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beekeeping fire flame-resistant clothing 
Why do we need a flame-resistant clothing?

The use and availability of flame-resistant (FR) clothing has become much more common due to the continued development and updating of industry safety regulations and standards (Saner, 2011). This tendency to improve a variety of textile results in the development of effective flame-resistant methods and compositions. The best flame-resistant clothing consists of garments that are comfortable, breathable and offer a high level of protection (Gojdics, 2002). When it comes to FR, we need to ask these questions:

  • Is there a fire risk? i.e. the use of smokers in beekeeping
  • Do I or my employees need to be safe? and if this need is established;
  • What do we do to manage this and with regulation or standards?

With the importance of FR, of those exposed to workplace hazards, FR clothing protects the wearer by means of the following features:

  • Self-extinguishes or resists ignition
  • Does not melt onto skin
  • Reduces burn injury and increases chances of survival

Most severe burn injuries and fatalities are caused by non-FR clothing igniting and continuing to burn. Although FR clothing is a compliance standard for its primary market such as professionals in the oil and gas industry; the standards are not so tightly regulated for the secondary market such as workers that are exposed to heat or flame. However, regulations introduced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have proved to reduce body burn injury levels and increase the chance of surviving a fire incident. Thus, FR clothing has now become an important component of safety as many national and international organisations have developed clear standards for fire resistance.

FR clothing has the ability to significantly reduce the extent and severity of burn injuries to the body, protecting against flames in two ways. First of all, FR garments are designed not to burn when exposed to flame. This provides adequate protection by eradicating or decreasing the level of injury when clothing burns after exposure to fire. Secondly, FR garments are designed to reduce the amount of heat that goes into the skin during a fire. The fabric serves as a barrier between the flash fire and skin by reducing the level of energy transmitted onto the skin, thus providing further protection.

What is Calcium chloride and why did we choose it.

Calcium chlorideCalcium chloride is a salt with the chemical formula CaCl2 (Wikipedia, 2017, Kennedy, 2017). It is commonly used as a permitted food additive in the European Union and It is considered as safe  by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FSA, 2016). For example, as a firming agent in canned vegetables, soybean curds into tofu, as an electrolyte in sports drinks and other beverages, including bottled water, as added salty flavor to pickles, and added to pasteurized/homogenized milk. As a flame retardant, cloth is dipped in a calcium chloride solution to inhibit and delay the spread of fire by suppressing the chemical reactions in the flame (ACC, 2017).

Our Max Protect Beekeeping Suit

We not only understand the importance of protecting people from hazards, but also protecting the welfare of bees.

The Max Protect beekeeping suits and jackets are designed to be the next level of protection being based on our Apiarist beekeeping suit design. With increased protection from sting with thicker 100% cotton fabric and Metal YKK zips. But also for the risk of fire from the constant use of fire with smokers, to smoke the hive when examining hives during beekeeping.

beekeeping smokerIn addition, we needed the suit to have no adverse effect on people, bees or any wildlife that would come in direct or indirect contact with the suit. After all people’s skin would be in prolonged contact with the suit and bees too would be landing on the suit during the inspection of hives.
To manage all of this, the body of this suit has been treated minimally in order to make this suit flame-resistant and safe. Our research provided us with the understanding that Calcium chloride was the safest, bee & people healthiest approach to managing fire risk.

As Calcium chloride is solvable in water, washing the suit regularly would reduce the effectiveness of  FR. The minimal requirement for FR with Calcium chloride, only allows the suit to be washed 4 times, before the fire resistance is reduced.

Yet, most beekeeper don’t wash their bee suit regularly, at best some beekeepers wash their suits once per season (once per year). This means that we can use significantly less Calcium chloride than would normally be required in standard FR workplace clothing.

Therefore, based on seasonal washing the optimal FR effectiveness of the suit would be 4 years plus.

Note: The purpose of this suit was not designed for firemen to tackle a burning blaze, but to prevent the suit from burning if caught by flames from a smoker, without harming to bees.

Moreover, studies have shown that people performing high-intensity tasks with FR clothing did not demonstrate any difference in body heat storage, compared to the same tasks being performed with non-FR clothing (Poirier et al., 2015). Thus, to keep beekeepers cool, our suits should offer greater protection with the same level of comfort.

The veil of the suit, hasn’t escaped our attention. This too we spent years researching different types of mesh. The mesh that we not use in our Max Protect & Zephyros suits is no longer made from the standard oil based hybrids of meshes used in most beekeeping suit veils. This is because these meshes not only melt on contact with heat, but burst into flames.

The mesh we use in far superior, it won’t melt on contact with heat and won’t burst in to flames, it is the safest veil on the market!

Find out more at: Natural Apiary’s Protective Clothing   

References:

ACC. 2017. American Chemistry Council: Flame Retardants [Online]. Available: https://flameretardants.americanchemistry.com/Flame-Retardant-Basics/.

FSA. 2016. Food Standards Agency: current EU approved additives and their E Numbers [Online]. Available: https://www.food.gov.uk/science/additives/enumberlist.

GOJDICS, R. 2002. Personal protective clothing: purchasing flame-resistant secondary clothing. Professional Safety: Journal of the American Society of Safety Engineers, October, 56-59.

KENNEDY, D. 2017. Facts About Calcium Chloride [Online]. Available: http://sciencing.com/calcium-chloride-5027277.html.

POIRIER, M. P., MEADE, R. D., MCGINN, R., FRIESEN, B. J., HARDCASTLE, S. G., FLOURIS, A. D. & KENNY, G. P. 2015. The Influence of Arc-Flash and Fire-Resistant Clothing on Thermoregulation during Exercise in the Heat. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Hygiene, 12, 654-667.

SANER, M. 2011. Protective Apparel: Why FR Clothing? . Occupational Health & Safety, May.

WIKIPEDIA. 2017. Calcium chloride [Online]. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcium_chloride.