Protective clothing comes in many different materials: Cotton, Fire Resistant (FR), Arc Rated (AR), and other material types. Everyday wear made out of cotton lacks fire resistant qualities. When it comes to FR and AR clothing, all AR clothing is flame resistant, but not all FR clothing is Arc Rated.
Make sure you always wear clothing that is appropriate for the job you will be performing. If you work in a job where there are few fire hazards, cotton could potentially be the best selection. It is breathable, usually light, and does not add a lot of restriction to the wearer. Yet, it is easy to catch on fire and would do little to protect the wearer.
If you are working in a career that has a risk of fire, then FR clothing could be a first option. But, if you are working in a career where an arc flash is quite a high risk (Arc-electrician, electric utility linemen, etc.), AR clothing needs to be your first choice.
So, what is the difference between FR clothing and AR clothing?
FR and AR clothing are made to resist ignition and are tested by using a vertical flame test. FR gear is just that: flame resistant. It needs to protect the wearer from flames and the potential for second- and third-degree burns. Yet, since all arc rated clothing is fire resistant, both styles need to be made from non-melting material, which excludes polypropylene, polyester, nylon, acetate, and other synthetic materials that melt when exposed to heat (whether alone or blended together). Since not all flame-resistant clothing is arc rated, it needs to pass certain requirements. That can include that the gear is non-conductive, must cover the individual from head to foot, provide plenty of movement and visibility, and be tested by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
No matter what job you will be performing, you need to select the best clothing material that will provide the best protection from the hazards that you will face.
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