by , on October 13, 2015

Trim on the Market Today

There have been flame-resistant and arc rated reflective trims on the market for many years, but the most common ones were sew-on trims which made garments bulky.  While these were used for firefighters, the heat-sealed trims were not flame-resistant other than “taking on the characteristics of the fabric underneath” which is what almost all manufacturers depended on when heat sealing reflective trim onto FR garments, including rainwear.  Our research and that of manufacturers indicated that these trims performed well in arc flash and flash fire but would not pass a vertical flame test consistently as the trim was not treated or designed to be FR.  This has caused concern in the industry since there was no small scale test which these trims could pass, and most manufacturers do not test garments or garment designs in arc flash.

3M developed an FR trim which was heat-sealed, but it was the solid silver heat-sealed trim.

New Trim on the Market

Now 3M has announced that they have a new trim which completes the FR line for most applications: Segmented home and industrial laundry FR trim which works in arc flash. The new technical sheets are not yet on the website, but we have them linked here.  Check with 3M below to see if they have updated them.

Ask for the Data!

The large reflective trim companies 3M, Orafol, Avery-Dennison and Innolite have options for some of the reflective trims as flame resistant. Check for arc testing or arc data before purchasing garments with reflective trims from an arc perspective.  Garment level testing is NOT required by ASTM F1506, but FlashCert recommends garment level verification of materials and arc testing on the fabrics and on the trims if they are sewn-on.  We have seen sewn-on trims ignite and continue to burn in arc tests which were not arc rated trims.

Aramid backed trims and FR cotton backed trims work fine typically, but ask for arc data.  On heat-sealed trims, if it is not FR, be certain to ask for vertical flame or arc test data.  Heat-sealed trims which are not FR will not typically pass a vertical flame test, but this is NOT required by the standard. The trim does have to “not increase the extent of injury” in an arc flash exposure, so if the trim is not FR and arc rated, ask for ASTM F2621 test data to verify that the trim performs as advertised.

Important Questions to Ask

Things to think about with FR reflective trims:

  1. Do I need florescent trim?
  2. Is it flame resistant or arc rated (may not disqualify at this point if proven to “not increase extent of injury”)?
  3. Can it be laundered by my chosen method?  Many trims are not launderable at industrial laundry (IL) temperatures and in IL chemistry.
  4. How many launderings does the trim take (some cheaper versions are quite susceptible to losing beads, so that they still look silver but lose the retroreflectivity)?
  5. How durable is the retroflectivity?  We have seen glass bead materials which are poor in flexing and abrasion yet hold up well enough in washing to meet the standard.
  6. What is the level of retroreflectivity of the trim (many trims have minimum retroreflectivity; others are visible from greater distances and work better in rain)?
  7. Does the garment meet ANSI 107 and ASTM F1506 (or additionally NFPA 2112, and if a vest, F1506 is adequate; for garments you may need to require multi-hazard protection)?
  8. Do I need prismatic technology or glass bead technology (prismatic is advertised for use in water and often is advertised to be better in rain [though this hasn’t been our experience] but it is stiffer for some applications and definitely lasts longer)?

Why does it matter?

  1. Easier to determine flammable components
  2. No standard way to determine that non-FR heat sealed trims will not increase injury other than to arc test which is expensive and only a moment in time of production since flame resistance isn’t controlled on non-FR trims.
  3. Could be written into specifications by those wanting extreme caution.
  4. Could be written into ASTM F1506 or NFPA 70E.

Information Sources:

It’s important to note that we do not endorse manufacturers but this is a list of those we found with claims.


Hugh Hoagland
About author:
Hugh Hoagland is the foremost tester of clothing and PPE exposed to electrical arcs and is an arc flash expert. Read more about Hugh.

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