Unpacking Fire Retardant Standards.
Fire retardant standards are put in place to increase the safety of workers in the workplace. Adhering to these standards is the sign of a responsible employer who takes the safety of their workforce seriously and is committed to their well-being. Moreover, it is a commitment to customers that the correct processes are being followed in the workplace. If we consider these points, it becomes evident that fire retardant garments are not only a regulation for business owners, they are an investment.
While it may be commonplace to assume that Fire Safety Legislation rests strictly within the parameters of flame retardant garment manufacturing, there is actually an array of components that fall under the Fire Safety umbrella. This legislation also extends to electrical arc resistant materials, building safety legislation, extinguishers and fire detector systems.
Fire Safety Legislation can be found in most countries across the globe. In the United States, the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) is the chief coordinator of Fire Safety Standards and while these standards are not officially legislation, they form the foundation on which most Fire Legislation is based.
Two American-based global entities which contribute significantly to the worldwide creation of Fire Safety Standards are ASTM International and UL (Underwriters Laboratories) while SANS (South African National Standards) remains a mark of quality in Southern Africa. Recently, UL formalised a partnership with independent South African based testing laboratory, ATS (Advanced Testing Services). This agreement will ensure that there is local growth for Fire Retardant Safety testing in South Africa.
The European Union also has its own standards authorities. European Standards (EN) is a body of safety standards which have been ratified by three European Standardisation Organisations – CEN, CENELEC and ETSI – to create Fire Safety legislation that is applicable throughout the European continent.
Many of these Fire Standards share similar origins by making reference to The International Standards Organisation (ISO) which is the worldwide standards producing body comprising the national entities of 157 countries. ISO standards meet and often exceed individual national ones, and may have an influence on national legislation and standards across the globe.
Gelvenor supply fire retardant garments to a customer network which stretches around the world. To service this eclectic customer base, they ensure that their fabrics are widely accredited with international standards and local standards authorities.
• ASTM D6413
• ASTM F1959
Some of these standards relate specifically to full garment testing while others are applicable to the fabric only. It is important to establish which is required when testing and certifying flame retardant products, and Gelvenor’s experience ensures that they are perfectly positioned to cater to this need.
Gelvenor achieve this by utilising the services of ATS laboratory to test vertical and horizontal flammability of their flame retardant and electric arc fabrics before and after washing. For additional testing on fabrics, Gelvenor utilise the services of Aitex, Arcwear, DuPont and Waxman who are able to test to most international standards required.
Gelvenor produces primarily inherently flame and electric arc resistant fabrics which ensure that the protective qualities in the garments do not wash out over time. This provides both the employer and the wearer with peace of mind. Furthermore, if the garments and fabric are properly taken care of and washed and dried correctly then they can extend their long life cycle and reduce the cost per use.
For employers, it is always recommended to purchase good quality flame retardant safety wear that meets and exceeds the standards it adheres to. When deciding what garment to purchase at what safety certification, bearing in mind how many seconds you will need to remove yourself from the threat has proved to be a useful indicator to those investing in flame retardant garments.
Gelvenor believes that flame retardant and electric arc garments extend beyond regulations. Employers should ensure that they not only offer their workforce safety wear which meets local and international standards, but surpasses them to offer complete protection. After all, quality safety wear is an investment.