When you think of rainwear, you probably don’t think about the flame resistant properties of it. The only thing to consider is whether the garment will keep water out. So why would we need flame resistant rainwear? Is it even possible for rainwear to be flame resistant?
If you’re asking yourself these questions, this is the article for you. In this article we’ll take a look at what FR rainwear does. We’ll look into the various fabric types used in flame resistant rainwear. We’ll also talk about which applications these garment types do and do not work well in. The details are from Bulwark because Bulwark is the leading brand in the flame resistant garment industry.
The purpose of flame resistant rainwear
Flame resistant rainwear protects the wearer from wind and rain when working in all weather conditions. It must also protect the wearer from workplace hazards such as flame exposures, flash fires or electric arcs. Most rainwear is also expected to provide high visibility protection. This helps the wearer remain visible under limited visibility conditions made worse by weather.
Since rainwear can be flame resistant, these garments follow two industry standards:
The first standard addresses arc-rated rainwear. These garments are tested and labeled to ASTM F1891, Standard Specification for Arc and Flame-Resistant Rainwear.
The second standard protects from flash fire. These garments are tested and labeled to F2733, Standard Specification for Flame Resistant Rainwear for Protection against Flame Hazards. Most of the rainwear that meets the requirements of F2733 also provides some protection against hot liquid splash hazards. Certain rain suits are tested and rated to both flash fire and arc hazards.
Fabrics used in flame resistant rainwear
Safety in the workplace is paramount. It’s critical to know what goes into the fabric that makes the workwear. Flame resistant rainwear is in this discussion because there are different fabrics used in this style of workwear. Rainwear was always made with a non-breathable fabric to keep water from penetrating the interior of the garment. This is not always the case today.
The non-breathable fabrics are made by either single or double coating an arc-rated and/or flash fire-rated garment with a flame resistant and waterproof substance. This substance comes in the form of polychloroprene, PVC or some other non-breathable waterproof substance. There are also some products that are labeled as “FR” that use a Nylon substrate.
The flame resistant properties of this material are inferior to coated NOMEX fabrics. This is because NOMEX fabrics used in both breathable and non-breathable rainwear is inherently flame resistant. Laundering cannot degrade the flame resistant property. Laminating an arc-rated and/or flash fire-rated woven shell fabric to a waterproof breathable lining make breathable fabrics.
Applications for flame resistant rainwear
The list of applications in which flame resistant rainwear fits is quite broad. Think back to the purposes of flame resistant rainwear. Because flame resistant rainwear protects workers from electrical arcs, flame exposures and flash fires in outdoor settings, this encompases many industries.
More prominent ones include electric utilities and oil & gas operations. The electric utilities industry fits because workers are often working in inclement outdoor environments. They need the protection from the wind and rain outdoors. They also need protection from electric arc flashes because of their work with energized equipment. Workers in the oil & gas operations industry also spend a fair amount of time working outdoors. They need flame resistant properties in their rainwear because of the flash fire and flame exposures they could experience.
Flame resistant rainwear is not recommended for use around molten substances, welding operations, or in critical static control applications. To protect from a flash fire hazard, non breathable rainwear with a PVC waterproof coating is not recommended. There is an increased chance the fabric will melt to the wearer’s skin. Rainwear labeled ASTM F2733 will protect from flash fire hazards.
While Bulwark is the most well known manufacturer of flame resistant garments in the industry, there are other, trusted companies. The need to keep employees safe holds flame resistant workwear to high standards. If you’re looking at incorporating flame resistant rainwear into your uniform program, let us know. We would be happy to help you find the right product for your business.