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What Makes Material Flame Retardant


If you need specific flame retardant material for a job on a construction site or other industry, then it’s worth checking the product you are buying. Obviously for safety reasons, you must be very sure that the item you are using is correctly labelled. For example, debris netting can be flame retardant or not, so you have to check. But what makes material flame retardant in the first place?

Table of contents:

    Science Behind What Makes Material Flame Retardant

    In general, flame resistant fabrics are made up of synthetic fibres that resist catching fire when they are exposed to heat. Instead of burning, the fabrics will eventually start to melt. So fire resistant material doesn’t burn easily, but that’s not to say it doesn’t burn at all.

    If you take non fabrics such as plastic for example, this is a combustible material because it has a lot of carbon and hydrogen available to fuel a fire. Likewise, gas is even more combustible. That’s because it has carbon and hydrogen, and it can evaporate easily so it’s volatile.

    Whereas bricks are highly resistant to heat, which is why they continue to be useful in construction. Concrete is also hard to combust as flame retardant chemicals are added in the mixing process.

    However, for the purpose of this article, the focus is on flame retardant material and fabric.

    How To Make Material More Flame Retardant

    Because there is not a single material that is 100% fire proof, there are ways to increase the level of flame resistance.

    Chemicals put onto material or fabric can make it more fire retardant and help to slow or extinguish a fire that is already burning. However, some chemicals can also react badly and cause potential toxicity to flames as they burn. Therefore, it can cause controversy by adding chemicals to make material more fire retardant. That’s because the toxic output of a burning fire can be very dangerous to workers.

    Hence QubeUK sell a water based spray that helps to make material and fabric more flame retardant.

    What Is Polya Spray?

    Polya FRS100 is a non toxic formula water spray which can treat any water absorbent material. Tests show that Polya FRS100 can effectively increase fire retardant levels in materials including cardboard, untreated wood, polystyrene, hessian, foam and rubber. As well as any other item that can absorb it.

    The treatment lasts for the useful life of the item or material. However, the team at QubeUK recommend getting a new treatment every 12 months, or if the fabric gets wet in any way.

    Correct Terminology

    You may see a material or fabric with the label ‘fireproof’. This is actually not correct, because almost anything containing carbon, if hot enough, can catch fire. Therefore ‘fire resistant’ or ‘flame retardant’ are more accurate in terms of language.

    Why Use A Fire Retardant Spray

    By treating materials with a fire retardant spray, you are helping to significantly slow the spread of fire should one happen. In simple terms, it can give you more time to seek help, slow the damage and reduce the chance that the material will ignite in the first place. Ultimately, if you are in charge of health and safety on your site, then you are making it a safer place to work.

    What Regulations Cover Flame Retardant Material

    When it comes to flame retardant material, there are no specific European standards. However, the Health and Safety Executive recommends the following preventive actions when using combustible materials.

    • Manage the fire risk by reducing the amount of combustible material in the work area until it is needed.
    • Where possible, choose and specify materials that are less combustible.
    • Ideally store combustible materials outside buildings under construction.
    • Keep the site tidy to make sure all emergency routes are accessible
    • Take extra precautions when using volatile flammable materials such as liquids, gases and oxygens.
    • If using protective coverings such as debris netting or scaffold sheeting, these may add to a fire risk. Reduce the risk by using flame retardant materials.

    Can You Rely on Flame Retardant Sprays or Additions

    By ensuring the material you are using is more flame retardant, you are making the space a safer area. However, as mentioned before, you cannot make any material or object completely 100% flame proof. What you can do is to reduce the likelihood of it catching fire or spreading fire. Therefore it’s important to use flame retardant sprays in situations where you may identify the risk of a fire.

    For example, perhaps you are in the construction industry and you put in some debris netting to protect people below from falling debris. However, you also identify the potential risk of a fire, because of some of the materials you are using or the general nature of the job. Therefore, in order to create another line of safety, you can use a flame retardant spray on the debris netting. So if a fire does happen, you have a better chance to stop it spreading.

    Conclusion: What Makes Material Flame Retardant

    To conclude, sadly each year there are a number of serious fires on construction sites. Not only do they cause significant damage and financial setbacks, fires can also risk the lives of your team. You can help to avoid a serious fire by taking the necessary safety assessments before the job starts.

    Flame retardant sprays are a useful option, but they are a second line of defence. They should always be used in conjunction with other safety precautions and not as a guaranteed way of preventing fire. Hence you still need to make sure you have taken all the sensible fire safety precautions first. Part of this is to make the materials you are using more flame retardant than they were before.

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    Top 6 Safety Risks In Construction


    There are several industries where workers face real safety risks on a daily basis. Probably none more so than the construction industry. From shifting heavy loads to working on fragile surfaces and dealing with toxic materials, construction workers face many hazards. So what are the top 6 safety risks in construction and how can you mitigate against them?

    Table of contents:

      Top 6 Safety Risks in Construction: Working At Height

      Unsurprisingly, working at height is a huge safety risk. That’s why there are working at height regulations in place for site managers to follow.

      In 2019/2020, a total of 29 workers in Great Britain suffered fatal injuries after falling from height. Even with collective and personal protective equipment in place, there is not a 100% guarantee that working from height can be safe. For example, workers may be carrying out tasks over the edge of a building, on a fragile surface or above a hole in the ground.

      Moving Obstacles and Machinery

      Construction sites are exceptionally busy places. There are cranes, trucks, scaffolding and other tools being used to carry out all kinds of building works. Moreover, the machines and drivers are moving along uneven surfaces which are open to all kinds of weathers and environmental factors.

      As well as this, if you’re concentrating on a particular task in hand, you may not notice other people or machinery moving around you. Therefore it’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times on a construction site.

      Additionally, there is the risk of falling debris. When you’re working below on another level, you may not notice what is moving around above your head either.

      Hazardous or Toxic Materials

      It could be asbestos, heavy metals or chemicals such as solvents or pesticides, but you are probably aware that construction sites are full of dangerous materials. Perhaps the dangerous nature of the material is not always obvious. It’s only after you’ve been around it for a long time that you may experience symptoms.

      Furthermore, construction workers must store the materials safely under specific regulations which means moving them into the right place.

      According to the Health and Safety Executive, waste is deemed as hazardous when it contains substances that are harmful to human health or the environment, although it doesn’t need to have an immediate effect.

      The duty of care when it comes to handling hazardous waste depends on whether you are a producer, holder, carrier or a consignee.

      Slips, Trips and Falls

      When it comes to construction sites, the cause of most non fatal accidents is slips, trips or falls. It’s easy to see why. There is demolition, building and excavation going on throughout a site. And it all creates mud, holes, uneven ground and trip hazards.

      Ideally, a site manager can reduce the risk of slips and trips by making sure the site is as tidy as it can practically be. So putting tools away in the right places or creating safety zones where workers enter and exit the site.

      This is also where safety awareness training can help. It could be that some people don’t recognise potential hazards or risks. Even putting your tools down on a scaffolding can potentially cause the next person to trip over. Or they might knock the tool accidentally which then falls heavily onto a person below.

      Handling Materials

      How to handle material is an essential part of health and safety training.

      For example, storage areas should be clean and organised. Whole sites should be kept safe and clean and easy to move around.

      Moving heavy loads requires safe bagging and the correct, working machinery to lift them. If you’re using a ladder for example to reach materials, you must place it on a stable, level floor. Or if you’re moving fluid material from one level to another, you could build a ramp to move it up without any spillages.

      Once again, the correct protective equipment can help to keep workers as safe as possible while handling materials. For example, using flame retardant gloves, a high visibility coat, a helmet and safety goggles.

      Staff should also have training in how to lift and move heavy loads correctly so they don’t hurt themselves.

      Top 6 Safety Risks In Construction: Noise

      When it comes to a building site, it’s a noisy place. There’s construction machinery, lots of people, and various tools operating at the same time. Drilling, hammering, cutting and shouting to make yourself heard can all contribute to noise levels.

      As well as this, the repetitive and excessive nature of the noisy work can potentially cause long term hearing problems. It could also lead to a dangerous situation when trying to communicate across the noise.

      Site managers must carry out a comprehensive noise risk assessment on site and issue appropriate personal protective equipment. This can include ear defenders and ear plugs. However, there must be an element of common sense in using them so that everyone can understand each other.

      Accident Statistics in Construction

      The statistics from 2020 in Great Britain show how dangerous it can be to work in the construction industry and why safety is paramount.

      For example, 57% of workers suffered from a form of musculoskeletal disorder. Meanwhile 27% suffered from stress, anxiety or depression.

      Of all the accidents that took place, 40 workers were fatally injured. 47% of accidents involved falling from height, while 16% involved being trapped by something collapsing.

      In 12% of accidents, a worker was struck by a moving or falling object and 10% were hit by a moving vehicle. Finally 4% had contact with electricity.

      Conclusion: Top 6 Safety Risks in Construction

      To conclude, as you can see above, the risks while working on a construction site are very serious. This article only mentions the top 6 safety risks in construction but there are many more.

      It is possible to reduce the risks by doing a comprehensive risk assessment before the work begins. Identifying the hazards around the site will help you to prepare the right safety equipment for workers to use. Keeping the site clean and tidy and free from trip hazards will enable it to be a safer place through the duration of the job.

      Finally, making sure that your team has the proper safety training and awareness will contribute significantly to keeping everyone safe.