A firefighter needs to evaporate about 1 liter of sweat per hour to be able to regulate the body temperature when exposed to extreme heat. The human body is designed to function within a very specific temperature range between 36.5 and 37.5 Celsius. However, fighting fires test these limits and can increase a firefighter’s body temperature to over 38 degrees. Selection Of PPE While there are many factors to consider to reduce the impact of heat stress on firefighters – such as hydration and heat acclimatization – a major component of heat stress control is the selection of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Here, Reece Buchner, technical sales manager at FlamePro, a British specialist manufacturer of life-saving garments for firefighters, explains what to look for when specifying PPE, to reduce heat stress while fighting fires. Insulation – Friend Or Foe Insulation is an important part of any firefighter kit, as it keeps the extreme heat away from the wearer, however, it also keeps the body heat in. People are aware that sweating is the best way for one's bodies to regulate the temperature, however for sweating to be effective, the air should be dry and moving, like when it’s windy. When it’s humid, there is less capacity within the air for vapor to leave the body and that makes sweating less effective. An enclosed and insulated fire suit without airflow may therefore not promote the ideal perspiration environment. Moisture Barriers Moisture barrier regulates body heat as it allows as much moisture vapor out as possible Moisture barriers play a crucial role in reducing the chance of heat stress. A moisture barrier is a type of material that lets vapor through and in some cases liquid (unidirectionally), making a suit breathable. When it comes to fire suits, this moisture barrier plays an important role in regulating body heat as it allows as much moisture vapor out as possible. Types of Barriers There are three types of moisture barrier product technology used in firefighters’ protective garments: microporous, monolithic, or bi-component. Each of these barrier technologies has a different level of effectiveness: A microporous membrane contains small passages or holes, which allows for air permeability and offers water vapor transfer by air-diffusion. A monolithic membrane is a continuous polymer layer without any passages (holes), and, therefore, does not have any air permeability. However, breathable monolithic moisture barriers use hydrophilic polymers which allow water vapor transfer through molecular diffusion instead. A bi-component moisture barrier product uses a combination of microporous and monolithic technologies and allows no air permeability. Ensure Mobility It’s important that fire suits are designed to be wearer friendly, whilst providing optimum protection. When selecting PPE consider how easy the suits are to move in, and bear in mind the different requirements of the team depending on the job at hand. PPE that is designed to provide increased mobility helps to reduce muscular strain, improves air circulation, and in turn heat stress. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reducing the risk of heat stress amongst the fire brigade, these are all important factors to consider to ensure the team’s PPE is working to minimize the danger.
The dangers of cancer-causing particulates have never been in sharper focus in firefighting than they are today. Indeed, firefighters are becoming more aware of the risks associated with their job and exposure to carcinogens. But are all firefighters aware of the different measures that should be taken to reduce their contact with particulates? Reece Buchner, Technical Sales Manager at FlamePro, a British specialist manufacturer of life-saving garments for firefighters, explains five steps that can help to reduce exposure to harmful residuum. Research by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) suggests that fire contaminants on UK firefighters’ personal protective equipment (PPE) might have a link to higher cancer occurrences. PPE garments technology New garment technology such as Nomex Nano Flex tackles the risks caused by cancer-causing particulates Therefore, it’s crucial that firefighters are equipped with top-of-the-range PPE garments, and in particular fire hoods, that have been specifically designed to prevent these particulates from penetrating through the material and coming into contact with a firefighter’s skin. New garment technology such as Nomex Nano Flex tackles the risks caused by cancer-causing particulates and averages 95%-98% particulate filtration, which actually improves with repeated washes. Currently, skin absorption is thought to be the main exposure route. In fact, firefighters are at greatest risk of contamination after an incident - contaminants can come into contact with the skin or be inhaled as PPE and kit is removed. Firefighters need to be practised at personal decontamination immediately after leaving a hazardous area by removing PPE safely avoiding contact with exposed skin and even making sure they avoid putting their gloves in their helmet. smoky fire suit They should also take time to cleanse the most vulnerable areas of the skin - the hands, face, neck and throat. Traditionally, a smoky fire suit was a badge of honor for firefighters. However, with knowledge levels around harmful particulates ever increasing, so too is the understanding that garments must be frequently washed to reduce risk. Fire suits need to be properly laundered to ensure they are cleaned of any harmful substances, such as particulates, chemicals and asbestos. Contracting a regular cleaning service with an industrial laundry, either directly or through the customer’s PPE supplier, can ensure the team’s garments are cleaned in a safe and effective manner. It’s essential that PPE is inspected on a regular basis to look for any signs of wear and tear, or if it needs professionally cleaning. Fire suits should be checked for stains, damage to the fabric or seams, or unclear labeling, at the beginning of a firefighter’s shift and after heading out to any incident. professional repair services BS 8617 was published in October 2019 and gives very practical advice on particulate protection working practices If the brigade is arranging its own professional laundry services directly, it’s also important that the laundrette checks the garments during the cleaning process. A firefighting suit is only as strong as its weakest seam. These suits are made up of many layers and components, and if just one aspect of the suit becomes damaged, it can compromise the protection offered by the garment. PPE suppliers will often offer a care and maintenance package for firefighting PPE, to provide professional repair services in a quick and easy manner for busy brigades. BS 8617 was published in October 2019 and gives very practical advice on particulate protection working practices. For more information on firefighting PPE or how to optimize their customer’s protection against harmful particulates, visit the company’s official website. particulate protection The company understands that particulate protection is a very wide subject, in this article they are simply suggesting five practical things that can be done. The list is not exhaustive.
The letters ‘FR’ have many meanings, including flame resistant, flame retardant, fire resistant and fire retardant, but is there a difference? And which FR is the right FR for a particular firefighters and rescue team? The truth is, these terms are used interchangeably and there is no clear standard or definition that backs up any of these phrases. What matters when looking to choose the right FR protection for the team is understanding and specifying garments that meet the right FR and/or related standards. To help, Reece Buchner, Technical Sales Manager at FlamePro, a British specialist manufacturer of firefighter and other life-saving FR garments, explains some of the standards and regulations that a fire and rescue service needs to be aware of when deciding on the right PPE for their team. EN ISO 14116 - Protection against flame and clothing This standard applies to garments that protect against occasional and brief contact with small igniting flames, in circumstances where there is no significant heat hazard. Clothing manufactured to this standard is made from flame retardant materials so that if the material comes into contact with a flame, it will only continue to burn for a limited amount of time. After removal from the flame, the material will stop burning. Any garments that are compliant with this standard are given a limited flame spread index of 1, 2 or 3 Therefore, clothing in this category should not be worn to protect against convective heat, radiant heat and molten metal or similar higher risk hazards. Any garments that are compliant with this standard are given a limited flame spread index of 1, 2 or 3, in which index 3 is highest and provides the most protection. If the index is 1 (the lowest level), then the garment may not have skin contact (such as the neck or wrists), and can only be used outside a garment with an index 2 or 3 rating. EN ISO 11612 - Clothing to protect against heat and flame This standard is similar to 14116 above, however it offers a higher level of protection for wearers by ensuring protection against risks such as molten metal. The performance requirements set out in ISO 11612:2015 are applicable to protective clothing for a wide range uses, where there is a need for clothing with limited flame spread properties and where the user can be exposed to radiant, convective, contact heat or to molten metal splashes. It’s also worth noting that this standard has replaced the previous EN 531. EN 469:2005 – Protective clothing for firefighters EN 469:2005 provides the minimum requirements for protective firefighter garments, whilst fighting fires and any associated activities such as rescue work. The standard mainly covers how well the PPE can limit the spread of flames on both the outer shell and internal lining as well as its resistance to the penetration of heat from flames (or a radiant source) through all layers of the component material. There are two levels of the standard (1 and 2), with level 1 indicating the lower level of protection. ISO 18639 – PPE ensembles for firefighters ISO 18639 is specific to firefighters and does not cover PPE used to protect against chemical hazards The ISO 18639 series of standards specify requirements of PPE specifically designed to protect firefighters from injury and/or loss of life, while engaged in specific rescue activities. ISO 18639 is specific to firefighters and does not cover PPE used to protect against chemical and biological hazards, except against short term and accidental exposures while engaged in rescue activities. Because this standard covers so much, it is split into several sections, each covering the specific requirements for different firefighter PPE garments: ISO 18639 – 1 – General overarching guidelines ISO 18639 – 3 – Specifies test methods ISO 18639 – 4 - Gloves ISO 18639 – 5 - Helmet ISO 18639 – 6 – Footwear EN 1149-5 – Protective clothing with electrostatic properties This standard applies to garments worn by operatives who encounter risks of explosion (ATEX Environments), such as in petrochemical refineries and fuel distribution companies. The standard ensures any garments provide the wearer with electrostatic dissipative clothing with reduced risk of sparking – the outer fabrics of these garments are made from antistatic materials and components. The garment should be used as part of a total earthed system to avoid combustible discharges. The outer fabric of the garment must be anti-static (AST) and also has to cover all the other non-AST layers permanently. EN ISO 11611:2015 – Protective clothing for use in welding Class 1 protects against less hazardous welding techniques and situations As the name of this standard suggests, this standard is important to consider when specifying PPE for any workers that are to carry out welding, and other allied processes with comparable risks. This standard ensures garments provide protection against small splashes of molten metal, and brief contact with flame, only when a worker is undertaking welding or similar processes. Under this standard, garments are categorised into one of two classes. Class 1 protects against less hazardous welding techniques and situations, which cause lower spatter and radiant heat, whereas Class 2 protects against riskier welding techniques and situations, which causes higher levels of spatter and radiant heat. EN 15090 – Footwear for firefighters This standard specifies minimum requirements and test methods for the performance of three types of footwear for firefighters: General-purpose rescue (F1), fire rescue (F2) and hazardous materials emergencies (F3). The requirements for each category differ from each other, so it’s important to know the difference, when looking to purchase footwear. The key difference between this standard and the previously mentioned ISO 18639-6 is that ISO 18639-6 does not cover special footwear for use in other high-risk situations such as structural firefighting. General-purpose rescue footwear (F1) Footwear that is classed as type 1 (F1) is suitable for general-purpose rescue, fire suppression, and firefighting suppression involving a fire in vegetative fuels such as forests, crops, grass, and farmland. These garments are not required to protect against penetration, offer toe protection, or protect against chemical hazards, however these properties are optional. Fire rescue footwear (F2) Type 2 (F2) footwear is suitable for fire rescue, fire suppression, and property conservation in buildings, enclosed structures, vehicles, vessels, or similar properties that are involved in a fire or emergency situation. This footwear provides toe protection and protection against penetration, however it does not protect against chemical hazards. Hazardous materials emergencies footwear (F3) Type 3 footwear provides toe protection, protection against penetration and protection against chemical hazards Type 3 (F3) footwear applies for emergencies involving hazardous materials, the release or potential release of hazardous chemicals that can cause loss of life, injury, or damage to property and the environment. This category of footwear is also suitable also for fire rescue, fire suppression, and property conservation in aircraft, buildings, enclosed structures, vehicles, vessels, or similar properties, as well as all fire suppression and rescue interventions. Type 3 footwear provides toe protection, protection against penetration, and protection against chemical hazards. EN 659 – Protective gloves for firefighters EN 659 states the minimum performance requirements for protective gloves in all firefighting situations. More specifically, the standard details requirements for resistance to water and chemical penetration, making it applicable to not just firefighting but also workers on chemical sites and oil refineries and various other high-risk situations that are not covered by ISO 18639-4. The key difference between EN 659 and ISO 18639-4 is that the latter only relates to specific specialist rescue activities, such as road traffic crash and urban search and rescue, while EN 659 covers all firefighting situations. EN 443 covers firefighting helmets for uses in building and other structures. The European wide standard is in place to specify the minimum requirements for helmets to protect against the effect of impact, penetration and heat and flame.