Laundering hi-vis AR/FR garments
How many launderings are high-visibility arc-rated/flame-resistant garments good for before they’re either no longer FR or too faded to meet ANSI standards?
Responding is Scott Margolin, vice president of technical, Tyndale, Pipersville, PA.
All quality hi-vis AR/FR garments that have been properly tested and labeled per ANSI 107 are FR for the life of the garment, and proper labeling is both required and clearly laid out in the standard. Garments that haven’t been tested to meet the FR performance criteria listed in ANSI 107 are required to have “Non FR” marked on their label. Garments labeled FR must meet the full ANSI 107 criteria. Beware of labels that cite NFPA 701 instead; it’s not an appropriate test for these garments.
Laundering limits seen on labels (typically 50 home washes) are almost always because of the reflective trim, the reflectivity of which is eroded by washing – not the FR properties or fading of the fabric. There’s no requirement in the standard to remove garments from service for fading or soiling, but best practice is to examine hi-vis garments before each use and clean or retire any that appear noticeably less bright. Sunlight can fade hi-vis garments – with no way to restore color – while soiling may be removed by laundering. Standards, unfortunately, offer no clear guidelines on removal-from-service levels, but any garment that’s faded, stained, worn, torn or otherwise not highly visible from a considerable distance should be removed from service.
Why are hi-vis AR/FR garments so expensive compared with comparable garments that aren’t hi-vis?
Hi-vis AR/FR garments are more expensive than similar standard FR garments because the dyes and tape are quite expensive, the processing of the fabric dyeing is slower and more expensive, the manufacturing of the garment is slower and more expensive because of the reflective trim, and the volumes are lower.
Why aren’t more outerwear options (sweatshirts and jackets) in the market?
There are two main reasons why we don’t see more hi-vis AR/FR jackets. Hi-vis FR fabrics are a relatively recent innovation and, as previously noted, they and the tape are expensive; outerwear can be higher priced as well, so the combination of costly hi-vis fabrics with the outerwear can get pricey. Industry is also trending away from one-piece garments and toward layering of multiple lighter outerwear options for comfort and flexibility. The garment worn as the outer layer may differ day to day, so the solution for many is larger hi-vis vests donned as needed overtop of whatever outerwear combination is worn each day.
Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the authors and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.