While properly wearing flame resistant (FR), arc-rated (AR) personal protective equipment (PPE) helps protect employees facing arc flash and short duration thermal exposures from fire, like flash fires, it is equally important to clean and maintain these protective garments. Proper care practices help ensure a PPE garment’s safety properties remain intact during its serviceable life. While there are a host of considerations when formulating a proper care routine, we share three key takeaways everyone—from your safety manager to your newest employee—should keep in mind.
Know how to launder FR/AR garments
While many FR/AR garments can be laundered at home, some garments may require an industrial laundering service to sufficiently clean the garment. Factors like soil level and garment design can help determine a garment’s proper wash practices. It is important to reference the garment’s care tag instructions to determine the best laundering method.
In general, if an employee does not usually encounter flammable materials, washing their garments at home may be a suitable option. Avoid bleach, softener, dryer sheets, starch, and hydrogen peroxide as these materials can compromise a garment’s FR properties or leave a flammable residue on the clothing. Washing garments in warm, not hot, water and tumble drying on low can help prevent shrinkage and maintain a proper fit. Additionally, using good laundering practices, like separating FR garments from non-FR garments and using appropriate-sized wash loads, will contribute to keeping protective garments in good condition.
Inspect FR/AR garments before each wear and repair them when necessary
Before each use, it is imperative to inspect FR/AR garments to ensure they are in wearable condition. If a garment has holes or tears, shows signs of wear, or has threadbare areas, it should be repaired using FR materials, which will help maintain the essential safety features of the garment. If non-FR materials are used, the wearer is at risk of sustaining injuries in the event of a short-term thermal incident.
Retire garments when appropriate
If a garment has large holes or threadbare areas, is damaged beyond repair, has permeant stains or odors, or has encountered bleach, the garment should be retired immediately, as the garment’s ability to protect the wearer may have been compromised. Additionally, if the garment was involved in a thermal event, it should be replaced. Any long-term or permanent damage to an FR/AR garment warrants a replacement to fully protect the wearer against short-term thermal hazards.
These three directives help extend the serviceable life of garments and ensure that employees are outfitted in the safest possible manner. Educating employees on proper care practices for their FR/AR garments enhances workplace safety programs and encourages them to take on a measure of responsibility in creating a safe work environment.