4-8 Care, maintenance, inspection and replacement of structural fire fighting personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE) protects firefighters from hazards. Elements of PPE include: boots, gloves, helmet, turnout coat and pants (bunker gear) and protective hoods.
Contaminated PPE may expose firefighters to hazardous biological and chemical contaminants and reduce the effectiveness of the protection it is intended to provide.
Actions for employers
- ensure that protective equipment provided by the employer is maintained in good condition
- establish field decontamination procedures and provide proper facilities to decontaminate PPE
- develop a program for the care, maintenance, inspection and replacement of all PPE elements
- consult the manufacturers’ instructions and equipment labels for the care, use, and limitations of the equipment
Handling contaminated PPE
Contaminated PPE and clothing should be decontaminated.
Soiled or contaminated PPE should not be transported inside the cabs of fire apparatus or in a personal vehicle. It should not be taken into the living quarters of a fire station, public building or into a personal residence.
Only clean bunker gear should be put in a gear bag.
Consider keeping contaminated PPE in closed bags or containers and take it back to the fire station, ideally on the fire apparatus for decontamination.
Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for washing the bunker gear ensemble.
Inspect PPE only after it has been cleaned.
A PPE program should address the following:
- inspection of PPE elements after use and on a regular basis
- assessment of PPE to determine whether it needs to be repaired or replaced
- requirements for cleaning and decontamination and advanced cleaning
- advanced inspection and testing
- retirement of PPE
- training workers on the use, care and limitations of PPE
- regular program evaluation and improvement
Life expectancy of PPE
Life expectancy of PPE depends on factors such as:
- type of use
- amount of use
- length of time since it was manufactured
Consider the NFPA 1851 Standard on selection, care and maintenance of protective ensembles for structural fire fighting and proximity fire fighting which indicates no longer than a 10-year life cycle.
Some ensemble components that have been removed from emergency service operations may be suitable for use for activities that do not involve the risk of exposure to thermal hazards, such as certain training activities. Clearly mark retired bunker gear as being for non-live fire training only.
Applicable regulations and acts
- Occupational Health and Safety Act
- clause 25(1)(b) for maintaining equipment in good condition
- clause 25(2)(h) for taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers
- O. Reg. 714/94 – Firefighters – Protective Equipment Regulation
- section 5 for the minimum design, performance, testing, and certification requirements of structural firefighting protective garments
For guidance on the selection, care, and maintenance of fire fighting protective ensembles to reduce health and safety risks associated with improper maintenance, contamination, or damage read NFPA 1851 Standard on selection, care and maintenance of protective ensembles for structural fire fighting and proximity fire fighting
For requirements for structural firefighting protective garments manufactured on or after March 1, 2007, read NFPA 1971, Standard on protective ensembles for structural fire fighting and proximity fire fighting
Read firefighter guidance note 4-1 Firefighters protective equipment