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FR Clothing Care & Maintenance: 3 Things to Know

Flame resistant (FR) clothing is considered “the last line of defense” in the event of an arc flash or flash fire, meaning FR clothing is there to protect you from injury when all other safety measures and precautions have been unsuccessful in preventing an incident.

If you or your employees are impacted by arc flash or flash fire hazards and wear FR clothing as protection, make sure your FR performs and protects as expected in the event of an arc flash or flash fire by following these simple steps:

1. Don’t use chlorine bleach

When laundering your FR clothing, make sure to read and follow the instructions on the garment label for best results.

A common type of FR fabric, called “treated fabrics,” undergoes a process during manufacturing that produces a chemical reaction resulting in permanent flame resistance. Chlorine bleach should not be used with FR clothing because chlorine bleach can break down this durable chemical bond between the flame retardant and the base fabric.

Bleach can also have a negative impact on color retention and fabric strength for all FR fabrics, whether inherent or treated.

As long as bleach is not used in the laundering process, and the other laundering instructions on the fabric label are followed, all FR garments provided by Tyndale are guaranteed to maintain their flame resistance through the useful life of the garment.

2. Don’t wear FR that has been soiled with flammable contaminants

Flammable contaminants—oil , gas, grease, etc.—can ignite during an arc flash or flash fire and continue to burn against the skin even though the FR garment itself will self-extinguish. If a garment is soiled with a flammable substance, it is important that the substance is completely removed before the garment is worn again.

If you are having trouble removing a stain from a garment, try applying detergent directly to the spot and re-washing. For difficult-to-remove stains, dry cleaning is also recommended. The most important thing is to not wear the garment again until or unless the stain is completely removed—particularly if it is larger than the size of a credit card.

3. Retire FR clothing if it’s worn out.

To know when a garment is worn out and should be retired from service, look for thin or “thread-bare” areas, unrepaired holes, excessive wear or abrasion—particularly on stress points like elbow or knee areas. Garments with damage like rips, cuts, tears, broken closures, or torn, open, or frayed seams should also be retired.

If damage is minor, stop wearing the garment until it is repaired. Repairs should be made using FR fabrics and components that are comparable to those used in the garment’s original manufacturing. Many FR suppliers like Tyndale offer repairs and complimentary FR garment repair kits to help maintain garments. Garments that are properly repaired can be safely worn again.

To comply with OSHA requirements, employers should regularly inspect FR clothing to ensure it is not in need of cleaning, repair or replacement before being used for protection on the jobsite. As part of the inspection, employers should also evaluate apparel to verify it is labeled as FR and for proper fit.

Tyndale’s FR Clothing Care & Maintenance Training Solution:

OSHA’s 2010 1910.132 enforcement policy memo for oil and gas and the Preamble to OSHA’s 2014 1910.269 ruling for electric utilities contain important commentary on OSHA’s overarching expectations of the employer and employee when it comes to caring for FR clothing PPE. To ensure you and your employees are properly protected for safety and compliance, view Tyndale’s FR Clothing Care & Maintenance video.

The user-friendly video covers recommended practices for laundering FR clothing at home and provides guidance on understanding when a garment should be repaired or retired from service. Key concepts are distilled into three key takeaways.

Have questions or need assistance? Contact Tyndale at 800-356-3433.

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