Why Daily Wear FR Garments Make Sense No Matter the Season
A worker’s PPE must account for any season—and the environmental elements that go with that season. Here is your guide to picking FR Garments for everyday and specific tasks.
- By Stephen Morrill
- Aug 01, 2020
In the world of industrial and electrical safety, personal protective equipment (PPE) forms a final layer of defense against potentially catastrophic incidents day in and day out. Workers—whether they face arc flash or flash fire hazards—use PPE within a comprehensive risk management program as a means to mitigate and alleviate injuries in the event all other safeguards fail. As a critical part of any hazard mitigation plan, PPE specified must be used no matter then season, and therefore, should account for the seasonality a worker faces.
When specifying flame resistant (FR), arc-rated (AR) garments as part of a robust PPE program, there are two main avenues to consider:
1. daily wear garments, which provide FR and AR protection within an everyday garment worn throughout the workday, or
2. task-based garments, which are donned only when performing a specific task.
Though task-based garments are used only when necessary and may seem like the obvious choice, their protection benefits are closely tied to a worker’s ability to consistently and correctly identity site hazard risks. They then must appropriately and correctly put on the necessary gear to achieve the level of protection required. Task-based FR/AR garments can be compromised by human error precursors, site-risk desensitization and worker complacency—factors that are present no matter someone’s skill level.
Providing constant, unobtrusive protection, daily wear garments present a clear benefit by helping address inconsistent FR/AR garment use. Daily wear garments protect workers throughout the day with minimum additional risk assessment, as base level protection is incorporated directly into the garment that is worn all day.
The growing popularity of daily wear garments highlights the progress of FR/AR fabric technology. Twenty-five years ago, FR/AR garments were defined by their stiff fit and uncomfortable feel. Now, branded FR/AR fabrics that form the foundation for daily wear garments feature leading textile technologies, creating a want-to-wear experience for workers. These improvements offer heightened wearability, increased comfort and maximum mobility—properties that help make protective garments nearly indistinguishable from streetwear. From FR/AR denim to lightweight shirts, you may see these daily wear garments both on and off the job site, and their use helps keep workers protected because they are willing to wear the PPE.
Opting for daily wear apparel over task-based garments may seem like a steep investment, but the long-term benefits show value in the initial investment. Coupled with a comprehensive specification process—where safety managers look at daily wear garment needs throughout the year—a daily wear FR/AR garment system actually enhances worker satisfaction and productivity while prioritizing protection and increasing compliance with safety standards.
The summer presents arguably the most compelling case for daily wear FR/AR garments made with reputable fabric. These protective garments can offer moisture-wicking and breathability properties in a lightweight, easy-to-wear fabric. Certain fabrics, help wick away sweat and promote evaporation to enhance the body’s built-in cooling mechanism.
No matter the season, daily wear FR/AR garments can provide a solid anchor for your PPE program. Here are a few ways a comprehensive offering of FR/AR garments promotes year-round safety in all weather conditions:
Seasonal daily wear accounts for varying weather
Because of the range of FR/AR fabric options, daily wear garments can be uniquely tailored to the season. FR/AR garments for the summer months naturally look very different than what is needed for winter. These general guidelines will help you think through the seasonality of your FR/AR garments:
- For the summer season, prioritize breathable, lightweight garments that help the wearer stay cool and comfortable.
- For the transitional seasons, utilize similar performance-driven FR/AR textiles for your garments, but layer in appropriative protective garments like jackets, rain gear and base layers to adapt to changes in weather. Base layers, especially, have the flexibility to keep wearers comfortable without compromising their protection.
- For the winter season, be sure to analyze specific consensus standards regarding heavy-weight outerwear. Generally, the outermost layer must be FR/AR, and it may be mandated by consensus standards that additional layers be FR/AR garments, too.
As you assemble your comprehensive system, keep in mind the specific standards that apply to your industry. Especially when considering layering garments and outerwear, there is job-specific guidance surrounding non-FR garments and how—or if—they should be used. Utilizing performance-centric FR/AR base layers and daily wear helps workers achieve compliance with maximum protection.
Seasonal daily wear increases efficiency. By creating a complete FR/AR garment system, daily wear programs help streamline time needed both on and off the job site. When workers have appropriate garments for various seasons, it is easier to get ready each day. Couple that with the reducing or eliminating time donning FR PPE on the job site, workers can use their time more effectively and remain focused on the task at hand.
Seasonal daily wear standardizes appearance. A daily wear system can help implement a standard employee uniform across the company. This uniform reinforces corporate identity while still providing required safety protection. FR/AR garments can be customized to brand colors and incorporate company logos to present a united professional appearance. In prioritizing consistent protection, you also can enhance your visual identity within your spheres of influence.
Seasonal daily wear furthers compliance. In many cases, daily wear FR/AR garments offer key levels of protection that can cover a wide range of job site tasks. With a general shirt and pants set, for example, wearers can be protected from flash fire or achieve up to Category 2 protection in electrical settings. Often, daily wear garments provide dual-hazard protection, in addition to their performance benefits.
While the heat and humidity of the summer months help make the case for performance-driven daily wear FR/AR garments, these garments are critical in any type of weather. Daily wear garments accounts for protection as a final layer of defense and helps employers achieve more consistent and more routine compliance with consensus standards.
This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.