, combining the best attributes of the three (flame resistance, strength, comfort).

What is Combustible Dust?

According to OSHA's Safety & Health Topics Combustible Dust website, combustible material (and some materials normally considered noncombustible) can burn rapidly when in a finely divided form. If such a dust is suspended in air in the right concentration, it can become explosive. Such incidents have killed scores of employees and injured hundreds over the past few decades.

For more information, view the Combustible Dust FAQs & Resources.

Are CXP Nomex® and Nomex® the same?

Yes and no. Dupont is the sole manufacturer of Nomex® fiber. CXP Nomex® from Milliken is manufactured using a patented process in which traditional Nomex® IIIA fiber is combined with Kevlar using a special process for a noticeably softer and more comfortable wear than traditional Nomex®, but retains all the protective quality levels.

Are Indura® and UltraSoft the same?

No… while both fabrics are from the same fabric converter (Westex), they are different. Both are great products, both are FR Cotton and both are FR treated, but they are significantly different. Indura® is chemically treated 100% cotton. UltraSoft is a chemically treated blend of 88% Cotton and 12% Nylon woven together to make the garment much more durable and comfortable. This makes the garment last longer through industrial laundering and increases the garments' ATPV or Arc Rating.

Isn't Nylon flammable or meltable?

Yes… but in the cases of 88/12 FR Fabric, like UltraSoft, it's a very small amount blended or woven tightly on the inside of FR Cotton Fabric. The combination produces an excellent product for maximum protection.

Is it “the law” that some workers are required to wear Flame Resistant Clothing (FRC)?

That depends on how the company (employer) interprets the law. The OSHA General Duty Clause states: “the clothing cannot contribute to an employee's injury.” In the case of an electrician or utility lineman, polyester blended clothing (which will burn, melt and drip at a low temperature) can certainly contribute to the worker's injury. Many employers choose FRC for their workers simply because it is the right thing to do to protect their workers while reducing their own liability.

Is 100% cotton a “safety” fabric?

NO. While 100% cotton offers better protection than 65/35, cotton fabric can and will ignite and continue to burn if exposed to an ignition source.

Can Flame Resistant clothing “lose” their Flame Resistant properties after many industrial washings?

Some can. But UniFirst offers only fabrics that are protective for the life of the garment…either inherently or via special fiber treatment. In the case of FR treated cotton, certain detergents are harmful to the FR treatment. While these harmful detergents are not found in our Industrial Wash formulas, this makes a great case for a fully managed uniform service from UniFirst. In the case of home washing, our inherent FR fabrics have no home washing concerns.

Is one FR fabric or garment better or safer than another?

NO. They all have their proper place in the safety market, though one may be preferred over another depending on the application and the garment specifications.

Can FR clothing be washed at home or is that not a good idea?

It is always best to allow a professional industrial laundry service provider to care for these garments. Chlorine bleach and hydrogen peroxides found in some detergents can degrade the FR properties. Additionally, our industrial laundering methods ensure that we remove ALL potentially flammable materials and soils that may build-up on the surface of these safety garments. NOTE: with “inherently” Flame Resistant fabrics (like Tecasafe Plus & CXP Nomex®), there is less reason for home laundering concerns.

Are there any other reasons that FR garments should be rented or leased and professionally maintained instead of home washed?

Yes, take repairs for example. UniFirst repairs FR garments with like FR mending and repair materials. And employers should also consider size changes for employees that may require alterations or replacements.

Is UniFirst Armorex FR® clothing good for ALL hazardous FR needs?

No… UniFirst offers other options for SPECIFIC industries. One example of this is for the molten aluminum metal industry. There are specific fabrics that resist or shed molten aluminum called Vinex® and Oasis. These fabrics are made specifically to protect against molten aluminum. Vinex® is made by Westex while Oasis is made by Tencate.

I've seen workers wearing FRC, which is good. BUT these folks wore short sleeve shirts. Isn't that dangerous?

Yes. These workers are taking the risk of having their arms severely burned in the event of an accident. It's quite simple: the more “coverage” that you have, the safer you will be.

My company purchases our FRC directly from FR garment manufacturers… why rent or lease these garments?

With rent or lease, there's virtually no upfront investment. Renting or Leasing FR garments eliminates the capital investment of purchasing FR safety garments. UniFirst will repair or replace damaged garments, reducing costs. We use only the detergents and washing procedures that are recommended for FR garments. UniFirst manages the procurement and receiving process of these expensive garments. There are many advantages of having us do what we do best. It's called: SERVICE.

For additional information about UniFirst FR apparel, call us at (800) 455-7654.


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