ISO 11612:2015—Clothing To Protect Against Heat And Flame

Fireman fighting fire flame with water and extinguisher wearing flame-resistant protective clothing that adheres to ISO 11612:2015.

For many professionals, flame-resistant (FR) clothing is an essential tool of the job. High-quality, specially engineered FR garments protect the wearer from burns caused by flash fires, electric arcs, and combustible dust, preventing severe injuries and even saving lives. ISO 11612:2015—Protective Clothing – Clothing To Protect Against Heat And Flame – Minimum Performance Requirements provides performance requirements for protective clothing for heat and flame.

Importance of Flame Resistant Clothing

Flame-resistant (FR) fabrics help prevent the wearer from burns from both initial exposure to the flames and from residual heat transfer. FR clothing is used in a large number of professions including fire service, research labs, electrical utilities, and oil and gas. Workers in these areas often face the potential for explosions, open fires, and other thermal incidents. As a result, it is essential they are properly protected on the job.

What Is ISO 11612?

ISO 11612:2015 specifies performance requirements for protective clothing made from flexible materials, which are designed to protect the wearer’s body, except the hands, from heat and/or flame. For protection of the wearer’s head and feet, the standard only covers gaiters, overboots, and hoods (requirements for visors and respiratory equipment are not given). The performance requirements set out in ISO 11612:2015 are applicable when there is a need for clothing with limited flame spread properties and the user can be exposed to radiant or convective or contact heat or to molten metal splashes.

General requirements which are not specifically covered in this standard should be in accordance with ISO 13688.

Flame Retardant vs. Flame Resistant Fabrics

The biggest difference between flame-resistant (FR) and flame-retardant fabrics lies in how each is produced. FR fabrics are made from materials that are inherently nonflammable (the materials have flame resistance built into their chemical structures). Fabrics made with nonflammable materials are designed to naturally resist the spread of fire and do not melt when in close proximity to a flame. Since FR fabrics are not usually made from 100% FR materials, they will burn. However, they will do so extremely slowly and are often self-extinguishing.

On the other hand, flame retardant fabrics are chemically treated to be slow burning or self-extinguishing when any open flame strikes them. These fabrics can be made from any material, but they must be treated with special chemicals to qualify as flame retardant. Flame-retardant clothing typically starts with cotton or a cotton-blend fabric that is then treated with special chemicals.

What Clothes Are Resistant to Heat and Flames?

Materials like Modacrylic, Nomex, and Kevlar have excellent flame-resistant (FR) qualities and are commonly used to make elements of FR garments.

  • Modacrylic: (among the most popular and common options available today) these fibers are typically part of a blend to create several different FR fabrics.
  • Nomex: these fibers have inherent FR qualities. As opposed to modacrylic fibers, Nomex can create FR garments on its own. It is also possible to combine Nomex with other materials like Kevlar.
  • Kevlar: These fibers are FR, but they have many other additional properties such as high strength. Kevlar is extremely heavy-duty and can create FR clothing as well as many other different items. 

Other fabrics, such as cotton, are naturally resistant to flames and can be treated with specialist chemicals to boost their heat resistance and their protective qualities. It is important to note that various kinds of flame-resistant materials offer different benefits. What protects a person in one setting might not be suitable for another, so it is crucial that professionals and employers always check which fabrics are best for their workplace.

Heat and Flame Protective Clothing

ISO 11612:2015 specifies that heat and flame protective suits should completely cover the upper and lower torso, neck, arms to the wrist, and legs to the ankle. Further, suits should consist of the following:

  1. A single garment (e.g., a coverall or boiler suit)
  2. A two-piece garment, consisting of a jacket and a pair of trousers
  3. Trouser bottoms should overlap the top of the footwear (this overlap should be maintained while walking and crawling)
  4. Quick-release fastenings should be provided to enable rapid removal of the garments in the event of an emergency

ISO 11612:2015—Protective Clothing – Clothing To Protect Against Heat And Flame – Minimum Performance Requirements is available on the ANSI Webstore.

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