Workers who need AR/FR gear don’t work in ideal or gentle conditions. Aside from the weather or extreme temperatures, they are often in rough surroundings that do their best to destroy PPE. Whether it’s abrasion and wearing or tearing and rips, AR/FR garments need to stand up to the elements to continue delivering the protection that workers need.
Over time, fabric technology has evolved to meet these conditions. Starting with rough, heavy canvas, fabrics then evolved to thick denims, finally advancing to the modern synthetic fiber blends in use today. These fabrics are lighter weight than the older technology yet offer greater protection. To make these AR/FR fabrics even more durable, alternative woven constructions can be utilized in place of the more traditional twills or plain weaves such as a Rip Stop. By entwining the twill into a specific pattern, the fabric will offer increased resistance to abrasion and actually help stop rips. Hence this fabric construction is labeled a “rip stop”.
To understand the difference between a ripstop and another fabric, several formal and informal tests can be performed. The ASTM D2261 tear strength test takes a swatch of fabric and pulls to show how quickly and easily the fabric tears.
Taking testing to the extreme, an informal test that can provide a comparison of abrasion resistance is to use a bench grinder – the same one you would use to sharpen tools – and hold the fabric against it. By comparing the relative damage, it’s possible to get a pretty good idea of how the fabric will perform when the wearer scrapes against a rough surface like asphalt.
Workers in hazardous situations need to be able to rely on their PPE to keep them safe. The more durable their AR/FR fabric is, the better protected they will be, and the better protected they will feel. Additionally, durable workwear can help cut down costs on replacements and repairs as well as keep workers looking their best.
Formal and informal test results can only give you so much of the picture. To get a true measure of how an AR/FR fabric performs in your workplace, a wear trial is the best solution. Along with durability, you can also evaluate comfort and performance of the fabric and garment construction to ensure the best option is selected for your team.
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