Pyrovatex: Flame Retardant Fabric Focus Part 4





Pyrovatex is a flame retardant treatment for use with cellulosic (plant based) fibre fabrics or fabric blends where the synthetic component does not exceed 25%. The focus here is on keeping fabrics soft and breathable while maintaining high levels of protection after multiple wash cycles. Huntsman, the company that manufactures Pyrovatex claims that, since its introduction in the 1960s, it has been used to treat over 100 million square meters of fabric. Pyrovatex features on our Firemaster range of protective coveralls.

What is it?

Pyrovatex is a chemical finishing agent containing a fibre-reactive Organic Phosphorus compound. The flame retardant treatment is absorbed into cotton or other cellulose fibres and bonds  to them on a molecular level. This means that (provided that washing instructions are followed,) its flame retardancy remain after repeated washing at the boil and dry cleaning. Like other flame retardant fabrics it works by creating a char effect when exposed to flame, forming a ‘carbon scaffold’ of dehydrated cellulose which stops fire spreading and penetrating the fabric. This means there is no risk of melting and, once the ignition source is removed, there is minimal smouldering or afterglow.
US Navy 070829-N-4965F-015 Flames push water from a fire hose back as a federal firefighter assigned to Navy Region Hawaii Federal Fire Department combats a fire during an aircraft firefighting training evolution with the Mobile

How does it work?

Its relative ease of application (specialist textile machines are not required to impregnate fabrics with Pyrovatex) keeps costs down making it one of the cheaper fire retardant solutions on the market. Where it really shines is day-to-day usability. Because the compound bonds on a molecular level to the fabric it means that woven and knitted cellulose fabrics retain their comfortable characteristics as well as their colour; the idea being that comfortable safety work wear that looks good is more likely to be used day-in day-out by workers.

Pyrovatex is suitable for use in the Oil and Welding industry and once combined with other chemicals to offer added protection, it can also be used in Chemical handling or Electrical Engineering fields. The flexible fabric is also in use in police, military and firefighting roles.

Use With Care

The care instructions are relatively straightforward; no soap-based washing powders, acid rinses or open steam ironing/pressing and low-temperature tumble-drying. As long as you stick to those simple guidelines Huntsman claim that the flame retardant effect will last the lifetime of the fabric. So unlike Proban, for example, Pyrovaetx won’t EVER wash out of fabrics.

Washing machine

This, combined with its relatively low costs makes it an attractive option but consider also that your choice of safety clothing should always dictated by work environment. Pyrovatex lacks some of the added protection of the other materials we’ve focused on in this series; the resistance to corrosive and solvent chemicals offered by Nomex for example, or the Arc Blast protection of Cantex. However Pyrovatex  is flexible and can be combined with other finishing agents to provide greater protection in both these areas.

Photo Credits:
Firefighter: By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James E. Foehl [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mangle: By User:Itub (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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KERMEL: Flame Retardant Materials Focus Part 4


French Army: Kermel Wearers

French Army: Kermel Wearers

Originally designed for the French army in the 1960s, Kermel had to offer a blend of comfort, flexibility and give to handle the rigours of war, and protection from flames, fires and even chemicals.

The link with the military continues to this day although, as with so many other military innovations, the wider world found uses for Kermel. The material has become a tried and tested option for the electrical, gas and petrochemical businesses and it’s become a protective option for fire-fighters, riot police and flight crews. And they are becomingly increasingly involved in the world of sports too; their SKEED® range providing protection for competitors involved in high speed activities. SKEED® clothing:

  • Protects racing drivers and mechanics against intense Hyrdrocarbon fires.
  • Protects motorcycle drivers from heat and burn in the event of a slide. The heat from friction can be intense.
  • Protects against cold, and friction burning from slides for skiers.

Kermel comes as a smooth-surfaced, supple fibre with a round cross section, and is available in a number of colours. This means it can be manufactured into comfortable, durable and stylish workwear for use over long periods. The fabric is washable, retaining its shape at high temperatures, and unlike some other flame retardant fabrics is it naturally resistant to detergents making it incredibly easy to care for.


SKEED®: Protection from cold and friction

Kermel is a polyamide-imide of the meta-aramid family, it is inherently non-flammable due to the chemical structure of the fibres themselves. Kermel has a very low flammability rating with a Limiting Oxygen Index (LOI) of 30-32% meaning that it physically cannot burn in air. It’s certified ISO 9001 v.2008 for Quality, OHSAS 18001 for Safety, and OEKOTEX Standard 100 for Health.

(For more info on safety standards, stay tuned – we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the European standards and codes that measure the effectiveness of flame retardant fabrics next week.)

During brief exposure to temperatures of over 1000°C Kermel has a high thermostability, meaning garments maintain integrity and keep a protective layer of air between skin and clothing. Prolonged exposure to temperatures of around 500°C will cause the polymer to gradually lose mass to charring.


LOI: Kermel physically cannot burn in air

Kermel is also resistant to most chemical agents. It provides effective protection against concentrated acids and dilute alkalis at ambient temperatures (i.e. the temperature of the surroundings) when immersed for extended periods of time. The fabric can also withstand most organic solvents and chlorine bleach, retaining its integrity when exposed to for a short period of time (i.e. an accidental splash) and sustaining its protective screen effect.

Kermal is a workhorse, it combines high levels of inherent protection with comfort and long term durability as well as resistance to detergents, meaning it and take wash after wash without losing its fireproof properties. As a long term investment in worker safety Kermal is hard to beat.

For more info on flame retardant fabrics check out out features on Proban, Nomex and Cantex or visit the main Specialist Work Clothing site.

Picture Credits:

French army: austinevan via photopin cc

Skier: jonwick04 via photopin cc

Limiting Oxygen Concentration Graph: Wikimedia Commons

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CANTEX: Flame Retardant Material Focus Part 3


Manufactured by Swedish company Tranemo, Cantex is a flame retardant material with a cotton feel and a weight of 350g/m2. Consisting of an inherent flame retardant fibre, pure cotton and a carbon fibre it means that, like last week’s focus: Nomex, Cantex does not rely on a chemical treatment for its flame proof qualities. This eliminates the risk of its effectiveness degrading after numerous washes.

Molten Steel

Unlike Nomex however, Cantex is not an all-rounder; instead it does a few key things really well. Cantex has been especially designed for workers who come into close contact with molten metal as well as electricians and workers in the power industry, and workers in industries where static electricity must be avoided – such as petrochemical storage. Anti-static clothing is a whole other topic, and one covered in a previous post.

The Nordic countries have numerous industries linked to the production and processing of metals: in Sweden and Finland mainly steel, Norway and Iceland; aluminium. Cantex garments are specifically designed for workers exposed to the convective and/or radiant heat resulting from molten metal splash.

ATEX Protection

Designated ATEX zones – places with an explosive atmosphere – fall under specific EU regulations describing what work and equipment is allowed there.


Workers in these environments, such as petrochemical storage or logistics, need a garment which provides flame retardant protection without a build-up of static charge that could trigger an igniting spark. Cantex garments do exactly that; they come woven with antistatic fibres to meet ATEX regulations, prevent mishap and keep workers safe.

Arc Blasts

People working with high voltage electricity are at risk of being exposed to an electric arc. Whilst these accidents are relatively rare thanks to precautionary measures within the industry, incidents do sometimes still occur.

An arc blast can reach temperatures of 20,000 degrees centigrade; hotter than the surface of the sun. However, with an Arc Thermal Performance Value (APTV) of almost 12, and Heat Attenuation Factor (HAF) value of almost 80%, the fabric offers some of the best protection against electric arc possible.

Cantex is strong, reliable, comfortable and easy to care for – simply industrial wash with a synthetic detergent. And it’s very good at what it does: providing fire retardant protection from high voltage arcs, molten metal splashes and preventing static build up. If those are the primary risks associated with your industry, you should be wearing Cantex.

For more information on Flame Retardant Clothing, check out our other guides: Nomex and Proban.

And for electric arc protection, Specialist Work Clothing have an extensive range on our website.

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UK Fire Protection Agencies


Fire Protection Association
London Road
Moreton in Marsh
GL56 0RH
01608 812 500,

Association For Specialist Fire Protection 
Kingsley House,
Ganders Business Park,
Kingsley, Bordon,
Hampshire, GU35 9LU
01420 471612

Bridges 2,
The Fire Service College,
London Road, Moreton in Marsh,
Gloucestershire GL56 0RH
0844 335 0897,

Tudor House,
Kingsway Business Park,
Oldfield Road Hampton,
Middlesex, TW12 2HD
0203 166 5002,

UK Fire Protection

The discovery of fire marked a seminal moment in the evolution of human beings yet it also unleashed a powerful force that we have struggled to control ever since. Over the centuries we have been reactive, fighting fires when they happened, but fire prevention activity didn’t really come into it’s own until the 20th century.

The first small step came from William the Conqueror who decreed that all fire-lights and flames must be extinguished at night. The word ‘curfew’ comes from this time (couvre feu being a cover put over the fire to extinguish it.)


William: Conquered. Also put out fires

It took the Great Fire of London in 1666 for the first building regulations to be introduced in an effort to prevent a future disaster and, while many cities introduced their own regional fire regulations after the advent of the Industrial Revolution, there was still no national code.

Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin oversaw the passing of The Public Health Act in 1936. It introduced a new concept in building legislation and a single building control model emerged which referred to ‘British Standards’ to indicate compliance. A leap forward but, as these standards were not mandatory, there were still many variations nationwide.


In 1946 The Fire Protection Association was founded. It was the UK’s first National Fire Safety Organisation and it works to this day to identify and draw attention to the dangers of fire and how their potential for occurrence and loss can be kept to a minimum. Based in Gloucestershire (address below,) it is recognized as an independent and authoritative source of fire safety information which also offers education, training, a fire risk assessment service, a nationwide risk management survey service for insurers, a membership journal (Fire Risk Management,) all underpinned by proactive research consultation conducted on behalf of insurers and commercial clients.


FPA: The UK’s first fire protection agency


The UK developed more rules to deal with the containment and prevention of fire including the Fire Precautions Act of 1971 which concentrated on enforcing minimum safety provisions for businesses. As a result, a new body called the Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) was formed in 1975 to increase awareness for contractors in how to comply to the building regulations and to increase awareness of the benefits of fire prevention systems.


In England & Wales, the powers to make building regulations were consolidated and re-enacted in 1984. All Building Regulations made by the ‘Secretary of State’ since then, have included minimum fire safety measures (for both physical fire resistance and safe means of escape) for all new, extended or altered buildings. Also in 1984, BAFE (British Approvals for Fire Equipment) was founded to develop 3rd party certification schemes. BAFE works with all interested parties and businesses with UKAS accredited Certification Bodies to assess and approve companies to these standards. There are now well over 1000 organisations located throughout the UK, registered to BAFE schemes.


House fires: Regulations have got tighter and tighter to aid prevention.

In 2000, the Government set up a review of the fire safety legislation and found that there were some 80 Acts of Parliament which specified fire safety legislation. In order to bring it up to date, they decided to take all aspects of fire legislation and place it under the umbrella of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RR(FS)O,) which became law in October 2006 – it applies to England and Wales only (although Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own similar legislation). The major change in the legislation was that it brought in the concept of risk assessment rather than prescriptive codes which in practical terms meant the Fire Certificate was no longer required. The Fire Safety Order lays out the foundation of the fire risk assessment by saying that the “responsible person take into account for the safety of their employees and anyone else who may lawfully on or near their premises”.


In 2007 the Fire Industry Association (FIA) was formed as a result of a merger between two older trade associations (FETA, the Fire Extinguishing Trade Association and BFPSA the  British Fire Protection Systems Association) to promote the professional standards of the fire industry through close liaison and lobbying with Government and official bodies as well other key organisations in the industry with the aim to inform their members and the general market about the latest legislation and how it can affect their business. The FIA  provide technical knowledge and advice on fire safety and also provide training courses on all the latest technical and legislative topics to affect those working with fire safety.


Cash: The cost of fire damage has been increasing making prevention even more essential

The cost of fire damage now stands at a record level according to research published by the Association of British Insurers (ABI). In the first half of 2009 ( the most recent date for figures)  insurers paid out £639 million – £3.6 million every day – for damage caused by fires. This is the highest half yearly figure ever with fire claim costs rising every year. With fire services across the UK reporting that from April 1st 2014 they will not respond to automatic fire alarms unless accompanied by a 999 call, the correct fire prevention systems for your business are more important than ever. Having the best and most up-to-date guidance can be crucial and this is where the companies listed above can help.

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NOMEX: Flame Retardant Materials Focus Part 2

nomex logo






Nomex is a synthetic aromatic polyamide polymer manufactured both as a textile and in sheet form. It was first developed in the early 1960s by the DuPont chemical company as material to make fireproof suits for racing drivers and pilots.

After a series of fatal motor-sport crashes involving several prominent race car drivers in 1964, DuPont scientists set their minds to developing a material that could withstand the extreme temperatures generated by a racing collision.

Today, Nomex garments are still used by racing drivers, as well as firefighters, military pilots and tank crews, NASA astronauts and industrial workers the world over. Even Batman’s suit is made of it.

Petoskey Batman.grid-7x2

This is because Nomex is tough stuff:

  • It can indefinitely withstand temperatures in excess of 200°C
  • It is unaffected by most solvents and resists attack by acid and
  • In densified form, Nomex can withstand electrical stresses of 18-40kV/mm
  • It is impervious to attack from insects, fungi or mould
  • In its solid form its tensile strength remains unaffected at -200°
  • It does not deteriorate when exposed to radiation (although it will not protect the wearer)

Unlike traditional fabrics that have been treated with a flame retardant chemical (such as Proban,) the chemical makeup of Nomex means the material itself is inherently fire resistant. This means that the fire resistant properties of the garment can be expected to last its entire lifetime whereas flame retardant treatments eventually wash out of fabrics to which they are applied.

Nomex does not melt or drip, merely chars when exposed to high temperatures for prolonged periods, it will never get hot enough to combust but fabric scorching or charring occurs at around 350C in air and the fabric fully carbonises at approximately 427°C.


The testing DuPont undertake is rigorous:

“After exposing fibres of NOMEX to dry air at 500°F(260°C) for 1,000 hours and then returning them to room temperature, the breaking strength and toughness of NOMEX is approximately 65% of that exhibited before exposure.”

Nomex is still the industry leader in flame retardant and protective fabrics after 40 years, although the price point is higher than some of its competitors. Still, if its good enough for Batman…

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The World’s Most Dangerous Fires (And How To Deal With Them)

Commercial fires cost the UK economy more than £2 billion per year – a staggering sum that has led to parliamentary calls urging British business to invest further in fire protection. Depending upon your workplace, there are many factors to consider when ensuring you’re fully-equipped to deal with fire, so below we’ve outlined a few things that different industries should be aware of.

Oil Rig Fires

Oil Rig

Due to their location and resources, oil rigs are widely regarded as one of the most high risk workplaces in the world. Thanks to stringent health and safety procedures however, they’re actually one of the safest. The offshore installations (prevention of fire and explosion, emergency response) regulations 1995 set clear guidelines on how to tackle flames and all staff are required to undergo fire safety training. Additionally, flame retardant coveralls are issued and, in the event of evacuation, immersion suits should also be easily available.

Forest Fires

Erratic summer heatwaves can lead to battles with forest fires, particularly in the dry heat of Australia or America. Professional firefighters use coordinated tactics to combat blazes; clearing woodland that’s at risk, preventing the fire’s ability to spread. Helicopters and planes are also drafted in to drop water and flame retardant material on affected areas, while crews on the ground wear flameproof clothing to tackle the inferno.

Engine Fires


Engine fires are commonly caused by inflammable liquid coming into contact with very hot engine parts, usually due to a leakage or ruptured damage. Aeroplanes have inbuilt mechanisms to shut down and cut off the fuel flow, whereas car engine fires require the driver to take immediate action – namely stopping, turning off the engine and ensuring all passengers leave the vehicle. Emergency services should be called straight away.

Gas Explosions

Gas Explosion

Gas explosions can be lethal and all measures should be taken to prevent them. Pipelines should be regularly checked for leaks, corrosion, or damage, while carbon monoxide detectors should also be installed. At home, all gas appliances should be regularly maintained and checked by industry professionals. It’s advisable to familiarise yourself with whether your gas supply can be turned off (the valve is usually located next to the meter), allowing you to cut the flow if you smell gas.

Electrical Fires


Electrical fires account for 50% of all callouts in the UK, injuring approximately 350,000 people each year. The most common cause is misuse of electrical equipment – overloading sockets, exposed wiring – but there are many safety checklists available to download, helping ensure your fire protection is up to scratch.


No matter what industry you work in, fire poses a very serious danger. All fire safety guidelines should be adhered to and staff given sufficient training on your procedures. You can find our range of flame retardant protective clothing here.

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Proban: Flame Retardant Material Focus Part 1


What is it?

Developed in the 1950s, Proban is a flame retardant chemical treatment that is applied in bulk to woven and knitted cotton or cotton blend fabrics at the finishing stage. Proban can be used not only for industrial, sport and military workwear but across many civilian industries including hotels, public buildings, hospitals, nursing homes – anywhere fires are a risk.

To ensure high quality, the Proban process is only used by textile finishers specifically licensed by Rhodia, the company who produces Proban. The treatment renders the fabrics flame retardant to industry fire regulation levels. Flame Retardant means that the fabric will self-extinguish upon removal from a flame source (see video below.) Proban treated fabrics still char and burn but unlike untreated cotton they will not continue to burn or smoulder after they are removed from an ignition source nor will they melt or stick like polyester.


This means Proban treated garments are best suited to situations where personnel are at risk of being exposed to fire for a short duration and where the garments will be worn for an extended period of time. For example Proban is ideal for use on wildland firefighting garments and on workware in the oil, chemical, gas, electric and petrochemical industries. However, clothing made from Proban treated fabrics should not be worn in environments where they could be exposed to acids, strong reducing agents and/or oxidizing chemicals.

Each batch of Proban treated fabrics are independently tested to meet fire safety standards and to ensure that they retain their flame retardant properties for a minimum of 50 washes at 75C.

How does it work?

The Proban treatment process involves several specific steps and is only available to carefully selected licensees. Proban itself is a low molecular weight, polymeric chemical that is impregnated into the fabric. The fabric is then dried to a specific moisture content before being cured by exposure to high-concentration ammonia gas. Next it is oxidized with hydrogen peroxide, washed, dried again and finally softened with a polyethylene textile softener.

Flame-retardancy is achieved by the formation of a cross-linked inert polymer within the fibre. Because the polymer is inert, it leaves the base fabric unaffected and because it is insoluble it cannot be washed out (except by incorrect laundering.) When exposed to heat, the flame retardant breaks down to form an acid in the fabric which masks the cellulose of the cotton and catalyses char formation. The carbon is then coated by potassium preventing oxidation. Essentially when Proban treated fabric is exposed to flame it forms a localised char that acts as an insulating layer.

Proban provides a comfortable, reliable and cost effective solution to fire safety in the workplace.

sjrankin via photopin cc

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