Flame Resistant Uniforms and the Dangers of Heat Stress

It is instinctual to be aware of the dangers of hypothermia and so people bundle up to protect themselves from the cold. However, many people don’t understand the dangers of heat as even a normal high temperature can cause the problem of too much heat, or hyperthermia.


Also called heat stroke, sunstroke, or heat stress, hyperthermia occurs when the body can’t dissipate heat quickly enough. This causes the body temperature to climb to a dangerous level. This life threatening condition requires immediate emergency medical care.

A person’s body lowers high temperatures by perspiring. As perspiration evaporates, the body lowers the high temperature. Hyperthermia occurs when the body’s perspiration system becomes overwhelmed as the internal temperature begins to rise. The body temperature may even rise so high that perspiration can’t lower the temperature quickly enough.

A person can become dehydrated from not drinking enough fluids, which causes the body to eventually stop perspiring. Restrictive clothing can also inhibit the evaporation process. This adds dangers, as evaporation is what provides the cooling.

Fire Retardant Clothing

Older types of flame resistant clothes were uncomfortable and bulky, interfering with airflow and perspiration. Even on cooler days, firefighters or other workers who wore this bulky fire retardant clothing ran the risk of heat stress due to heat being trapped in these restrictive outfits. Limits became imposed on how long a person could wear these suits to protect the wearer from heat stress.

Since this is even a problem at mild temperatures, it is magnified greatly in the high temperatures of an actual fire. Emergency workers could quickly become overwhelmed by heat stress from the fire retardant clothing designed to protect them. It was a balancing act between body heat protection and fire protection.

New Technology

Thanks to new technology, today’s materials used in flame resistant uniforms for industrial workers, firefighters, and others exposed to fire hazards through their jobs are safer. These uniforms are made of breathable fire resistant fabric. This fabric wicks away moisture, allowing for effective evaporation, reducing the body temperature and keeping the wearer more alert.

The lightweight fabrics are as comfortable as regular clothing, offering protection to many workers, including law enforcement officers who can’t wear the bulky flame retardant clothing of the past. They provide a supplemental layer of fire retardant clothing to provide additional protection.

The same fabrics allow the bulky outfits worn by firefighters to provide more efficient heat regulation that greatly reduces the possibility of heat stress. Emergency personnel are safe and comfortable in today’s fire retardant clothing.