Loading... Please wait...

Subscribe to Wiggy's Newsletter » Receive updates about new products, specials, and learn about insulation technology

Having trouble receiving our newsletter? Resubscribe Here (Opens in a new window).

New Fire Retardant & Arc Resistant Standards Enacted by Osha

Posted by

Are you a fire fighter, oil field worker, electrical worker, or a worker in any field that requires fire retardant clothing? If so, your employer has to provide you with clothing made from materials that will not ignite from electrical arcs or whatever and there are a myriad of activities that will bring you in contact with flames. They further state that” the clothing not be made from acetate, nylon, polyester, rayon and polypropylene either alone or in blends unless the employer demonstrates that the fabric has been treated to withstand the conditions that may be encountered by the employee or that the employee wears the clothing in such a manner as to eliminate the hazard involved.” Quite a burden to put on the employer who is not in the textile business, wouldn’t you say. Therefore, the employer has to believe what the garments suppliers are offering are going to meet the requirements mandated. Having been in the textile business for over 50 years I have noted that there are some manufacturers who willfully skewer the language used to represent their products especially when it comes to technical specifications. I can speak with great authority on the subject of insulation as is used in sleeping bags and outerwear.

Since the need for fire retardant underwear arose as a result of the IED’s that killed many an American soldier when we started fighting in Iraq I have done a significant amount of research into fire retardant fabrics.

Reading the rules on page 2 of the section relating to clothing otherwise page 44 of the entire final rules from OSHA it states the following; “the employer shall ensure that each employee who is exposed to hazards from flames or electric arcs does not wear clothing that could melt onto his or her skin or that could ignite and continue to burn when exposed to flames or the heat energy estimated under paragraph (1) (80(ii) of this section.” However, what I could not find in the 4 pages of rules pertaining to clothing that dealt with what I refer to as the first layer you should wear. They only reference the “outer layer of clothing”. I suspect that many workers in these fields wear synthetic underwear because they have been sold a bill of goods by underwear manufacturers that the underwear they make is moisture wicking, etc. for the record none of the underwear sold as moisture wicking does wick the moisture, because it cannot. Why? because it is almost always 100 percent synthetic and more than likely polyester. And if enough heat were to get through to the underwear it will melt into your skin. Not a comforting thought, remember that is what happened to soldiers exposed to the heat of an IED which if I remember correctly was about 1500 to 1700 degrees F.

It was at that time that I started to learn about fire retardant materials suitable for underwear, the first layer of clothing. In the archives there are several articles on the subject. What I learned was that wool is naturally a flame retardant material and when blended with viscose rayon that has gone through a special process it too is flame retardant. I have sold flame retardant underwear manufactured in the USA that utilizes this blend of fibers for several years. I have taken that fabric and gone one step farther and made insulated long underwear. The lining fabric that touches your skin is the same fabric as the non-insulated underwear as is the shell fabric. The insulating layer is a batting made from the same fibers in the same blend, 50% merino wool and 50% viscose rayon. This material does actually wick the moisture that your body is giving off. The reason it wicks the moisture is simple: both components have the capacity to absorb moisture; polyester does not absorb moisture. The manufacturers who make polyester underwear put a silicone finish on the fabric and believe that the moisture will slide past the yards to get away from your skin surface. Surprise! It does not work that way with any efficiency. Some will get out, but about 90% of the moisture stays behind. Once the moisture starts moving through the Wiggy’s underwear the fabric becomes even more fire retardant and it also reduces static electric flow. Years ago I studied how to overcome static electric flow and what I found out was increase the humidity; i.e. moisture in the clothing.

The new rules concentrate more on arc flash accidents and how best to protect the individual than other forms of fire accidents and I now know why. The internet, as I have spoken of in the past, has an incredible amount of information on all subjects so I researched arc flash accidents. To begin with, according to an article published in “Fire Engineering magazine states: An arc flash is an electrical release of energy hotter than the surface of the sun and capable of exploding with the strength of eight sticks of dynamite. It kills two workers a day, every day, year in and year out; arc flash injuries 1,000 times more often than a shark attack.” According to Salisbury Assessment Solutions; “As much as 80% of all electrical injuries are burns from an arc flash and ignition of flammable clothing. Fatal burns can occur at lengthy distances.” According to OSHA; “80% of electrically related accidents and fatalities involving (Qualified Workers) are caused by arc flash /arc blast.” Considering the information that is available I can understand why OSHA is writing tighter specifications dealing primarily with arc flash accidents.

All of the information and pictures taken of accident victims supports why it is so important to wear a first layer of clothing that will shield your skin from the excessive heat generated by an arc flash. The amount of heat that is generated will melt or ignite that first layer of clothing, however, that last layer against your skin is your last resort of protection.

The materials that I am using have been tested for resistance to fire and arc flash which I will be happy to supply to any interested in buying my underwear a copy of the reports as well as a sample of the material so you can do your own testing. When you get the material try and burn it. If that doesn’t demonstrate it non-flammable characteristics for you I don’t know what is better.

The underwear available is shown on the web site in the clothing section.

Wiggy's Signature

Our Locations  +  Contact

Corporate Office & Factory

To place an order, please contact our corporate office & factory at:

Wiggy’s Inc.
PO Box 2124
Grand Junction, CO 81502

Store Location

2482 Industrial Blvd  •  Grand Junction, CO
(970) 241-6465

+1 (866) 411-6465 f:  (970) 241•5921 e:  

When it comes to extreme cold weather gear, Wiggy's has you covered.

Check out all our products from sleeping bags & shelters to footwear & clothing. Our uniquely developed continuous filament fiber called Lamilite insulation is what sets Wiggy brand insulated products apart. What is Lamilite and why does it perform better than all other forms of insulation? Click here to keep reading & find out more »

© Wiggy’s Inc. All Rights Reserved.