Don’t be a statistic – secret killer amongst the force exposed
Cancer is a hidden killer amongst the force. In fact, firefighters have a 68% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer than the general population! Why? It’s simple, exposure to cancer-causing particles is high. But, this hidden killer can be stopped in its tracks, with careful PPE inspection and maintenance.
Here, Reece Buchner, Technical Sales Manager at FlamePro, a British specialist manufacturer of life-saving garments for firefighters, explains how to maintain and inspect your kit.
While previous generations would have worn scorch marks and dirt as a badge of honour, today’s firefighters know different. A clean kit is a safe kit, so it’s essential that brigades utilise specialist cleaning services, ensuring that kits are correctly washed and cared for after every single use.
Regular inspections of fire kits are just as important as laundering. A fire suit is only as good as its weakest seam, and therefore kit needs to be checked that it is fit for purpose before every use. Here are five steps that will help preserve the life of kit:
- Back to basics
It sounds simple, but check the surface of the fabric first and foremost. You should be looking for holes, rips, tears and scuffs – even just the smallest rip or graze can impact on a kit’s protection. This should be conducted both prior to using kit and after each shift.
- Now you see me
Whether called out to a rescue in dark and hazardous conditions, battling through thick plumes of smoke, or attending a road incident amidst live traffic, being easily seen is vital to ensuring safety on the job. A kit with good visibility enhances not only your own safety, but also that of your team.
A torch test will check the reflective surfaces of a fire suit. Shine a torch over reflective surfaces to make sure they remain reflective. This also applies to non-fire kits, such as a rescue-wear set.
- Wet, wet, wet
Maintaining water repellence is crucial. Not only does it allow for more effective and comfortable working, it ensures that harmful chemicals and particulates are not able to infiltrate through the material.
And it’s incredibly easy to check if a suit is still water tight – simply spray it with water. If the water pools in droplets on the surface, the durable water repellent (DWR) layer is working effectively. But if it soaks into the fabric, the DWR has failed and the garment needs re-treating.
- Safely sealed
Even the smallest amount of damage to a suit can compromise its ability to protect. And this includes fastenings, seals, zips and poppers.
These seals provide an important line of defence for firefighters – they ensure full body protection in extreme heat, and are designed to ensure corrosive liquids, carcinogenic particles and other harmful substances can’t infiltrate kit.
- Stress test
UV exposure can gradually wear fabric. This won’t be immediately visible, but tired fabric whilst on a job will soon become apparent. Make sure to stress test the fabric and ensure it can withstand blunt pressure.
Do this by pushing a blunt object against the fabric. The object shouldn’t go through, but if it does, it’s a good indicator of UV damage.
- Check your Velcro
If you have been in a grassy environment, the Velcro can easily become matted and fail to close properly. This compromises protection against particulates.
It is also paramount that zips and other fasteners are checked and ensured that they are closing properly.
No matter how well you maintain your kit, there will always come a time when it will need replacing. So, it’s important to know when this time comes. Replacing kit at the right time keeps your team safe and comfortable, no matter what the call out is for.