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Flame-Resistant Workwear: The Naked Truth

Flash fire burn injuries
Burn injuries caused from flash fire.

Here’s something to consider: in an industrial fire what would you rather be wearing?

A. Nothing but your birthday suit
B. Regular clothes
C. Flame-resistant clothing

The obvious answer is C. But what about regular vs. naked?  The truth is revealing...

According to DuraLabel, a Personal Protective Equipment provider’s research, there are 7,000 clothing-related workplace injuries each year due to fires. But more interesting is the fact that the most severe burns are not due to the intense flash fire itself, but due to the ignition of clothing: the burns that result as the clothing is melted onto the skin.  Areas that weren’t covered by regular clothing were often less badly burned.  Seems that going naked is better than wearing regular clothing, but all kidding aside, neither of these options are a good choice.

Flame-resistant workwear (such as coveralls, work pants, gloves, shirts, or jackets) provides the thermal protection needed to prevent these horrible incidents. They create a barrier that isolates the wearer from the thermal exposure. Flame-resistant workwear does not melt or drip, which gives the wearer time to escape from the danger and, as a result, reduce burn injury. The short duration of the flash fire often does not leave the worker much time to react. The insulation provided by the fire-resistant clothing can make all the difference.

Employers are required to provide personal protection equipment (PPE) as needed to keep employees who work with environmental, chemical, or radiological hazards protected. Bib pants and coveralls protect the legs and portions of the upper body. Work shirts and jackets serve to protect arms and torso. Fire-resistant clothing is a critical part of PPE for companies in these industries. The problem is, certain solids, liquids, or gases can ignite suddenly when the right mixture of air and the dispersed flammable substance is presented.

Whether it happens from an oil well flash fire or an electrical ground arc flash, the correct choice of PPE greatly reduces the level of burn injury.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (U.S.) states:

“The use of FRC (flame-resistant clothing) greatly improves the chance of a worker surviving and regaining quality of life after a flash fire. FRC can significantly reduce both the extent and severity of burn injuries to the body."

A flash fire can happen in the blink of an eye and often, workers never knew the risk was before them. For example, particle-sized charcoal ignited in 2010 at Kingsford Manufacturing Company while 4 welding workers were fixing a conveyor belt (Source: 4 Injured in Flash Fire at Pulaski, A simple spark from the welding torch ignited just a small bit of charcoal. However, the brief flash fire was intense enough to injure 4 workers, who sustained burns to their upper bodies. One of the injured men later died, having burns over 60 percent of his body.

Coveralls, bib pants, gloves, shirts and jackets also protect employees from hazardous chemical splashes, drips, or spills. JET Uniform and Supply provides workwear that is durable in both flame-resistant and non-flame-resistant materials to meet the demands of some of the toughest jobs on earth.