Gayle Anderson was live in Los Angeles with the non-profit Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation because according to multiple reports from NIOSH, University of Cincinnati, and the Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN), firefighters are more likely to develop multiple types of cancer compared to the general population. One of the reasons is the constant exposure and re-exposure to unclean turnout gear. In addition to this serious health risk, NFPA 1851, the codes and standards of the National Fire Protection Association, also states that soiled and/or contaminated ensembles can have reduced protective performance.
The NFPA 1851: Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting safeguards lives on the line by providing essential guidance needed to select appropriate protective ensembles and care for and maintain them correctly. The 2014 edition is available for purchase by clicking HERE.
In an effort to increase the health and safety of its members, the Los Angeles Fire Department along with the Emergency Services Bureau (ESB), the Risk Management Section (RMS) and the Supply and Maintenance Division (S&M) have collaborated on a “Managed PPE Plan” regarding the selection, use and maintenance of PPEs (personal protective equipment).
Under the Managed PPE Plan, the PPE Restriction Policy for Fire Station Living Quarters prohibits turnout gear in living quarters of fire stations. This will minimize member’s exposure and re-exposure to contaminated gear and limit the cross contamination of the station living area.
In addition, the Managed PPE Plan re-establishes the Department Safety Committee, which is designed to assist in implementing safety practices and equipment trials and testing. Beginning this month, the Department will begin bar coding and tracking all PPE gear, which will assist in equipment replacement, budget forecasting, repair, cleaning, and inspection documentation.
Since turnout gear—the outer protective gear worn by firefighters—is significantly enhanced when it is individually sized to the member, all turnout coats and pants will be personally sized for each member beginning on September 9th, 2013. Coats will come with individual member’s names.
Under the Managed PPE Plan, there will be two mandatory cleanings annually for all turnout coats and pants. After each cleaning, all PPE will be inspected by the Independent Service Provider (ISP). An inspection list will be provided to all work locations for use by members, Company Commanders and Battalion Chiefs at inspections.
According to an article by Haley Jorgensen, dirty gear is dangerous and can put firefighters at increased risk. As more and more particles attach to protective gear and chemicals remain on clothing, that gear gradually loses its effectiveness because it reflects less radiant heat, becomes more flammable and can even conduct electricity. Turnout gear demands specific cleaning care to remove contaminants and prevent fabric damage. Through the use of washer-extractors, turnout gear can be properly cleaned without damaging the gear’s protective integrity.
While the Department hopes to distribute two sets of gear to its members to faciliate cleanings, inspections, and increased safety, there is no money in the city budget. Similarly, the city budget cannot accommodate the purchase of more washer-extractors for its members to use. The Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation has contributed funds to purchase more washer-extractors for members to clean their PPE when needed between scheduled cleanings by the ISP.
For those interested in supporting the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), you can send donations to the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation, a support group that provides essential equipment, technology and training to the men and women who serve in the LAFD at www.supportlafd.org.
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