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US Energy Sector Growth Lifts Demand For Flame-Retardant Clothing

America’s increased energy production in the oil, gas and electrical sectors has sparked a need for more protective uniforms for manufacturing workers, made from flame-retardant fabrics.

Since California’s adoption of strict flammability standards in the ’70s for consumer products, manufacturers have been incorporating flame-retardants in their fabrics in order to meet national regulations. Now there’s a demand for the same with uniforms.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of non-supervisory production personnel in oil and gas extraction has grown by 50 percent from 702,000 in 2004 to 1.04m in 2014. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts a 16 percent rise in that number, along with a 20 percent growth in the number of skilled electricians needed, by 2022.

The jump in utility employment has spiked the need for flame resistant clothing (FRC) for protecting American oil, gas and electrical workers.

Verifying that a fabric is flame-resistant involves rigorous testing, set out by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This includes testing for vertical flame and char length; heat transfer performance, heat and thermal shrinkage resistance, and a three second instrumented manikin test, permitting a maximum body burn of 50 percent.

In 2014, much tighter Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations were also introduced. Now, American utility work wear must be completely flame resistant from head-to-toe, with uniforms specifically designed to meet an individually calculated arc risk, based on the equipment involved.

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In recent years, a comfort trend has emerged in technical fabrication. Nowadays, instead of heavy synthetics and bulky polyesters being used to produce protective fabrics, cotton-based technical textiles are being manufactured – woven with flame-resistant fibers before becoming a uniform.

Canadian firm Oratex manufactures both circular knit stretch fabrics and fire retardant textiles. Based in Montreal’s Anjou, the Oratex knitting mill houses open-width fine gauge machinery to produce its nanotechnology stretch goods and fire resistant products.

Flame-resistant fabrics are produced using a wide range of compatible yarns such as Nomex, Kermel, Modacrylic, and viscose, designed specifically for hydrocarbon flash fire protection and electrical arc protection.

Oratex’s current line consists of flame-resistant fleece, jersey, rib, mesh, cuffs and interlock that meet the requirements of NFPA 70E and CGSB.155-20.2000.

Oratex’s flame-retardant textiles can be accessed via their website.

Available on Le Souk, Oratex’s performance fabrics and ecologically-sensitive fabrics, which promote heat resistance and comfort, are stand out performers. They are best suited for active wear and apparel such as blouses and tops.

Check out the organic cotton spandex jersey, which offers a soft hand with stretch and recovery. It’s available in custom colors too.

—By Benjamin Fitzgerald


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