Your FR Workwear FAQ’s Answered

We receive lots of great questions about choosing FR workwear and wanted to share some of the most common questions and answers with you! Have more questions? Comment below and we will answer them!

What is the difference between inherent and treated FR fabrics?

Inherent fabrics naturally have FR properties, they are FR without any additional finishing or treatment with the ability to self extinguish.

Treated FR fabrics use an additive such as chemicals to make the fibers have FR properties. 

Interested in learning more?  Check out our blog on the difference between inherent and treated fabrics and what it means for your safety program: https://goodfishcoveralls.com/the-difference-between-inherent-and-treated-fabrics-and-what-it-means-for-your-safety-program/

What is the difference between AR and FR?

Arc Rated (AR) is specific to working on energized parts and potential exposure to electrical current. AR is measured by ATPV (Arc Thermal Performance Value), the higher the number the greater the protection. 

All Arc Rated is Flame Resistant, however not all Flame Resistant is Arc Rated. Some people refer to AR as PPE 2, formerly HRC 2. 

Flame Resistant (FR) is commonly known as PPE 1 and is commonly used on sites where electrical hazards are not present.

How do I clean my FR garments?

Depending on your work application garments can be cleaned in one of two ways: industrial laundering or dry cleaning. 

Industrial laundry (wet wash) is good for light dirt based soils (mud, dirt, salt stains, and light oil). 

Dry cleaning is critical for oils and bitumen to maintain the integrity of your workwear. 

Ensure to follow clean care instructions on the label of your garment, avoid using any bleach and fabric softeners as those can alter the FR properties.

Does laundering affect the performance of an FR garment?

Contrary to popular belief laundering given the proper care does not affect the FR properties of a garment. Most fabric suppliers guarantee the FR properties for the life cycle of the garment, meaning the garment will need to be replaced due to wear and tear long before it loses its FR integrity.

What should I wear underneath my FR garments?

Base layers are an important component in layering, particularly in cooler climates. It’s important to wear a base layer that will provide protection in case of a flash fire incident. Materials such as 100% cotton, or FR base layer products are the only garments that should be worn underneath to ensure your safety. Synthetic fabrics such as spandex and polyester can increase injury during a flash fire or arc flash exposure as these fabrics can melt to your skin and cause catastrophic injury.

Guide to FR Safety Regulations in Canada

FR workwear protects employees on the job

 

The Canada Labor Code is aimed at addressing the health and safety concerns of employers and employees alike. Both parties are required to abide by the provisions of the Code and nurture a safe workplace. Safety concerns are likely to assume greater significance at certain workplaces with dangerous conditions including sectors such as oil, petroleum, natural gas, coal, and minerals industries. Food processing plants and utilities are also prone to different hazards. Here, there is a need for different types of protective gear including clothing with flame-resistant (FR) properties. Such protective equipment can safeguard workers from the dangers of hydrocarbon flash fires, electric arc flashes, and other similar hazards.

Evaluating Risk

FR apparel if of different types and the industry sector as well as the job role will determine what is required. A detailed risk hazard assessment of the workplace can help you make this decision. Failure to do so can leave workers unprotected or at the least under protected, making them vulnerable to fire hazards.

Features of FR Gear

One good way of ensuring that the workwear you are considering for purchase is worthy, is by checking for the Canadian General Standards Board label stating that the item is flame-resistant. This attests to the garment’s level of flame-resistance, its insulation, top notch fabric integrity, and anti-static properties. FR workwear will be made of fibers that are inherently flame-resistant or those with flame retardant finishes. 

Selecting and Buying Appropriate Apparel  

According to the Canadian General Standards Board, FR workwear offering protection against flash fires is subject to CGSB-155.20 or NFPA 2112 Standard on Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire. For protection from electrical fires, garments should meet the American standards NFPA 70E, while for rainwear it is ASTM F2733. Additionally, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) specifies that FR apparel should meet the following criteria:

    • Cover the upper and lower body as well as any flammable layers beneath
    • There must be a layer of air between skin and the fabric, it should not be tight-fitting 
    • Logos or reflective stripes must be made of FR material or be eliminated all together
    • The manufacturer bids must include substantiation of certification for the protective apparel
    • Every bid must be compared against the purchase specifications
    • If there are any additional specifications as regards design and performance, those must also be included
    • The purchased garments must be inspected to determine if they meet purchase specifications
    • Garments that do not meet the purchase specifications must be returned to the manufacturer
    • Instructions, warranties, and other documentation accompanying the apparel must be checked

Also, it is important to keep in mind that it is always good to source your FR garments in North America. With foreign made garments you do not know if you are getting the same garment that has been tested. 

In the unfortunate case of an explosion or fire it is difficult to hold foreign entities liable for injuries or poor garment performance. Therefore it is best to deal with North American based materials and have the same company supply, maintain, and repair your FR garments.

Gloves are also part of FR workwear

Source: Unsplash.com

Appropriate Use of FR Garments

For FR workwear to be effective, it is essential that the garments be used the right way. Instructing employees and training them in the right way of handling FR apparel is essential. Firstly, you must earmark the locations and conditions where FR garments are to be used. Follow it up with:

  • All relevant information on the correct way of wearing and removing protective apparel
  • Tips on care and maintenance of the garments as suggested by manufacturer along with any manuals, instructions provided
  • Guidance on limitations about the use of the garment
  • Any information on what over garments or under garments are to be worn along with the FR apparel 
  • When FR garments require repairs, they need to be done in accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines
  • Also, any protective clothing that is no longer serviceable must be replaced 

FR workwear can protect from fire hazards

Cleaning of FR Apparel

Appropriate care and maintenance of FR garments can help extend their life and ensure that the fabric retains its unique properties. New FR apparel must be washed before being worn for the first time. Afterwards, it should be cleaned regularly to avoid build-up of contaminants that can decrease its flame resistance. Garments that are heavily contaminated are likely to require special cleaning. The CAPP recommends that such contaminated workwear be cleaned in facilities that are qualified and equipped to do so. Professional laundering is one good way of ensuring that the quality of the fabric is not compromised in any way. Organizations such as Goodfish that offer specialized cleaning services for FR apparel make use of the latest technology to remove dirt and contaminants effectively.  

It is important to remember that FR workwear is intended for unplanned or accidental exposure to intense heat for a mere seconds – three second or less. Thus, for workplaces that involve exposure to higher levels of heat for a much longer duration, you will require FR garments of wholly different composition.

Buy the Best PPE Workwear for Your Employees

PPE workwear is commonplace in several industries

Choosing personal protective equipment (PPE) workwear for employees may seem an easy task. However, it is not as simple as it appears and requires a certain amount of research and assessments. The type of PPE your employees require will depend on the environment that they work in. Construction, oil and gas, mining, road work, and firefighting are just some sectors that require workers to don appropriate PPE. Before you buy safety gear for your employees, you need to evaluate the hazards that they are exposed to at the workplace on a daily basis. This is because not all workers require the same type of protection. 

Assessing Workplace Hazards

Take a good look at the industry you are involved in and pinpoint the major dangers that your workers encounter every day. It can include operating heavy machinery, tools they handle, and electrical hazards. Working in high temperatures, the possibility of chemical exposure, and dusty surroundings are some common workplace hazards. Other dangers that might be lurking include falling objects, sharp objects, and light radiation that can impact the vision such as welding, cutting, and brazing.

What constitutes PPE? 

The term PPE encompasses a wide range of apparel and accessories. Protective coveralls, high visibility jackets, safety helmets, ear plugs, heavy duty gloves, safety harnesses, and respiratory protective equipment are all considered PPE. The term PPE excludes regular uniforms, clothing worn to ensure food hygiene, and portable devices such as smoke or gas detectors.

Helmets are also PPE workwear

Choosing the Best PPE for Your Employees

There are hundreds of varieties of PPE workwear available in the market and making the right choice can appear a daunting one. The first step is to broadly categorize PPE as high visibility and flame-resistant. Then determine which of these is essential at your workplace. Once you have figured that out, take a look at the following checklist before you arrive at a decision.

PPE Quality – The PPE workwear you choose must adhere to local quality and safety standards. It should offer adequate protection against specific workplace hazards and last a long time. Look for certifications from reputed authorities and assess if the workwear or accessory indeed provides the level of protection that it claims to offer. For instance, check if goggles used in welding or spraying chemicals have a wraparound design to ensure that stray sparks and accidental sprays do not reach your workers’ eyes.

Budget – Draw up a budget beforehand and then make it a point to stick to it without compromises on quality. Some PPE workwear may appear to be priced ridiculously low. These are best avoided because low prices can often translate into inferior quality or garments that are not certified to meet safety requirements. Find a good wholesaler who can offer you quality workwear at reasonable prices.

Ease of Use – Choose PPE workwear that is made of breathable fabric, especially if your employees have to bear extreme weather conditions on a regular basis. See if the fabric and design make for a comfortable fit. Ill-fitting PPE workwear can lower productivity of your workers.

 Firefighting is an example of a sector needing PPE workwear

Check Durability Find out about the average lifespan of the PPE you choose. Proper care and maintenance of PPE can significantly increase its lifespan, thus saving you a bundle. The right type of cleaning process will ensure that the PPE lasts for a much longer time. Also, ensure that the varied PPE items work well when used together. Take for instance, safety glasses and heavy duty gloves for welding.

What to Look for in PPE Provider?

An experienced PPE manufacturer will be made aware of the existing safety standards with regards to PPE. Choose someone who shares your values and believes in open dealings would be an ideal choice. A manufacturer who offers a great deal on your order without any compromise on quality would definitely be a good choice. A suitable PPE provider would be one who believes in keeping up with the times by updating their offerings every now and then. 

Remember that getting the best PPE workwear for your employees does not absolve you of the responsibility for ensuring a safe workplace. This move must be supported by relevant work practices along with relevant administrative and engineering controls. It includes training employees in proper use of PPE as well as its maintenance and care. Apart from this, cleaning and repairs are best left to the experts such as the professionals at Goodfish.

Top 5 Laundering Tips for Workwear

Care must be taken when cleaning workwear

Workwear requires the same type of care and maintenance as your other clothing. This is especially true of protective gear such as flame-resistant (FR) apparel. Cleaning workwear the right way will help retain the garment’s unique characteristics and ensure the wearer’s safety. Also, given the fact that all types of workwear are usually long-term investments, it is important to do your best to protect this investment. Frequently purchasing new workwear can make a significant dent in the organization’s budget. In addition, frequent disposal of old garments can end up damaging the environment. From the frequency of washing workwear to the products used in cleaning and drying, there are quite a few things to keep in mind when cleaning workwear. Here are the top five laundry tips for workwear:

Run a Check

Examine the garment before you throw it in the wash. Make sure that buttons and zippers are closed as also any Velcro strips that may be on the garment. This will help prevent them from getting damaged and decrease the wear caused to the fabric. Check pockets for loose change or any other objects that might have been left there inadvertently. Belts, braces, knee or elbow inserts, must all be separately washed. For garments with reflective properties, turn them inside out before washing. This way the reflective strips remain undamaged and will not get streaked either. Lastly, workwear must be washed with similarly soiled apparel.

Cleaning workwear of dirt and stains requires extreme care

Use Appropriate Products

When cleaning workwear, it is essential to choose the right type of detergent. If it’s too harsh, then it can cause discoloration of the fabric and thus, lead to a decline in quality. Similarly bleach can weaken the fibers and cause damage to workwear, especially those with fire retardant properties. This can prove dangerous, especially when chlorine or hydrogen peroxide is used on protective workwear. Starches, fabric softeners, and hard water can also have an adverse impact on the quality of the fabric.

Get the Temperature Right

Workwear garments must be washed at the right temperature to rid them of all residue and stains. Dirt, oil, and mud stains must be cleaned immediately as failure to do so can make it extremely difficult to remove them later. Also, if chemicals and hydrocarbons are not fully eliminated, it can prove risky to the wearer while out on a job. Ensuring the right temperature is also necessary to prevent the garment from shrinking or becoming loose. Inappropriate wash temperature can have an adverse impact on the garment’s FR and reflective properties.

Dry it Properly

After washing workwear the right way, it needs to be dried the right way too! This assumes special significance in the case of FR garments. Improper drying techniques can cause the garment to lose its shape or shrink. This can instantly render the FR properties ineffective. Use of too much heat is just as bad as use of too little heat! Thus, it is essential to get the balance just right.

Follow Manufacturer Guidelines

There are different types of workwear and each serves a different purpose. Also, they are likely to be used by workers in different sectors such as construction, oil and gas, and road work to name a few. Each of these garments will possess unique characteristics specific to the industry they are used in. Thus, the suggested maintenance for each will also vary accordingly. Abiding by manufacturer guidelines is the best way of ensuring the longevity and safety quotient of your workwear. In most cases, a small label sewn into the inner lining of the garment will have the instructions. 

Cleaning workwear is best handled by professionals

When it comes to organizations with more than a handful of employees, choosing a professional industrial cleaning service such as Goodfish is the best way of ensuring that workwear is laundered the right way without any hassle. Goodfish industrial dry cleaning and wet wash services are suitable for all kinds of companies that require employees to use protective workwear. With specific laundering facilities even for flame-resistant coveralls and impact gloves that are at risk of oil staining, our customized cleaning can come in handy. It is likely that you have come across a large number of techniques and products that claim to be effective in workwear cleaning. However, it is essential to remember that you are dealing with apparel that ensures the safety of employees at the job site. This requires a professional touch and the absence of it during the cleaning process can compromise the quality of the fabric. 

How to Layer Your FR and PPE Workwear for Extreme Weather Conditions

 Hard hats also need to be reinforced with layers when planning for PPE in winter

The wearing of flame resistant (FR) and personal protective equipment (PPE) at hazardous workplaces has become the norm and is largely adhered to by employers and employees. But when it comes to donning PPE in extreme weather, especially winter, there is often a tendency to be careless. This kind of laxity can compromise the effectiveness of safety gear and the extreme cold can further compound the danger to the wearer. 

Also, with studies showing that cold weather leads to a slump in productivity, it becomes extremely important to ensure that workers stay warm and comfortable to be able to perform their duties to the fullest extent. A little bit of preparedness can help you arrive at the best solution for your specific requirements. From assessing the kind of cold weather exposure your employees will face to selecting appropriate winter wear PPE, there are a few other things to consider.

When using PPE in winter, layering can prove helpful

Is Layering the Way to Go?

It’s true that layers can help your employees stay warm. Dressing up in layers lets the workers add on when extra protection is required. Similarly, they can strip off layers if weather conditions improve or the workload eases. But layering can often restrict movement and it works best when one does not have to move around much. However, there are some tips and tricks to getting layering right. Here’s how: 

  • – Ensure that the clothing worn as the base layer is made of some kind of moisture-wicking material. This is especially helpful when the wearer begins to sweat. The advantage of using such special fabric is that it soaks the moisture from the skin and moves it to the item of clothing. This can help prevent the wearer from shivering due to wearing damp clothes under their safety gear.
  • – The clothing worn in layers should fit comfortably and not tightly. Tight clothing can limit movement and reduce the insulating effect of layers. Outer layers need to be slightly larger than the previous layer to facilitate flexibility and comfort.
  • – A light, insulating layer should be worn over the wicking layer. Fleece and wool sweaters are a good fit here.
  • – This must be followed with a heavy insulating layer before finishing up with a windproof and waterproof outermost layer.
  • – Layering should not be restricted to the torso. You must also layer other parts of the body, including the head. So don a balaclava or a fitted ski mask and put on a toque over it. This is especially necessary if you have to wear a hard hat as part of your safety gear.
  • – Thin gloves can be worn under work mitts or reinforced gloves. This can help keep your hand from going cold when you need to remove the mitts or outer gloves for detailed work. 
  • – Layering socks can help keep the feet warm inside sturdy boots. Ensure that the boot size is slightly larger than what is normally used to accommodate the layered socks.

coveralls - PPE winter

 

Winter PPE Program

Apart from providing winter appropriate workwear, it is necessary to put in place a winter PPE program. It is essential to ensure that employees do not stay outdoors in extreme weather for an extended period of time

  • – Tweaking schedules – Move around starting times and bring in rotation shifts to minimize the time spent outdoors by each worker. You could also introduce more breaks during the workday so they can get inside more often and warm up before having to step out again.
  • – Little touches – Introduce thoughtful little amenities such as hot chocolate counters and microwaveable soups or teas in the break room or warm areas. It is the little things that often matter the most.
  • – Provide relevant training – Employees must be trained to recognize signs of cold weather distress such as frostbite and hypothermia. 
  • – Adequate PPE maintenance – Extreme cold temperatures together with ice and snow can cause wear and tear of PPE. It is necessary to ensure that protective gear is cleaned in an appropriate way so as to retain its unique characteristics. Signing up with a reliable commercial cleaning service such as Goodfish can be the best solution here.

These are just some ways of ensuring that you provide a safe work environment for your workers even during the harsh winters. Just be sure to double check that the equipment you use and the PPE program you implement are in keeping with guidelines set by the local regulatory agencies. 

Why Supporting Goodfish Helps Alberta Indigenous Communities’

Businesses run by Indigenous communities are significant to the Canadian economy.

It is a well-known fact that Indigenous businesses play an important role in the Canadian economy as providers of good, jobs, and services. The country is home to over 600 Indigenous communities. Following a recent APEC study in the wake of the COVID pandemic, the spotlight is on Indigenous businesses more than ever. The study speaks about how many communities facing economic challenges such as lack of funding and relief packages to bounce back. The Canadian Prime Minister had in April 2020 announced nearly $300 million in funding to bail out medium to small-sized Indigenous businesses. The relief package was also intended as support to Indigenous financial institutions that provide financing to these businesses. 

At the time, Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, said, “Some Indigenous businesses who are already facing unique challenges, including being in rural or remote locations and having less access to capital, are disproportionately affected by this unprecedented situation.” He added that the support provided will facilitate maximum flexibility in supporting local businesses – entrepreneurships, cooperative businesses, or any of the many industries across Canada to continue contributing to their communities. 

Statistics indicate that in 2017, there were nearly 19,000 businesses located in Indigenous communities (approximately 17,000 in First Nations communities and 2,000 in Inuit communities). Combined, these businesses generated just over $10 billion in total revenue and $0.4 billion in profits in the reference year of this study. Nearly 9,000 of these businesses, slightly more than half of them, are located in British Columbia. Given the magnitude of the contribution made by Indigenously-owned businesses to the country’s economy, it becomes essential to provide them all necessary support.

Goodfish Lake Business Corporation (GFLBC) is one of many organizations working towards a better future for the many Indigenous communities in Canada. Catering to the oil and gas industry, we have various divisions providing services such as dry cleaning, laundry, sewing and garment. In the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, Goodfish has also entered the non-medical mask manufacturing segment. Having been in business for over four decades, it’s the community-centric approach that has helped our corporation reach new heights over the years. GFLBC has always believed in giving back to the community that we are a part of. Being a First Nations enterprise, supporting Goodfish means helping Alberta’s Indigenous communities. 

Mask making is now a business venture for enterprises such as Goodfish run by Indigenous communities.

Investing in the Community

GFLBC is a firm believer in nurturing relationships with those who have stood by us through the good and the bad. The corporation’s business model believes in keeping the money within the First Nations communities. As a result, half of all the profits earned by our corporation go towards building community infrastructure. Similarly, ten percent of profits is earmarked for educational endowments while forty percent is dedicated to business growth. Initiatives such as these foster a sense of involvement and employees feel like they’re part of an extended family that stays together and works together.

Job Security

GFLBC provides employment for community members and lets them stay close to their families. We also offer job stability, a claim underlined by the fact that the majority of our employees have been with us for decades! Of the nearly 120 employees, 90% identify as Indigenous with roughly 80% being community members of Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake First Nation #128. In some instances, generations of the same family have been employees of the organization. This just underscores the job satisfaction that community members derive from working at an enterprise that places their interests first.

GFLBC believes in giving back to the indigenous communities that power it.

Stepping Stone

For many others, GFLBC has acted as a stepping stone to success. The organization supports the career aspirations of its community members and helps them expand their horizon. This is achieved through hands-on training at the Goodfish facility as well as encouraging continued education and training of employees. Some of the community members choose to return to the area after gaining experience in various sectors. Quite a few of the returnees even go on to set up new business ventures to further benefit the community members.

By continuously seeking employee and community feedback, GFBLC ensures that we are always on the right track. This is because we have realized that by acting upon the feedback in a timely manner, we can improve ourselves and keep on helping Alberta Indigenous communities for many more years to come. By winning the ‘Best of Business’ award at the recent Alberta Business Awards of Distinction, our resolve towards the cause has been further strengthened.

All You Need to Know About Fire-Resistant PPE

Workers in hazardous workplaces are at risk without fire-resistant PPE

Safety is of the utmost importance at the workplace. More so, when it is in a hazardous sector such as construction, oil and gas industry, electricity, and utilities. Organizations in these industries are expected to provide their employees with fire-resistant personal protective equipment and other safety gear. Also known as flame-resistant (FR) personal protective equipment (PPE), these must adhere to the standards prescribed by the relevant regulatory agencies. FR apparel acts as a protective layer over skin and can provide a certain degree of protection to the wearer. It does not, however, fully safeguard from fire hazards. 

Fire-Resistant Vs Fire-Retardant

Quite often, fire-resistant PPE is confused with fire-retardant PPE. Fire-resistant PPE is made of fibers that are slow to ignite on exposure to fire. They can also withstand repeated cleaning or washes and never lose their fire-resistant properties. Meanwhile, fire-retardant garments are made of non fire retardant fibers that are then treated with chemicals that gives it it’s FR properties. Fire-retardant garments tend to lose their unique properties much more quickly. Thus, they tend to be more affordable than fire-resistant protective gear.

The Right Type of Fire-Resistant PPE

There is no one solution when it comes to FR gear. The type of safety apparel required will depend on the unique hazards of your sector of work. A comprehensive workplace risk assessment can help you determine the type of protection required. For instance, the requirements of workers in the oil and gas sector will vary significantly from those in the construction industry. Also, fire-resistant PPE apparel is available in a wide variety of materials including naturally fire-resistant fibers and those that have been chemically treated to be fire-resistant. Each of these fibers and the fabrics made from them come with a set of pros and cons. You will need to evaluate and decide on which one is best suited to your specific requirements. Apart from the scope of work, durability, your budget, and maintenance plan will all have an impact on the type of FR gear you opt for. 

Workers in different sectors are safeguarded by fire-resistant PPE

Wearing Fire-Resistant Gear 

In order to derive optimal safety benefits of FR garments, it is important to give some thought to the clothes to be worn under the PPE. It is essential that garments worn under fire-resistant PPE have non-melting properties. The primary benefit of this is that this will act as yet another layer of FR protection. So, in the event the first or outer layer of PPE is damaged in a fire hazard, this second layer will offer some amount of protection. In addition, wearing layers of garments creates an air insulation pocket between two layers that adds to the wearer’s safety.  Comfort and fit will also play an important role in ensuring employee compliance with the organization’s safety policy. 

  • Comfort – There is no reason why PPE should not be comfortable to the wearer. Reputed brands use high quality materials and these can keep the wearer comfortable even in adverse weather conditions. 

 

  • Fit – No one likes a bad fit and it’s no different when it comes to fire-resistant PPE. Unless the garment is the right size, wearing it can prove cumbersome. This can deter workers from donning protective gear regularly and thus, put them at risk for hazards. Garments that facilitate ease of movement should be preferred here.

 

  • Topnotch Accessories – When buying fire-resistant PPE, it becomes essential to check the quality of accessories used. For instance, durable zippers, reinforced snaps and pockets, are just some of the items to lookout for.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Caring for Fire-Resistant PPE

Fire-resistant garments can be quite expensive and purchasing new ones often can cause quite a dent in your annual budget. Choosing quality garments is one way of ensuring that you do not have to keep purchasing new FR apparel. Caring for fire-resistant PPE in the recommended manner and adequate maintenance is another way of increasing its longevity. 

Fire resistant PPE is a must at hazardous workplaces

Protective clothing must be laundered the right way to preserve its unique characteristics. For instance, apparel used in the oil and gas industry likely have a layer of hydrocarbons over it. Reputed commercial laundry programs such as those offered by Goodfish can help eliminate these hydrocarbons without compromising the fabric. Failure to remove such flammable components from the garment’s surface can put employees at risk of being injured. 

Being armed with all the information pertaining to fire-resistant PPE can help you make an informed decision about the safety plan of your organization. Picking the right type of protective work gear and adhering to the government regulations on workplace hazard prevention will help you ensure a safe and welcoming atmosphere for every employee. Take it to the next level and select a vendor who not only manufactures the workwear but cleans it as well.

Vital Considerations When Caring for FR Garments

FR garments such as those worn by the two men require adequate maintenance and care

Canadian gas producers are voicing a cautiously positive outlook for the days to come. Strengthening prices, increased pipeline shipping capacity, and a reduction in US production are seen as fueling the Canadian oil and gas sector. “It’s not setting up for an environment where we think there’ll be a massive rally in pricing, but we think it’s setting up for a better environment than we’ve seen in the last three years,” says Dan Payne, financial analyst, National Bank.

Developments such as this are likely to signal a need for higher productivity levels. This means that employees will have to be more efficient.  For greater efficiency, it is essential that employees feel comfortable and safe in their work environment.  The oil and gas industry is full of dangers for employees. However, adhering to the rules set by regulatory agencies can help you ensure the well-being of your workers. Providing appropriate safety gear to employees is likely to be part of your safety program in keeping with these regulations. However, your responsibility as an employer does not end with providing the protective equipment. It is essential to ensure that it is well-maintained and fit for use at all times. This is especially true of flame resistant (FR) garments. 

Hydrocarbons can cause FR garments to ignite suddenly

The Outcome of Lax Care of FR Garments:

If you are lax in any way when caring for FR garments, it can compromise the protective properties of the apparel. For instance, if flammable substances are found on the surface, they can ignite and burn. Similarly, using non-FR embroidery or emblems can compromise the FR properties of the garments.  This is very dangerous and can prove a costly mistake at the workplace. Being aware of the correct procedures in caring for FR garments is critical. 

Caring for FR Garments:

When the apparel or gear ceases to be effective, it must be replaced at once.  Replacing protective gear frequently can prove expensive besides contributing to an increase in landfills. Appropriate care and maintenance of FR garments can be a more feasible option, both financially and in terms of eco-friendliness. With proper maintenance, you will be able to elicit topnotch performance from the garments at all times. Here are some vital considerations to keep in mind when caring for FR garments:

  • Employee training – Put an efficient employee training program in place to ensure your workers know how to use and maintain their FR garments and other safety equipment properly. Make them aware of manufacturer’s instructions regarding this to get optimal use from FR garments.
  • Scheduled inspections – Put in place a system for regularly inspecting FR garments before each use. The garments must be checked to ensure they are wearable. Look for signs of wear and tear such as holes, tears, and threadbare spots.
  • Learn to read the signs – A garment will not lose its FR properties just because it is stained.  Smell the garment to see if it reeks of fuel. If it does, then that means there is a presence of hydrocarbons that are combustible substances. In this scenario, it the garment is likely to be cignite. A thorough cleaning can eliminate the smell and make the apparel safe again for the wearer. 
  • Immediate repairs – When there are signs of wear and tear, see if it’s possible to carry out repairs in keeping with manufacturer guidelines. If accessories such as buttons or zips are to be replaced, ensure that the replacements are approved for FR use. One way of doing this effectively is by getting repairs done at an authorized facility or sending it to the manufacturer.
  • Professional laundry service – Some substances such as fabric softener, bleach and peroxide can be harmful to FR garments. Similarly, some garments might be at risk of streaking and will need to be washed with care. Getting the garments cleaned at an industrial laundry can effectively eliminate harmful components from the surface of the garments without compromising the fabric in any way. Buildups on the surface of the garments such as those from fabric softeners, starch, and some insect repellants can be dangerous to the wearer. Professional laundry organizations such as Goodfish that offer specialized dry cleaning use the latest technology to carry out their large scale commercial laundry programs. 

FR garments afford protection to workers in hazardous conditions

When FR garments are damaged beyond repair, it is essential that you discard them and replace with new ones. Following these steps will help you keep the garments in usable condition and ensure that your employees are always outfitted with the best protection. There is a limitation to the role of regulatory agencies in ensuring compliance with industry standards and best practices. Ultimately, the responsibility of implementing and maintaining an effective safety program lies with the organization.

The Difference Between Inherent and Treated Fabrics and What it Means for Your Safety Program

One crucial responsibility of an employer is to ensure the safety of their employees at the workplace. This is especially significant in industries where high risk hazards such as arc flash and fires are a possibility. The oil, petroleum, natural gas, coal, and minerals industry, utilities, and food processing plants top the list of such sectors. There is a need for different types of protective gear including clothing with flame-resistant (FR) properties to safeguard workers. In such a scenario, protective eyewear, garments, gloves, and hard hats are likely to be part of your company’s safety program. 

The safety gear you choose must be in keeping with the guidelines prescribed by agencies such as the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). However, given the wide range of FR fabrics and garments available, choosing the best one for your specific requirements can be difficult. Knowing the differences between inherent and treated fabrics can help you make an informed decision. 

Inherent Vs Treated Fabrics:

Simply put, in inherent fabrics, the flame resistance is an integral characteristic of the fiber that the fabric is made of. 

  • Since the structure of the fiber is itself fire resistant, its FR properties are permanent. 
  • The Thermal Protective Performance (TPP) score of inherent fabrics is higher than that of treated fabrics. This rating indicates the thermal insulation efficiency of the garment against heat exposure. A higher number is indicative of greater protection.
  • Garments made of inherent fabrics tend to be more expensive. However, the one-time expense is offset by the longevity of the fabric. 
  • Protective wear made of inherent fabrics tends to offer greater breathability and better moisture management.

Meanwhile, treated fabrics are subjected to a chemical flame retardant to make them fire resistant. 

  • The fiber used to make FR treated fabric is usually cotton or blended cotton. 
  • Unlike inherent fabrics, the FR properties of treated fabrics can diminish over time. This will depend on the levels of chemicals they are exposed to at the workplace and the manner in which they are cleaned. 
  • In addition some suppliers coat their fabric in hazardous chemicals such as Teflon. Stay away from this whenever possible. 
  • Fabric treated with chemicals is less expensive than those made of inherent fabrics.
  • However some types of treated fabrics tend to be heavier than inherent fabrics. This can enhance their performance because the greater the mass between the wearer and the fire hazard, the higher the protection afforded.

Protective apparel such as worn by these workers can be made of inherent or treated FR fabric

How Does It Impact on Safety?

While both treated and inherent fabrics offer adequate protection to the wearer, longevity is one area where inherent fabric scores higher. This means, the garment made of inherent fabric retains its FR properties for as long as it is usable. However, damage to the apparel in the form of usual wear and tear can prove just as dangerous as lack of FR properties.  When making your purchase, check if the apparel is guaranteed for life. Even treated fabrics come with this guarantee provided the laundering instructions are strictly followed. Most manufacturers suggest avoiding use of bleach, starch, and fabric softener during the cleaning process. This is because the chemicals in these products can compromise the FR properties of the garment.

How to Ensure Proper Maintenance of FR Apparel:

Protective apparel made of treated fabrics is usually accompanied by instructions on their ‘proper care’. Failure to retain the garment’s unique properties by adhering to the care instructions can pose a danger to the wearer. You can avoid this risk by getting such workwear professionally laundered or dry cleaned. The use of latest techniques and equipment can ensure that the garment retains its fire retardant properties. 

The superior dry cleaning method applied at Goodfish ensures that your high quality coveralls are cleaned without damaging the fabric in any way. Corroborating this is a study conducted by Alberta Research Council and the University of Alberta that indicates that the process we use actually enhances the longevity of the fabric without compromising its thermal protective or flame resistance properties in any way. Similarly, workwear made of inherent fabrics must also be cleaned professionally to extend its longevity and prevent damage such as tearing or ripping.

Wearing FR gear is a good idea and it protects workers to a certain extent. At the same time, it is important to remember that this alone will not be sufficient. Quite a few other safety practices must be implemented to ensure maximum protection. For instance, a thorough hazard-risk assessment must be done to identify the workers most at risk of fire accidents. Sufficient training must be provided to employees in donning the gear and its maintenance to prevent early wear and tear. 

Verdict: Partner with companies who have the ability to customize your garment program to your changing needs. Many companies strictly import treated materials without trying to assess your needs first. This drastically limits the versatility of your program. We recommend you choose suppliers that work with both Inherent and Treated fabrics in order to maximize the effectiveness of your program.

In addition partner with Manufacturers such as Goodfish Lake that are involved in both the supply and cleaning of your garments.

 

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