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What is the difference between primary and secondary flame resistant (FR) garments?

By Jessica Barrett | Last updated: April 21, 2019

We use flame resistant (FR) protective clothing to protect against hazards like electric arcs, flash fires, and combustible dust. But not many people know that there are two types of FR clothing – primary and secondary (see 5 Things to Know About Flame Resistant Clothing to learn more about FR clothing).

The difference between primary and secondary protection is in the intended use of the clothing.


Primary FR Garments

Primary flame-resistant garments are designed for activities that will consistently expose the wearer to hazards like flames, radiant heat, or molten substance splashes. These garments tend to be heavier, like flash suits. One of the best examples of primary FR gear Perhaps the best example of primary FR clothing is the turnout gear worn by firefighters, which protects them even in extreme conditions.

Secondary FR Garments

Secondary flame-resistant garments, on the other hand, are designed to guard against intermittent hazards. This type of FR clothing still provides a high degree of protection from flames, radiant heat, and molten substance splash – but only when those hazards are present on a sporadic basis, not regularly or for extended periods of time. This type of gear tends to include items such as shirts, pants, and coveralls (learn How to Select the Right Flame-Resistant Coveralls).

Whether your context calls for primary or secondary FR clothing, you can up the protection by donning a good base layer underneath. Make sure the base layer is non-melting and fits you well. If for any reason your primary or secondary FR garments get damaged or burned, the base layer can act as an extra layer of protection.

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PPE Protective Clothing Flame Resistant (FR)

Written by Jessica Barrett

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Jessica is a freelance writer and editor from Toronto, Canada. She specializes in creating content for nonprofits and has written for organizations working in human rights, conservation, education, and health care. She loves traveling and food, speaks Spanish, and has two dogs, one of whom she rescued while living in Mexico.

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