How to Put Together an FR Work Outfit for the Winter
To ensure you have the right amount of protection, it's not enough add up the arc ratings of each layer of clothing. You will need to perform a multilayer test to make sure your workers are adequately protected.
Selecting the best type of flame-resistant work wear can be challenging at the best of times, but cold winter weather makes it even more difficult.
Every FR winter outfit has three key goals it must meet:
- Keep the employee warm
- Keep the employee dry
- Meet the required hazard risk category (HRC) and arc thermal performance value (ATPV) ratings
In this article, we’ll break this down and walk you through the steps of putting together a perfect FR work outfit for winter weather.
Layering to Ensure Comfort
It’s certainly possible to create an FR outfit using only a winter coat and a non-melting base layer, but this is far from ideal for a few reasons. The main one is that FR outerwear can be heavy and bulky, creating mobility issues and discomfort for the worker. Layering is a cost-effective way to manage these challenges while also providing superior warmth and comfort.
A complete FR winter outfit should consist of the following layers:
- A base layer
- An insulating layer
- A weather-resistant outer layer
In addition to protecting your body from flame and fire, the base layer should also keep the wearer dry. Since it is worn against the skin, it should be made of a material that wicks away moisture and sweat.
While base layers don’t technically have to be FR-rated, it’s always best to purchase ones that are since doing so will help you achieve the necessary HRC and ATPV ratings. But even if you choose a non-FR garment for your base layer, it has to be made of 100% natural materials (not blends) like wool, cotton, and silk. That's because synthetic materials can ignite, continue to burn, or even melt onto the skin, so they have no business being against your body when you might be working with flammable materials or near open flames.
The insulating layer is worn over the base layer, and its job is to keep help the wearer stay warm. The thickness and rating of this layer will depend on specific work requirements and the climate, but common winter options include FR turtlenecks and FR sweatshirts.
No FR winter outfit is complete without an outer layer that protects the user from the elements.
FR winter jackets are some of the best and most common options. In climates that aren't too frigid, however, a heavy FR sweatshirt or vest might be sufficient.
There are two major considerations when it comes to this layer:
- It must meet all FR requirements (it is, after all, your first line of defense against fire and arc flash hazards)
- It must allow for sufficient movement and comfort (bulky winter wear is neither comfortable nor flexible)
To ensure the user's comfort, the outer layer of a winter FR outfit should be breathable while offering protection against wind, rain, and snow.
Other Cold Weather Considerations
While layering clothing to protect the body is critical, your winter outfit must also protect hands, feet, face, and ears. Here are some important items that you’ll want to consider.
Depending on the weather, you may opt for something that covers the entire face or just the ears and top of the head. There is a variety of FR balaclavas, beanies, hoods, and other hats available to meet these needs.
(Learn more in 4 Problems with Traditional Arc Flash Head Protection)
Hands frequently are frequently exposed to hazards, so it's important to make sure the gloves you select have the right flame-resistant properties. They should also allow enough dexterity to perform work tasks with ease.
Socks are an often overlooked – but very important – part of a winter FR outfit. Wool is a great option here, since it’s naturally flame-resistant and offers plenty of warmth.
(Learn more in Winter Footwear: Making the Transition to Keep Your Feet Warm)
The winter season brings its own challenges and hazards to the workplace, but by layering FR clothing properly, you can be sure that your workers are protected year 'round.
For more seasonal content, checkout our Winter Safety Knowledge Center!
More from National Safety Apparel®
- What can we do about rain protection for arc flash work?
- What is the best way to care for FR rainwear?
- Can rainwear be arc rated and flame resistant?
- Is it a good idea to layer FR gloves for winter?
- Does every layer of winter workwear need to be flame resistant?
- What flame resistant standards does ANSI 107-2015 recognize?