Industrial Protective/Safety Fabrics 101: Types & Applications

Professionals working in high-risk environments face threats from explosions, fire, metal sparks, high-voltage power, sharp objects, and toxic or corrosive chemicals. They require reliable protective clothing to keep them safe from potential dangers. Industrial protective fabrics are technical clothing meant to protect workers from environmental and workplace hazards. Safety fabrics should be comfortable, provide maximum protection for the wearer both indoors and outdoors, and give them freedom of movement.

Protective textiles should also remain compliant with government and industry standards for workplace safety. Protective apparel must keep workers safe while meeting the requirements of the oil and gas, metalworking, energy, utility, chemical, and manufacturing industries. Learn more about the properties, benefits, and applications of various safety fabrics.

industrial workers protective fabric

Safety Fabric Properties: Fire, Cut, and UV Resistance

Protecting employees from workplace hazards is one of the crucial responsibilities of the employer, who needs to identify the safety risks in the workplace. The type of protective fabric chosen will depend on the nature of work, potential hazards, and compliance requirements under the relevant ANSI, ASTM, AATCC, OSHA, FAR 25.853 or MVSS 302, and Mil-Spec standards. 

Fire-Resistant Fabrics

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) provides reference charts and guidelines on the required level of protection against environmental risks like flash fire or arc flash. Manufacturers design most fire-resistant fabrics for continuous wear with possible intermittent exposure to heat or flame. Fabrics must resist ignition, prevent flame spread, and self-extinguish almost immediately after catching fire. 

There are two main types of fire-resistant fabrics: those that are inherently fire-resistant and those that are treated to resist flame. Inherently fire-resistant fabrics are constructed from textiles that themselves are not flammable, so they offer permanent protection that does not fade or wash away over time. Treated fabrics are coated with a fire-retardant chemical that makes the textile fire-resistant. Materials like cotton are not fire-resistant on their own, but the coating offers that protection. Treated protective gear can wear away with use and washing, so it is important to use correct laundering methods to maintain these garments.

UV-Resistant Fabrics

UV resistance refers to fabric that is protected from weakening or fading with sunlight exposure. Most UV-resistant fabrics provide protection for different periods of time, usually 20-40 hours without requiring an enhancer. Fabrics beyond 40 hours need to be treated with an additional UV inhibitor.

Cut-Resistant Fabrics

Cut-resistant fabrics should be able to withstand abrasion and resist cutting when in contact with sharp materials, as in glass manufacturing applications. These textiles are approved by ANSI to protect workers from injuries in these settings. 

Mil-Spec Fabrics

Mil-Spec, or military specifications, covers a wide range of military fabrics. The U.S. military, federal and state organizations, aerospace, and parachute industries all use Mil-Spec fabrics because they are rated for high performance and durability in harsh, mission-critical environments. Mil-Spec standards regulate properties such as tear strength, tensile strength, weight, thickness, dry crocking, and crimp. Mil-Spec fabrics must also have certain air permeability, water repellence, and flame resistance properties.

Benefits of Using Nylon and Polyester Fabrics

Nylon and polyester mesh are synthetic fabrics made up of flexible fibers oriented to resist UV degradation, stretching, and water. In particular, nylon and polyester gloves are effective at protecting hands from punctures, cuts, abrasion, and chemicals. They have a level 3 cut resistance and are flexible enough for applications requiring a considerable level of dexterity. Synthetic protective materials are ideal for commercial, industrial, and recreational uses for these reasons:
Durability

Durability

Both nylon and polyester fabrics are highly resilient, withstanding chemical damage, degradation, corrosion, flames, wear, and mildew.

Elasticity

Elasticity

The synthetic fibers are elastic, allowing the fabrics to return to their original shape after stretching.

Hydrophobicity

Hydrophobicity

Polyester mesh is especially hydrophobic, which means better water repulsion and faster drying times.

Versatility

Versatility

Both nylon and polyester are well-suited for various applications. In occupational safety, they make excellent cut-resistant safety garments. In the automotive industry, the materials create moisture-resistant equipment. In healthcare, polyester and nylon are widely used due to their antimicrobial properties. These materials are widely accessible and easy to clean and sew, reducing maintenance downtime and costs.

Common Uses of Protective Fabrics

Manufacturers design protective fabrics targeting specific hazardous applications, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • Fall protection harnesses: Spacers for fall protection harnesses must be reliable and flexible.
  • Glass handling: Safety sleeves are a crucial piece of protective equipment for workers in the glassmaking industry.
  • Safety equipment: These include high-visibility safety vests, safety flags, and cut-resistant safety garments.
  • Military clothing: Protective equipment for military use must be tough and moisture resistant to withstand dynamic, heavy-duty use.
  • Heat protection: Thermal protective fabrics protect against hazardous thermal environments. They usually combine several layers with air gaps to prevent transferring thermal energy to the skin.
  • Cold protection: Synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene are effective at insulating workers against cold temperatures. They wick moisture and insulate properly even when wet.
  • Chemical protection: Safety fabrics can be designed to repel chemicals in liquid or gas form. This protective clothing is widely used in the chemical, automotive, agricultural, and photography industries.
  • Ballistic protection: Protective fabrics can also guard users against ballistic or projectile inputs, such as the metal fragments produced in the metalworking industry.

Nylon and Polyester mesh TypesContact Jason Mills for Premium Protective Fabric Solutions

Protective fabrics are crucial components for worker safety, efficient operation, and compliance with regulatory bodies. At Jason Mills, we work tirelessly to produce the best industrial protective textiles that are compliant with all government standards and customer specifications. With over four decades of experience in the textile industry, we serve a range of diverse markets—including aeronautical, medical, filtration, occupational safety, and recreational trade—with high-quality knitted fabrics.

We can customize industrial clothing with special traits, such as flame resistance, antistatic properties, odor neutralization, insect repulsion, and UV resistance. Contact us today to discuss your needs or request more information about our products and services.

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