Fire-fighting is a risky job and fire-fighters often face life-threatening conditions when exposed to fire and flames. What makes the difference between life and death is the fire-fighter’s protective gear and having the experience to know what to do and when to do it. Although exposure to fire and flames remains a great risk to fire-fighters, there are also a number of other impacts which result from exposure to fire that can pose a risk to their health too. Exposure to particulates from smoke, fumes, soot and debris can be extremely harmful; ensuring safety gear is well-maintained is what helps to minimise exposure to harmful particulates. In this case correct and regular maintenance of safety gear is just as important as wearing the correct PPE & PPC for the job. CHARNAUD® has been manufacturing and supplying their FIRE-SAFE® range to the global market for decades. FIRE-SAFE® is a comprehensive range of head-to-foot safety wear for fire-fighters and workers exposed to the risks of extreme heat, fire and flames.
Why Are Particulates A Health Risk?
A fire-fighter’s suit is a protective barrier against external hazards like fire, flames and smoke. Particulates from smoke, fumes and soot are extremely harmful to any human, with fire-fighters facing greater levels of exposure. Particulates can be carcinogenic and enter the body either via the skin or by being inhaled. Particulates have a tendency to adhere to a fire-fighter’s equipment. It is for this reason that safety gear is correctly cared for and replaced when required.
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How Can Fire-Fighters Reduce Exposure To Particulates?
Dirty safety gear is not something to be overlooked. Visible dirt on a fire suit indicates the presence of particulates and touching and wearing dirty gear increases the user’s exposure to harmful particulates.
The best way to reduce exposure is to adopt a set of ‘must-do’s’ before, during and after a rescue or incident. The first step is to ensure the wearer’s safety gear fits correctly – poorly fitting gear will increase the wearer’s risk of exposure. Secondly, the gear must be in good working condition; sometimes a fire suit may appear in good condition but in reality, is degraded from wear and tear and requires replacement. Thirdly, storing gear correctly means improved garment longevity whilst also allowing any fumes to evaporate and fluids to dry out.
Reducing exposure also means applying real-world experience in any rescue or incident. Fire-fighters will try to get as much information as possible before they visit an incident site or rescue. Knowing what they are going to face allows them to ensure that they’re wearing the right kind of safety gear for the job, including the right kind of particulate barriers and protection. Not all incidents will warrant the use of a flash hood, however this should always be worn when the risk of inhaling particulates from smoke, fumes and soot is possible.
The best practice is to get out of soiled gear as soon as possible after a rescue or incident. Removing dirty gear can also increase the chances of secondary exposure to the wearer and anyone in close proximity. Gear should ideally be removed in a safe, designated area. Bad habits and complacency can also indirectly increase a fire-fighter’s exposure to harmful particulates. Complacency around not removing gear as soon as possible and storing soiled garments with unsoiled gear can end up increasing the wearers risk profile.
Minimising exposure to particulates is a combination of wearing the correct gear, applying best practice when on the job, as well as caring, cleaning and storing gear correctly. Caring for your safety gear will also ensure that it performs at its best for its intended lifespan.
Trust CHARNAUD® for Quality PPE
If you want to know more about how, when and how often your firefighting kit needs to be cleaned, get in touch with your CHARNAUD® agent today and they’ll talk you through the best way to care for your safety wear.