Safety Gear


At the Trading PostImagine what it would be like to get caught inside a building that’s on fire. Now imagine that building is a barn and there are animals trapped inside their stalls. Most of us would probably try to unlatch the gates to their pens and let them outside. How long we have would depend on several factors, including how much smoke has filled the air, but if you’re wearing flame-resistant clothing, you may be able to buy valuable time that doesn’t leave you as vulnerable to fabric melting onto your skin and giving you second or third-degree burns.

Have you ever narrowly missed disaster, on the job? If you regularly work in hazardous conditions that expose you to toxic chemicals or extreme temperatures, on a daily basis, you’re probably concerned with workplace safety – especially when it comes to your work clothes. When faced with open flames, heavy equipment, and harsh weather conditions, you need to come prepared for whatever may happen in order to prevent a preventable injury.

Flame resistant clothing

If you work around open flames or hazardous materials, it’s important to wear appropriate protective clothing. Flame-resistant materials work by providing a layer of thermal insulation and preventing the fabric from melting or adhering to your skin. Be sure to protect both the upper and lower halves of your body by purchasing both shirts and pants that are flame-resistant – not merely one or the other. Some of the materials to look for are Nomex, polybenzimidazole (PBI), Kevlar, and wool.

The two most common types of hazardous fires in the workplace are flash fires and electric arc flash. Flash fires are due to the presence of hydrocarbon vapors from an ignitable liquid or highly concentrated, finely-divided combustible particles; whereas an electric arc flash is the passage of electrical current through air that’s been ionized by an electric fault. Occupational Health & Safety identifies five major characteristics of flame-resistant clothing that helps protect the wearer: it self-extinguishes or resists ignition; it does not melt onto skin; it provides thermal insulation from heat; it resists breaking open and exposing skin; and it reduces burn injury and increases chances of survival.

Don’t let all this technical language and criteria distract you from other important factors to consider when in search of flame-resistant clothing, however. Other more rudimentary characteristics to keep in mind are comfort, fit, and style. Nowadays, there are plenty of retailers, both online and locally, that feature clothing separates like flame-resistant shirts that are both functional and stylish. As a general rule, fabrics like Kevlar, Nomex, and other synthetics are better-suited to serious flame-resistant outfitting than cotton or denim.  However, treated cotton has proven to be just as effective for less industrial environments such as cattle ranching or construction work – just be aware of the ‘shelf-life’ of the fabric’s flame-resistance, as some types of treated fabric are only projected to last through a limited number of washes (e.g. 75).

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