Understanding FR Personal Protective Equipment

6 min read

FR personal protective equipment, or fire-retardant PPE, is an important option for many different situations. Firefighters are the most common users of this type of protective equipment, but it can be used by many others as well. Learning more about flame retardant clothing will help you to decide if it could help to improve the safety of your facility. If it can, you will also need to learn about the different options so you can ensure you have the right ones.

Types of FR PPE

There are many different types of FR personal protection equipment to choose from. Knowing as much as you can about the different options will help you to choose the best ones for your facility. In many cases, this will mean having a variety of different items that can be used in different configurations based on the work environment in a given day. Some of the general options available include the following:

  • Coveralls – Coveralls will provide protection from about the ankles up to the neck, and then down to the wrists. These are a great base level of protection for people working with fire or high temperature situations.
  • Parkas – Parkas are great for covering the upper body up to the neck and along to the wrists.
  • Gloves – Gloves are one of the most common types of flame retardant equipment. They can be used alone or with other items based on the level of protection needed.
  • Boots – When walking in areas with hot floors, through flames, or in a place where something very hot could be dropped, FR boots are a great option to consider.
  • Pants – Pants will cover the legs down to the ankles to help avoid burns or other issues.
  • Long Sleeved Shirts – A long sleeved shirt made of a flame retardant material can be a good base level of protection.
  • Masks & Head Coverings – There are many types of masks and head coverings that can provide protection from flame and heat.

Of course, there are a variety of other types of flame resistant personal protective equipment that can be used. The specific type that you want will depend on the environment in which it is used. Firefighters will want the head-to-toe protection since they are often going right into the fire. People just working with very hot materials, however, may only need gloves.

Benefits of This Type of PPE

When first thinking about the benefits of flame retardant PPE most people will assume that they are obvious. While it is true that helping to prevent the material from catching on fire is a major benefit, there are actually a variety of others. Most of the advantages are focused on improved safety for employees and the facility, but they can also help in other ways.

Some of the most important benefits of this particular type of personal protection equipment include the following:

  • Avoid Catching on Fire – The most obvious benefit is that it is much more difficult for this type of PPE to catch on fire, which will obviously keep the person wearing it safer. It will also make the area around them safer since they won’t be spreading the fire.
  • Protecting Normal Clothing – Normal clothing can get ruined from even a fairly small spark or arc flash. Having good FR PPE will provide protection to normal clothing as well as the skin.
  • Able to Work with Hot Items – It is often necessary to work with items that are very hot. Having the right flame retardant equipment will make this possible to do without putting people in danger.
  • Avoid Smoldering Materials – When something that is on fire or very hot comes in contact with normal clothing or even skin, it will often start to smolder. This means it burns in one place, causing serious injury. Fire resistant materials help to prevent this from happening.
  • Able to Enter High Temp Areas – There are many places in some facilities that are very hot, even if there isn’t any open flame. Good FR protective equipment will make it possible to enter these areas safely.

Other benefits will also present themselves based on the situation. The bottom line, however, is that anywhere that there is a risk of fire can benefit from having this type of PPE. It will allow employees and others to be able to not only be safe in their workplace, but also react to hazards in a way that will make the entire facility better off.

When Should Flame Retardant Equipment be Used?

Having the right personal protection equipment is an important first step. Making sure everyone knows when it should be used, however, is just as critical. All companies that have work environments where fire or high temperatures are a real possibility should have a procedure in place that says when flame retardant equipment should be used.

Of course, there is no way to list every possible situation where this type of thing should be used. Every facility will need to look at all the different situations that employees may be in, and make the right decisions based on what will provide the maximum level of safety.

It is also a good idea to provide all employees with training related to fire, sparks, high temperatures, and other related subjects. Making sure they are aware of the specific hazards associated with these things will help them to be able to make the best decisions possible when it comes to when flame retardant personal protection equipment is needed, and which types they should be using.

Sources of Flame or Heat

When evaluating your facility for possible dangers that could be reduced by the use of this type of personal protection equipment, you will want to identify all potential sources of flame or heat in the area. Every facility is going to have a different list of things that could present a danger in this way.

In addition to simply creating the list of potential fire hazards, you will want to rank them based on the likelihood of a problem occurring as well as the level of danger it represents. This will give you the ability to decide which situations to try to address first and which ones should be given the most attention.

While every facility is going to be unique, the following are some general ideas of where these types of dangers may exist, which should give you a good starting point when analyzing your facility:

  • Welding – Welding is an obvious area where fire can occur. This technique uses extremely high levels of heat to join things together. Fortunately, most welding areas are already equipped with good fire safety standards, but more can always be done.
  • Friction Causing Machines – If you have a machine or other area that uses friction for any reason, it could cause a fire hazard. This can include things like sanding materials and more.
  • Dust – Areas with lots of dust in the area are at significant risk of fire since the ignition temperature would be so low.
  • Electrical Equipment – Electrical fires are among the most common in the workplace. High voltage systems can cause fires fast.
  • High Pressure Environments – Many people forget that putting some things under heavy pressure can cause them to ignite. If you have machines or other items that generate significant levels of pressure, it may be a fire hazard.

Following Proven Practices and Regulations

Another thing to keep in mind when deciding how and when this type of equipment should be used is the experience and knowledge of others. Companies and regulatory agencies have been looking for ways to keep people and businesses safe from fires and related dangers for many years. This is why there are so many regulations in place from organizations like OSHA as well as best practices from industry experts.

Learning about the various ways that other companies in your industry use FR personal protective equipment will give you a great place to start. One of the best places to begin looking into his is by reading through the various National Fire Prevention Association, or NFPA, guidelines that cover this topic. This organization has been helping to promote fire safety for a very long time and they continue to be seen as the principal experts for fire safety.

Training Employees on Fire Safety

Most companies today have at least some type of fire safety program in place. This would include having fire suppression systems installed, safety training, conducting fire drills, and much more. Updating your fire safety plan to include the use of fire-retardant protective equipment is a great idea. This will give you a good opportunity to teach new employees, and refresh older ones, about why this type of equipment is important and how to use it properly.

Fortunately, most people recognize the dangers of fires and are more than willing to take them seriously. This makes fire training sessions among the most effective that a company can provide. Including this type of training in your overall workplace safety programs will help you to get great results that will last for years to come.

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