What is the Thermal Mannequin Test?
The Thermal Mannequin Test provides vital insight into how effectively a Primary FR garment or a combination of Primary FR and Secondary FR garments will protect the wearer in a flash fire scenario. This is the only test in either the EN 14116 or EN 11612 standard which tests whole garments rather than fabric or components and shows any real indication of whether a garment will actually perform and protect the worker in a real-world scenario.
How do you interpret the Thermal Mannequin Test Results?
The test subjects a garment or garment ensemble to a simulated flash fire, using well established analysis to produce a map showing the probable areas and incidence of pain, 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree burns. In this sense it provided an indication of real-world performance and allows effective comparison of how well a garment will protect… the lower the incidence of body burn, the more effective the protection.
This is vital in assessing performance of Secondary FR Workwear (garments designed to provide chemical protection and to be worn OVER Primary FR workwear); the danger with any secondary FR workwear is that it will compromise thermal protection, providing the chemical protection but leaving the worker exposed to heat or flame hazards. The use of thermal mannequin testing is the only effective way to ensure that flash fire protective properties are not compromised and that flame and heat protection is maintained.
Lakeland, having tested the Pyrolon® range of Secondary FR workwear (including combinations of other types of Secondary FR workwear and standard, plastic-based disposable coveralls), is the only manufacturer of Secondary FR garments that has addressed this issue. The results demonstrated major variations in the way different ensembles work in terms of the level of predicted body burn. The types of garments tested and results are summarised below:
Standard, non FR, plastic-based coveralls
Few organisations today ask workers to use plastic-based coveralls over Primary FR garments, but with this research the risks are now widely recognised.
These coveralls are made typically of polypropylene, polyethylene or polymers which will ignite and burn if exposed to heat or flame, transferring heat energy through to the wearer and compromising thermal protection. For this reason, standard plastic-based disposable and chemical clothing cannot be worn over Primary FR workwear. Additional concerns relate to the coverall’s zipper assembly and components: in the event of a fire, the garment may need to be removed quickly, which will be difficult if the zip has burned or melted and does not function as a result.
In a recent incident, a worker using a standard, plastic-based disposable chemical suit was splashed with hot liquid. The suit melted and shrank onto the wearer, making it so tight he could not remove it, extending the exposure to the burning liquid and resulting in serious injury.
Pyrolon garments are based on a different fabric technology with superior heat tolerance and higher melt points. With Pyrolon this would not have happened.
VERDICT: A test of a standard, plastic-based disposable coverall worn over Primary FR workwear resulted in a major increase in predicted body burn (from 37% to 53%) compared to the Primary FR workwear worn alone.
A standard plastic-based coverall worn over Primary FR workwear risks destroying thermal protection.
Plastic-based/FR treated Secondary FR Workwear
Not all certified Secondary FR workwear is the same; some types will perform effectively whilst others poorly in real-world situations. While meeting the requirements of EN 14116, some cheaper types are made of standard, plastic-based fabrics with a chemical FR treatment applied. Unfortunately, testing in EN 14116 fails to differentiate between them. Only Thermal Mannequin Testing highlights the difference.
VERDICT: In fact, testing has indicated that the difference in predicted body burn between a standard, plastic-based coverall and the same plastic-based coverall with an FR treatment is less than 1% - despite the latter being certified to EN 14116. The conclusion is that simple certification to EN 14116 is no indicator of effective performance of Secondary FR workwear.
Pyrolon® Secondary FR workwear
Lakeland’s Pyrolon® suits use a viscose-based fabric, developed specifically for its FR properties. This fabric does not ignite and does not burn, thus allowing it to be worn over primary FR workwear for chemical protection without destroying the thermal protection.
VERDICT: Thermal Mannequin Testing of Pyrolon® garments worn over Primary FR workwear has proven its effectiveness in not compromising thermal protection – indeed, predicted body burn is lower with Pyrolon® than wearing the primary thermal protective garment on its own. Pyrolon® is made from a viscose-based material, specifically engineered for FR properties and will not ignite and burn.
Thermal Mannequin Testing has shown that wearing standard, plastic-based workwear over primary FR workwear results in an increase in predicted body burn (and also the addition of more critical third-degree burns), whilst wearing Pyrolon® Secondary FR workwear results in a substantial reduction in predicted body burn. The graph summarises the results and shows that only Pyrolon® is proven to work effectively when Secondary FR workwear is required.
Watch the burn performance comparison video to see how different fabrics perform in a vertical flammability test:
Want to learn more about the tests used to assess the effectiveness of Primary and Secondary FR workwear? Download our latest eBook and discover how to select clothing where protection against heat, flame and/or hazardous chemicals is required.