Our new video launched at A+A 2019 proved a great success. It shows burn tests including Predicted body burn testing of three different disposable coveralls – proving the stark difference between different types despite meeting the same standard.
Secondary FR garments are certified to EN 14116: Index 1. This is designed not to measure how well garments PROTECT against heat, but that they do not burn, melt or drip molten debris. In fact such garments are not designed to protect against heat and flame but to provide chemical or other protection when worn OVER primary FR garments certified to EN 11612 and providing the flame and heat protection.
Here’s the problem. In many industrial applications Primary FR workwear, to protect against the risk of flash fire is a standard requirement. Workers are not allowed in many areas without such protection. However, some applications also require a level of chemical protection – protection against hazardous dusts or against sprays or splashes of hazardous liquids. To deal with this in too many cases a standard Type 3, 4, 5 or 6 disposable coverall is worn OVER the primary FR workwear.
Yet this is a serious hazard; standard disposable chemical suits are made from polymer- based fabrics. They are plastics derived from oil that will ignite, burn, melt and drip burning adhesive polymer. So when worn over primary FR workwear this polymer will stick to the FR workwear fabric, continuing to burn, transferring heat energy to the skin beneath and effectively destroying the FR workwear garments thermal protective properties.
So as standard chemical suits cannot be used, the necessary alternative is disposable coveralls the meet the requirements of EN 14116 which uses a simple flammability test (EN 15025) to confirm they do not ignite, burn or drip.
However, there are different types of Secondary FR workwear. At the lower end of the scale garments of SMS polypropylene which has had an FR treatment to enable to pass these requirements. Such garments are common as they are relatively inexpensive – though still more expensive than a standard Non-FR treated garment.
Lakeland’s Pyrolon® garments however are made of a completely different technology; not polymer based but viscose fibre, containing a high moisture content. The result is Pyrolon fabrics, specifically engineered for FR properties, and intrinsically flame retardant; try as you might you cannot ignite Pyrlon®!
Yet both types meet the same EN 14116 requirements so how can you tell the difference? Why pay more for Pyrolon® coveralls? And is it worth paying the extra for an FR-treated SMS coverall?
Thermal mannequin testing provides the answer. This involves a test garment or ensemble (in this case a primary FR garment with a Secondary FR garment worn over it, as would happen in many applications) being subjected to a simulated flash fire. Sensors on the mannequin absorb heat energy at the same rate as skin and from the heat energy information collected a Predicted Body Burn – the percentage of the body that would be burned – along with a “Body Burn Map” showing the location of 2nd and 3rd degree burns is produced. This, then is the best test to indicate how effectively a garment or ensemble will actually protect against flames.
We tested three disposable garments to see if there was any real difference: a non-FR treated SMS (SafeGard® GP), a branded FR treated SMS garment purchased freely in the market, and a Lakeland Pyrolon® XT garment. The results are shown in the table below:-
This conclusively shows two important points:
- Although the FR SMS garment is certified to EN 14116 and the non-FR treated SafeGard® GP is not, there is almost no difference in performance (less than 1%) in terms of Predicted Body Burn, and both feature 3rd degree burns. So why more pay for FR SMS garments when the performance difference is minimal?
- The performance of the Pyrolon® XT garment is markedly superior, with a total Body Burn of 8.2% – less than half that of the others!
So in this case the fact that two different items of PPE meet a particular CE standard is not a true indication of performance. In fact effective testing shows there is little to choose between the two. The same testing however conclusively shows that Pyrolon® are the only Secondary FR garments that show an impressive reduction in predicted body burn compared to a non-FR alternative.
In other words, Pyrolon® are the only Secondary FR garments you can trust.
To find out more about Primary and Secondary FR Workwear download our Guide to FR Standards here.