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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