Most people assume that fire resistant and fire- retardant clothing is the same, but there’s a difference. Both types of clothing protect workers from fire-related hazards. Most people, especially workers in the oil and gas industry, have to wear fire resistant or fire retardant clothing, given they work in a risky environment. 

When exposed to a flame, both the fire resistant and fire retardant clothing might catch fire. However, the dressing has self-extinguishing properties and will put out the fire. Both options are safe to use in risky environments. Fire-resistant and fire- retardant clothing are both abbreviated as FR clothing.  

Fire Resistant

Flame-resistant clothing is made from inherently nonflammable fabrics and materials. The materials have a chemical structure that is naturally resistant to flames. These types of fabrics may catch fire, but they will either self-extinguish or burn extremely slowly.

Fire Retardant

Fire-retardant fabrics are those that have undergone chemical treatment to acquire some of the same properties flame-resistant fabrics inherently have. As a result of these chemical procedures, flame-retardant fabrics become self-extinguishing and slow-burning.

Main Difference 

The main difference between fire-resistant and fire retardant is in the material/process used to manufacture the clothing. Both types of clothing will self-extinguish and reduce the likelihood or the severity of burns. Either fire resistant or fire retardant clothing will adequately protect you from all forms of fire-related hazards. 

Most workers find it difficult to tell the difference between the two materials. However, you can check the clothing tag to know whether you are wearing fire-resistant or fire-retardant clothing. You can also follow up with the clothing manufacturer to see if you are using fire-resistant or fire-retardant clothing. 

It’s worth noting that there is a significant difference between fire-resistant, fire-retardant, and Arc-rated (AR) clothing. FR clothing’s role is to protect people from hazards like flames, flash fires, and embers. On the other hand, the part of AR clothing is to protect people from electrical arc hazards. If you aren’t sure whether your industry requires AR or FR clothing, you should consult your safety specialist. The right protective clothing depends on the work environment and the risks a worker is often exposed to.


Laundering and Maintenance Requirements

When choosing the right FR clothing, you should consider the laundering and maintenance requirements. The chemically-treated, fire-retardant dressing may not maintain its FR qualities for long. It may lose its FR properties after several washes. When laundering fire-retardant clothing, you have to follow some strict guidelines. For the proper care and maintenance of your fire-retardant clothing, you should check the cloth tag and also follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

You also have to adhere to specific maintenance and laundering guidelines when dealing with fire-resistant clothing. However, fire-resistant fabrics retain their FR properties for a more extended period than their fire-retardant counterparts. After all, the fire-resistant clothing is made from materials that are naturally resistant to burning. 

The Cost 

Fire-resistant clothing tends to be more costly than fire-retardant clothing. However, when choosing the right FR clothing, you should not focus solely on the price. Buying quality fire-resistant clothing will be expensive at first, but the clothing will last longer. On the other hand, you might spend less on buying fire-retardant clothing, but you will have to replace the clothing often. As you weigh the cost differences of both garments, it is essential to consider their durability.

Level of Protection 

Which workwear provides a higher level of protection, the fire-resistant or the fire-retardant clothing? All FR workwear comes with a label indicating how long the dress will protect you.  You can use the NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) chart to determine the level of protection you need at work. By understanding the required level of security, you will be able to choose the ideal protective clothing. 

All the FR workwear comes with a label indicating their hazard risk category. If you often handle low-risk tasks, type 1 or 2 workwear would be ideal. However, people working in high-risk environments, especially electrical workers, need to wear category 3 FR clothing. Your organization’s safety specialist or your supervisor can help you choose the right attire to keep you safe. 

Level of Comfort

In addition to protecting you against hazards, the right FR clothing should also be comfortable. In the past, FR clothing had a bad reputation for being too bulky and hot. However, this is no longer the case with the wide variety of fire-resistant and fire-retardant clothing available to choose from. It’s not like in the past when the FR clothing first came out, and the options were limited. With the current advancement in technology, manufacturers can produce high-quality FR clothing that is soft and lightweight but still provides ample protection. 

The comfort level of FR clothing will vary depending on the size, material, and clothing brand. You may consider getting a sample of the fire-resistant or fire-retardant clothing from the manufacturer to determine its level of comfort before you make a purchase. You will be wearing the protective clothing whenever you are at work; it’s crucial to ensure that the workwear is comfortable. 

Why is comfort so important? You can’t be productive if your workwear is not comfortable. If your workwear is too hot or bulky, it will restrict your movement and hinder your productivity. You might feel tempted to remove the protective clothing and remain with your regular clothes. 

Choosing Between Fire-resistant and Fire-Retardant Workwear

The right type of workwear will vary depending on a worker’s preference and budget. Fire-resistant and fire-retardant workwear differ in terms of the kind of garment, maintenance, laundering requirements, cost, and comfort level. It would help if you considered the outlined factors while choosing the right FR clothing and ensure you get the right workwear to suit your unique work requirements. Northern Workwear provides top-notch fire-resistant and fire-retardant workwear in Canada.