If you are an employer who will soon be buying staff uniforms, one thing you may wonder about is whether or not you need to buy clothing that is flame-retardant. There are a few things to consider before you do so.

Assess the Workplace

First, consider whether or not your employees will be working in an environment that poses a high fire or flame risk. If so, they will need this kind of clothing in order to protect them as much as possible from one or more types of heating, including radiant and convective heat.

Of course, there are several different scenarios that can require flame-resistant clothing.

How Flame Retardants Work

When added to a material, a flame retardant will prevent fire from starting, as well as limit a fire’s spread and minimise the physical damage of fire. Flame retardants will act in one of two ways: they will either increase the effectiveness of other retardants already in a fabric, or they will work on their own to prevent burning and other damage.

Fire retardants work to stop the burning process in three ways. They can limit the process of the decomposition of burning materials by insulating fuel sources with a protective layer. They can also work to dilute any flammable oxygen concentrations or gases in the zone where flames form by emitting gases like nitrogen or water. Finally, they can disrupt the combustion stage in the fire cycle and delay flame bursts that can engulf a room.

Arc Flash

Arc flash is a situation that can occur in several industries, including maintenance, welding, utilities, HVAC, and more. When this happens, an electrical arc can land on flammable fabric, setting it alight. This phenomenon occurs when light and heat from an electric arc receive enough energy to cause fire. Not only are arc flashes incredibly bright, but they can also result in temperatures that surpass that of the surface of the sun.

Flash Fire

Flash fire is common in the mining, welding, granary, manufacturing and refinery industries, to name a few. This sudden and intense hazard occurs when air mixes with a flammable substance like dust, flammable gas or combustible or flammable liquid. Although short in duration, flash fires move quickly and can reach incredibly high temperatures.


Common to the firefighting, EMT, police and military industries, explosions can occur as the result of several occurrences. Whether natural, chemical, mechanical, magnetic or nuclear, explosions can be incredibly sudden and produce high amounts of heat that can cause serious burns or death.


EN standards exist to protect both employer and employee in the event of one of the emergencies above. When in doubt, it may be best for employers to ensure that they’ve met all of the legal regulations and requirements. Not doing so could leave them liable in the event that an accident occurs. Indeed, indecision about the cost of flame-retardant clothing could result in a far greater cost down the line.

Not the Same

To the untrained buyer, it may seem that all flame-retardant materials are the same. Not only that, but they are not interchangeable. Each type of flame-retardant garment is suited to a particular type of fire, and so won’t react the same in all conditions. As well, the materials used to construct different types of flame-retardant garments are different from one another. Because of the differences in materials, each type of garment will behave differently in a situation where fire occurs.

You should always speak with your own company Health and Safety Officer for the best advice and required level of cover.

Published On: May 20th, 2015 / Categories: Blog / Tags: /

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