Selecting the correct clothing

If your risk assessment indicates that protective clothing is needed you will have to consider the following:

  • Which molten metals are used
  • The garments required and the body part(s) at risk
  • The type of material they are made from
  • Their design
  • Their size and fit

It is important to involve your employees in this process as protective clothing also has to be suitable for the wearer and the work they do.

Which garments?

Consider different jobs separately as the risk of exposure to molten metal will be different depending upon the task/s being carried out.

You should be able to work out which areas of the workers body are at risk of splash.

Safety helmets, boots, gloves and safety glasses will almost always be necessary.  The garment guide table below shows the likely minimum further clothing required for representative jobs.

Garment guide

Job Part of the body most at risk Minimum protective clothing recommended
Cupola man Whole body Jacket/trousers
Furnace man Whole body Jacket/trousers
Caster, large castings Whole body Jacket/trousers
Caster, small castings Lower body Trousers and shirt
Die caster Lower body Trousers
Pressure die caster Various Further assessment needed
Lift truck driver Whole body Jacket/trousers
Maintenance Varies according to task Suitable and specific for each task - assessment
Other staff, managers, visitors Various Segregation is the primary safeguard. Where essential for them to enter an area where they would be at risk from molten metal splash then suitable and specific assessment is needed to determine what protective clothing is needed

This table is a guide only

What about coveralls?

A suit made up of a jacket and trousers will usually be the preferred option. Coveralls should not normally be provided because:

  • The cut of a coverall can lead to pockets being created in which molten metal may become trapped and
  • They are not so easy to remove quickly in an emergency

Coveralls should only be selected when other factors outweigh these potential problems, for example for maintenance work in confined areas.

Which material?

Molten metal protective clothing can be made from different materials.  The most suitable material - or combinations of materials - depends on which molten metals you use and how the material responds to them. 

Materials and fabrics used to make molten metal clothing must be tested by the manufacturer to find out what level of protection they provide.  The materials are given a performance level depending on how they respond to these tests.

BS EN ISO 11612 is the standard which clothes will usually be tested to.

The clothing you buy will be labelled with its performance level and this will help you to choose the correct clothing for your employees.

To select the right material you will need to know:

  • The pouring temperature of the metal or metals you work with
  • The amount of molten metal that workers may possibly be exposed to if an incident occurs (from your assessment)

The performance level of the clothing you are thinking about using (from the label; see Levels of risk for work with molten metals)

See the worked example

Clothing design

Even the most advanced materials will only be able to withstand the high temperatures from molten metal for a short period of time so clothing should be designed to eliminate trapping points or areas where molten metal can build up.

Points to think about:

  • Overlapping seams on the outside of the clothes should be downward facing and lock-stitched
  • Jackets should be long enough to cover the tops of trousers - even when the wearer bends down - and should fasten up to the neck where they should be close-fitting
  • Jackets and coveralls should have internal pockets. External pockets should be provided only where they are absolutely necessary and then should be covered by flaps which are at least 20 mm wider than the pockets so that they cannot be tucked inside them
  • It may be desirable, when lighter weights of cloth are used, to reinforce shoulders and collars and, in some instances, provide a double layer from the knee downwards
  • Quick-release fastenings should be fitted to outer garments to enable their fast removal in emergencies
  • Trouser bottoms should not have turn-ups and should be wide and long enough to overlap the top of footwear
  • Metal fasteners on the outside of garments should be covered or treated to prevent molten metal from sticking
  • Given the arduous work and hot environment in foundries, and the need to wear other protective equipment, every effort should be made to provide the lightest garments possible, taking into account the degree of risk
  • Consult the potential wearers about comfort and fit. Experience shows that loose fitting garments of the correct size will be more comfortable since they allow greater air flow, do not restrict movement and are easier to remove in an emergency
  • A major feature of accidents involving injury from molten metal is the failure to wear the clothing provided, or the failure to wear it properly because:
    • it may be too hot and uncomfortable to wear for long periods
    • it may increase tiredness through heat stress
    • it did not fit the wearer when it was issued
    • shrinkage; the clothing has shrunk restricting the wearer's movements or
    • the wearer did not appreciate the real level of the risk because of the low number of molten metal incidents in the foundry before the accident

Sometimes, people other than foundry operators and maintenance staff may visit hazardous areas. Provided no close contact with molten metal will take place, for example in the case of visitors and some managers, it may be acceptable to supply a long coat or gown made from suitable materials. These types of clothing are not suitable for long-term visitors or operators.

Additional personal protective equipment (PPE)

It is likely that other items of protective equipment will be needed to protect workers fully.  They may include:

  • Safety helmets
  • Kepis or neck guards
  • Gloves
  • Eye protectors
  • Boots and gaiters

Always choose CE marked equipment.  There are European Standards for equipment which protects against heat, flame and molten metal risks.  You may find these useful when you are choosing your equipment.

Make sure that the various items of PPE all fit properly when they are worn together.

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Updated 2023-05-02