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Fire Resistant Clothing Safety Standards

A serious workplace injury or death has the potential to change hundreds of lives forever. Occupational injury can not only provoke a major family crisis and financial burden. It is an employers responsibility to create and maintain a safe working environment to prevent injury, protect people, avoid copious medical and legal costs.

Nowadays, there are thousands of safety standards and testing methods which can differ all around the world. To further complicate things; complying with these regulations can also vary across different industries, jobs and working environments.

Safety standards are a set of regulations and testing methods used to create a universal understanding of what is, and what is not considered “Personal Protective Equipment”. There are usually a number of standards set for any type of hazard. Clothing safety standards are diverse but can typically broken down into water, thermal, visibility and fire protection.

Today we will discuss the prominent US and EU safety standards applied to Fire Resistant (FR) Clothing.

Fire Resistant Standards & Testing Methods – USA

There are 4 main US Fire Resistant Standards:

NFPA® 2112: 2018

Used to specify the minimum performance requirements and tests used for that determination. Tests are designed to evaluate the effectiveness of FR clothing in use of areas at risk of flash fires. Typically required for use within the pharmaceutical and oil & gas industries.

Meeting Certification

For a garment to meet the NFPA® 2112: 2018 standard, the garment must pass the following six tests:

  1. ASTM F2700 – Heat Transfer Performance Test -Measures the unsteady heat transfer properties of garment materials
  2. ASTM D6413 – Vertical Flammability Test – Tests how easily a fabric will ignite and continue to burn after ignition.
  3. Thermal Shrinkage Resistance Test -Measures the fabrics resistance to shrinkage once exposed to heat
  4. Heat Resistance Test -Tests how a fabric reacts to the extreme heat that would occur during a flash fire
  5. ASTM F1930 – Thermal Manikin Test – A mankin is equipped with a standardized coverall of the fabric. – The test provides an overall elevation of how to fabric performs after 3 seconds of thermal exposure.
  6. FTMS 191A – Thread Melting Resistant Test -Tests if the thread used in the FR garments can withstand temperatures of up to 500°F

NFPA® 70E: 2018

This standard is used to address electrical safety related to work practices and requires employees working in or near energized parts to be equipped with appropriate FR clothing that meets ASTM F1506 specification.

NFPA 70E provides guidance for selecting the appropriate PPE according to risk level in a particular job.

Risk levels are categorized by expected level of incident energy in the event of electrical arc.

  • ARC 1 – Individual must wear an arc rated FR shirt, and FR pants, or FR Coverall with an arc rating of at least 4 cal/cm².
  • ARC 2  – Individual must wear an arc rated FR shirt, and FR pants, or FR Coverall with an arc rating of of at least 8 cal/cm²
  • ARC 3 – Individual must wear an arc rated FR shirt and pants or FR Coverall. AND Arc flash suit selected so that the system arc rating meets the required minimum of 25 cal/cm²
  • ARC 4 – Individual must wear an arc rated FR shirt and pants or FR Coverall. AND Arc flash suit selected so that the system arc rating meets the required minimum of 40 cal/cm²

ASTM® F1506-10A

This standard applies to garments which can be used by electrical workers exposed to momentary electric arcs and other related hazards. The garment must meet the following requires for ASTM F1506-10A certification.

  1. Thread and components used in FR clothing shall not contribute to the severity of injuries of the wearer in the event of electric arc and related thermal exposure
  2. Must meet minimum performance specifications for knit and woven fabric including strength, colorfastness, fire resistance before and after washing as well as Arc Test results.
  3. Must pass the ASTM D6413 – Vertical Flammability Test.
  4. When tested with the ASTM Test Method F1959, the fabric must not have more than 5 seconds of flame
  5. The garment must be labeled with the following:
    • Tracking Code
    • Proof of meeting F1506 Standards
    • Manufacturer name, size info
    • How-To-Care instructions and fiber content
    • ARC Rating (ATPV) or (EBT)

ASTM® F1959/F1959M-12: 2013

This standard/testing method is used to determine the ARC rating ( ATPV or EBT ) of a fabric or material. This is a fabric only test and is the EXACT SAME testing method used in europe; known as the IEC 61482-1-1 Test Method.

Fire Resistant Standards & Testing Methods – European

There are 4 main European Safety Standards and Testing Methods:

IEC 61482-2: 2009

A standard which specifies the requirements and testing methods used to determine the protection levels provided by a garment or fabric against electric arcs or thermal events.

There are two international test methods used to provide accurate information on how well a garment or fabric resists the effects of thermal activity and electric arcs.

In order to comply with the standard, at least one of the following tests have to be performed

Open Arc Method – EN 16482-1-1

This test method aims to establish the ATPV (Arc Thermal Performance Value) or EBT (Energy Break-open Threshold) of a fabric. Both ATPV and EBT is expressed in calories to cm² (Cal/cm²).

The test involves exposing a garment to a 8kA current arc.

  • The ATPV is the amount of energy required to cause 2nd degree burns through the material prior to breaking open.
  • The EBT is the amount of energy required to break open the material. This is usually the upper limit of what the garment can handle prior to damaging the fabric and the material losing strength

When trying to determine if your garment meets the required ATPV or EBT, always remember that layering is an effective way of hitting minimum requirements. Layering works well because the level of protection is always greater than the sum of two garments ATPV/EBT ratings; since air provides and additional layer of protection.

Box Test Method – EN 16482-1-2

During this test method, a garment is exposed to an electric arc in a specific box with a specific arrangement of electrodes. Garments are given a classification of either Class 1 or 2.

  • Class 1 garments have to ability to withstand arcs of up to 4kA Currents.
  • Class 2 garments can withstand up to 7kA Currents.

EN ISO 11612: 2015

The performance requires set out in this standard are applicable to garments which could be exposed to a variety of hazards and used to perform multiple tasks.

This standard is used to test a garments ability to limit fire spread, and protect against exposed, radiant, convective or contact heat as well as molten metal splashes.

This standard specifically tests for each of the following:

A: Limited Flame Spread

This test consists of applying a flame to a fabric sample for 10 seconds. To past the test, after flame and formation of holes must be within the tolerances set in the standard.

  • A1 – Surface Ignition – Flame is applied horizontally.
  • A2 – Edge Ignition – Flame is applied vertically.
B: Protection Against Convective Heat

Convective heat is the heat that is passed through the garment when set ablaze. The sample is held above the flame and the rise of temperature is measured with a calorimeter. The length of time the sample can remain exposed before the temperature rises above 24°C determines its 11612B ranking;

  • B1: 4 – 10 Seconds
  • B2: 10 – 20 Seconds
  • B3: 21 Seconds or more
C: Protection Against Radiant Heat

The fr clothing sample is exposed to radiant heat (infrared rays). The temperature on the unexposed side is measured with a calorimeter. The length of time the sample can remain exposed before its temperature rises above 24°C  determines its 11612C Ranking.

  • C1: 7 < 20 Seconds
  • C2: 20 < 50 Seconds
  • C3: 50 < 95 Seconds
  • C4: 95 Seconds and longer
D: Protection Against Molten Aluminum Splash

A membrane with similar properties to human skin is attached to the fabric sample. Rising quantities of molten aluminum are splashed onto the sample. The quantity of metal which causes the membrane to deform determines the 11612D Ranking.

  • D1: 100 < 200 grams of molten aluminum
  • D2: 200 < 300 grams of molten aluminum
  • D3: 350 grams of molten aluminum or more
E: Limited Flame Spread

A membrane with similar properties to human skin is attached to the fabric sample. Rising quantities of molten iron are splashed onto the sample. The quantity of metal which causes the membrane to deform determines the 11612D Ranking.

  • E1: 60 < 120 grams of molten iron
  • E2: 120< 200 grams of molten iron
  • E3: 200 grams of molten iron or more
F: Limited Flame Spread

A new test supplementing EN 531): contact heat.

  • F1: 5 < 10 seconds
  • F2: 10 < 15 seconds
  • F3: 15 seconds or more

EN ISO 11611: 2015

Specifies the minimum basic safety requestments nad test methods for protecting clothing used in welding and similar processes.

Specific Tests:

  • Tensile Strength
  • Tear Resistance
  • Bursting Strength
  • Seam Strength
  • Dimensional Change
  • Requirements of leather
  • Limited Flame Spread (A1 + A2)
  • Molten droplets
  • Heat Transfer (Radiation)
  • Electrical Resistance

This standard specifies two classes with specific performance requirements:

  • Class 1 Garments provide less protection against hazardous welding techniques and situations, causing lower levels of splatter and radiant heat.
  • Class 2 Garments provide more protection against hazardous welding techniques and situations, causing higher levels of splatter and radiant heat.

EN 1149: 2008

Determines the fr clothing ability to defend against the danger caused by static electricity.

Consists of three tests to determine eligibility:

  • EN 1149-1: 1996 – Tests surface conducting fabrics
  • EN 1149-3: 2004 – Charge decay test method for all fabrics
  • EN 1149-5: 2008 – Tests Performance Requirements


Safety standards protect lives, save money and optimizes company resources. All three of the previous points can be achieved by figuring out which fr clothing safety standards apply to you, find which garments are needed to comply with these standards and then find a vendor who can help you meet these needs.

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What is Fire Resistant Clothing?

Fire resistant clothing may appear simple at first, but once you dig into the various types, weights, applications, risks, benefits and costs you can easily find yourself overwhelmed.

Flame-resistant clothing — often abbreviated as FR clothing — is clothing resistant to ignition and prevents the spread of flame. It is there to protect against serious burns and provide precious seconds of time to escape dangerous situations. These types of garments are required by law for anyone working in environments that present a risk of injury from extreme heat, fire, and electric arcs. Flame-resistant clothing is the difference between life and death. They do not easily catch fire, and even if they do, they are designed to contain the spread of the fire and extinguish itself.

Why is fire resistant clothing so important?

This trained, professional industrial electrician nearly lost his life in a during an Arc Flash. Thanks to the proper PPE his life was spared.

Let’s pretend you find yourself in a room full of fire, there are flames all around you and your shirt has caught ablaze. Equipped with an fr shirt the flame would spread slowly, charring instead of burning and may even extinguish itself. Your shirt would be an afterthought, and your focus can be on escaping this fiery hell.

Alternatively, if you are wearing a flammable shirt like, non-treated silk, polyester, or thin cotton; your shirt may ignite and engulf your body in flames in mere seconds. You would receive immediate 3-degree burns and may even be so overwhelmed by the pain and smoke that you cannot escape this fictional disaster area.

Scenarios like this is why in 2010, OSHA instituted a set of regulations for requiring FR clothing in any industry where electric arc, flash fires, and extreme heat are present.

Additionally, OSHA prohibited any employee working in these conditions from wearing anything that could increase the risk/extent of injury.

Who needs to wear FR Clothing?

Anyone working in an environment where there is a real risk of extreme heat, fire, or electrical injuries needs to wear FR clothing.

Generally, there are three broad categories of hazards which fire resistant clothing is made for:

  • Electric arc: Individuals who are typically exposed to electric arc include electricians, as well as certain utility workers and others.
  • Flash fire: This category of hazards include pharmaceutical and chemical workers, as well as those who work in refineries and more.
  • Combustible dust: Workers in food processing plants, paper and pulp industry, etc.

Flame Resistant vs. Fire Resistant vs. Fire Retardant

In the wonderful world of personal protective equipment, there is a lot of jargon and lingo that can easily confuse and overwhelm. Fire resistant clothing is no exception, there are three common terms used when speaking of fire resistance, two of them are interchangeable and the other is an important distinction.

  • Fire Resistant: Fire resistant clothing is made from inherently non flammable fabrics., meaning that its FR properties are at a molecular level and the level of protection does not diminish over time. These fires may catch fire, but will either burn extremely slowly or even extinguish itself.

  • Flame resistant: This term means the same as fire resistant. If you hear this term used in place of fire resistant, don’t be confused. They mean exactly the same thing, and are interchangeable.

  • Fire retardant: Fire-retardant fabrics are treated to provide some of the same properties flame-resistant fabrics inherently have. Fire retardant fabrics are typically cheaper, and lose its effectiveness due to wear, wash, and lifetime.

Inherent vs treated?

Previously we mentioned the difference between fire resistant and fire retardant was whether the fabric is inherently resistant or treated to be. So what exactly is the difference between the two?

Well, FR treated garments tend to be less expensive, but the level of protection begins to diminish with time. Alternatively, inherent fire resistant clothing is a permanent safety solution because its FR properties are at a molecular level. The protection doesn’t wash or wear out, the garment will always be FR as long as its cared for properly.

Inherent Fire Resistant Fabrics

  • Higher initial cost, but cheaper long term
  • Fire resistant for life
  • FR properties are at a molecular level
  • Level of protection does not diminish over time
  • The garment will always be FR, as long as its well maintained
  • A stable level of protection that can be relied on
  • The cheaper inherent fabrics tend to be stiff, but can be blended to improve comfort and flexibility.

Inherent FR fabrics are resistant for life. These fabrics have molecular properties that slow the spread of flame and can even extinguish it. It’s properties never diminish, wash, or wear out. A inherent FR garment will always be flame-resistant as long as it is properly cared for. These garments tend to be more expensive than treated fabrics but are permanent solutions and wind up saving companies thousands of dollars each year.

Treated Fire Resistant Fabrics

  • A chemical application process which makes the fabric flame resistant
  • May be more comfortable depending on what kind of fabric is treated
  • The FR properties begin to diminish over time
  • Wear, abrasion, UV exposure, and laundering will shorten the useful wear life of a treated FR fabric.
  • Create significant environmental concern
  • Shrinkage
  • Cheaper initial cost, but has replaced more often and winds up costing more

The problem with fabrics that are treated to be fire resistance is that it’s not a natural process. This is a chemical process and a temporary solution to flame protection. Unlike inherent fabrics, these fabrics protective abilities tend to diminish over time due to wear, abrasion, UV exposure and wash.

A treated FR fabric may meet numerous safety standards and offer a low body burn percentage when brand new, but over time these garments lose their effectiveness. Treated fr garments need to be replaced more often and wind up costing more in the long run. In short, sometimes you get what you pay for and that couldn’t be more true in fire resistant clothing.

Flammable materials (from most to least)

  1. Silk, Cotton and linen have a high burning rate but can be treated to reduce its flammability.
  2. Acetate and triacetate are as flammable or slightly less flammable than cotton. These materials can also be treated to reduce flammability.
  3. Nylon, polyester and acrylic tend to ignite slowly but once ignited, the fabric begins to melt and dripping occurs. Needless to day, hot dripping polyester does not feel good on the skin and can cause major injury.
  4. Wool is fairly flame-retardant. If ignited, it usually has a low burning rate and may self-extinguish.
  5. Glass fibers and modacrylic are almost flame-resistant. These synthetic fibers are designed and manufactured to possess flame-retardant properties. These materials tend to be stiff and rigid but can be combined with other materials improve comfort and flexibility.

Choosing the right garment

When choosing which fire resistant garments are right for you there are a number of things to consider. Most importantly, your decision should be based on your own risk assessment. Where are your employees going to be? What hazards will be present? Are you looking for a long term solution or a quick fix?

Fire Resistance Checklist

With so many weights, styles, fabrics and opinions it can be difficult finding the right one for your organization. It is important to remember that some FR is better than none at all. Be sure to choose one that will make your feel confident in terms of protection, comfort and durability. Stick to the facts, do your research and keep your employees safe.