Comfort, Metal & Steel, Industrial safety, Standards & Norms, • 16 min read

FAQ: Answers to the most pressing questions about protective clothing

Mathias Moller December 10, 2019

As a Health & Safety professional, knowing everything there is to know about safety is often quite a challenge. Questions are unavoidable and you won’t have every answer. To help you, we listed the most frequently asked questions in one blog. All the answers you are looking for, bundled in one easily accessible place. The questions are divided into five categories:

1. Norms
2. Comfort
3. Wear trials
4. Fire resistance
5. Sustainability

Are you struggling with an issue that’s not on this list? Reach out to our protective clothing experts; they look forward to helping you! Or learn everything about protective clothing on this page.

1. COMPLYING WITH STANDARDS AND NORMS
When it comes to protective clothing, a lot of standards and norms have been defined to improve the safety level on the workfloor.  Questions about these norms that are often asked:

What are the requirements in protective clothing that I have to comply with? 
The requirements for protective clothing depend on your work environment and several elements in that environment need to be considered. The best way to find out what protective workwear is suitable for your particular situation, is to conduct a risk assessment. A risk assessment is an evaluation of the potential risks that are relevant for your company. Read more about risk assessments and norms here.

How do I know if I need to comply with EN ISO 11611 or EN ISO 11612? 
Both EN ISO 11611 and EN ISO 11612 are relevant standards when it comes to heat and flame protection. The EN ISO 11611 is specified for welding and allied processes specifically. The EN ISO 11612 is meant to protect people who are regularly exposed to heat and flames.

EN ISO 11611 Class 1 or Class 2: which one do I need?
EN ISO 11611 is the standard your protective clothing needs to meet for welding and allied processes. This norm is broken down in different classes. When testing the heat transfer, for example, the time a 24 °C temperature increase takes, determines the class: up till 7 seconds for Class 1, and 16 seconds for Class 2.

Knowing which class is needed for specific welding activities is important. For example, gas welding is a Class 1 activity, while MMA welding is a Class 2 activity. In this blog we’ll explain the differences between the classes, in order to help you to determine the right class for your welding activities.

What are multi-norm garments and when do I need them?
Multi-norm garments are specifically created for work environments with multiple risks. They are designed to meet numerous standards. This sounds like the ultimate protective clothing, but there are a few downsides. 

An ‘over-engineered’ multi-norm garment costs and weighs more. Protecting your workers against dangers they won’t ever face makes clothing unnecessarily less comfortable and more expensive. Therefore, conduct a risk assessment for each workstation and find out what the true relevant threats are for your workers. Then your protective clothing can be designed specifically for your work field.

2. COMFORT IS SAFETY
A higher level of comfort in your protective clothing leads to a higher level of safety, because when your workers feel good in their garments, they’ll gladly wear it during their work. That’s why asking the following question is important:

How can I make sure my protective clothing is safe and comfortable at the same time?
The wearing comfort of protective clothing is of vital importance to its safety. After all, if the workwear is not comfortable, the chance is bigger that workers won’t wear it properly. Making sure your protective clothing is safe and comfortable at the same time is very important. 

There are 4 essential characteristics that make a fabric comfortable: weight, moisture absorption, breathability and softness. Our experts look forward to helping you implement those characteristics in your workwear.

3. TRIAL AND ERROR
In order to reach the highest level of safety possible, it’s important to test protective clothing in your work environment. It’s important to know how you can test this and what should be considered in the process:

What is a wear trial and what are important focus points when conducting a wear trial? 
Wear trials enable you and your employees to look and feel the new protective clothing firsthand in a test round. During this test, emotions are just as important as the features and specs of the clothing. It is important that your professionals on the workfloor gladly wear the new clothing. Therefore, a few focus points are essential while conducting such a trial:

  • Improvement
  • Standards
  • Design
  • Comfort
  • Durability 

Read more about wear trials and these focus points in this blog.

4. IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT: WORKING WITH FIRE

Firefighters or other workers who regularly work with fire and heat, know that the job brings dangers with it. Therefore, having the right knowledge at hand is very important. These are some frequently asked questions about fire:

What is the difference between fire resistant and fire retardant clothing?
The difference between fire resistant and fire retardant is whether the fire repelling property is inherent or not. Fire resistant clothing is made from fabrics that are inherently resistant to catching fire, while fire retardant fabrics have been chemically treated to give them these properties.

What is the difference between FR treated and FR inherent fabrics?
Inherent means “existing as a natural or basic part of something”, which means fabrics that are FR inherent contain at least one fibre with natural FR properties. FR treated fabrics get their FR property from the chemical treatment applied to them. Read more about FR treated, FR inherent and the differences in this blog.

What are aramid fibres and what types of aramid fibres are there? 
Aramid fibres are a class of strong synthetic fibres, distinguishing themselves from other synthetic fibres due to an excellent heat and flame resistance, high chemical resistance and low molecular weight. Examples are Kevlar®, Nomex®, Twaron® and Kermel®. Read more about the advantages of aramid fibres here.

5. SUSTAINABILITY 

We want to meet the safety needs of the present, without compromising the needs of future generations. Sustainability is therefore an important focus point while developing new garments. That brings us to the following question:

What are sustainable alternatives to cotton?
For the production of cotton-based clothing, a lot of pesticide is needed globally. One very interesting alternative to cotton is lyocell. Not only is it more sustainable because its ecological footprint is much lower, it also absorbs more moisture than cotton. Lyocell is softer and thus more comfortable than cotton and it is highly durable. Read more about lyocell here.

We have visualized our view on sustainability in the workwear industry in “The Cycle of Care”. Together we can minimize environmental pollution and create the best social conditions for everyone. Are you ready to activate your role?

Get even more answers
While we tried to bundle the most frequently asked questions about protective clothing above, it is possible you have a different question or you want some extra information about one of the subjects. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate and contact our experts. They are happy to help you!

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Mathias Moller

End User Expert | TenCate Protective Fabrics