Welding and cutting can produce hazards such as sparks, spatter, radiation, slag, heat, hot metal, fumes and
gases, and even electric shock. Since these hazards may cause burns, injury or death, it is important for
welders and cutters to wear protective equipment that is adequate for the hazards at all times.
In the province of Prince Edward Island in Canada, here is a regulation that must be respected:
Section 37.9 of the Occupational Health & Safety General Regulations for PEI states:
The employer shall ensure that all employees engaged in welding or cutting operations wear, and all employees
(a) Adequate fire retardant work clothing
(b) Fire retardant gauntlet type gloves and arm protection
(c) An apron of fire retardant or other adequate material
(d) Adequate eye and face protection against harmful radiation, or particles of molten metal, or while chipping
and grinding welds; and
(e) Safety boots which meet the requirements of section 45.15
Fire Retardant clothing is made from fabric that has a chemical treatment incorporated into a textile fiber or applied to the finished fabric, which reduces or inhibits the garment from igniting in the presence of flame, slag or other hot material. An advantage of fabrics given fire retardant finishes is that the fibers used, (cotton, rayon, wool) are generally more comfortable to wear due to higher moisture absorption. Limitations may include wearing off of chemical protection during the cleaning process, and lowered abrasion resistance and tearing strength.
Flame Resistant clothing is made from fabric that uses manufactured fibers whose generic material makes them naturally flame resistant without a chemical treatment. These fibers have slower flame combustion and self-extinguish when exposed to a flame of short duration during testing. An advantage of inherently flame resistant fibers is that flame resistance is not altered by cleaning and they are generally strong, abrasion resistant fibers. Many of these fabrics have low moisture absorption, so they can potentially be less comfortable in a hot environment and the material has a greater tendency to build up static electricity.
The General Regulations at Section 37.9 above require welders and cutters to wear fire retardant clothing and not flame resistant clothing. Neither type of garment is “fireproof.” In other words, both types are designed to provide the wearer with more time to remove him or herself from the burning hazard. Additionally, the welder/cutter should consider appropriate clothing to wear underneath the fire retardant protective clothing. Certain heavier natural fabrics, such as cotton and wool, although they will not resist burning, will not melt onto the skin in the presence of flame. On the contrary, synthetic fabrics such as polyester will melt in the presence of flames, possibly adhering to the skin causing burns. For this reason, a worker should not wear synthetic fabrics underneath fire retardant protective clothing during welding and cutting processes.