Background

Artificial smoke machines are frequently used for firefighter training. Common agents used to create special atmospheric effects are glycol-water mixtures and oil-based simulants.

Concerns/hazards

During training activities the smoke generated from these machines is typically maximized for effect. It may be used in training areas that are relatively confined. This is generally not how the machines are intended to be operated.

When artificial smoke is used in live fire training, thermal degradation can produce chemicals such as acrolein, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acetone, benzene and other hydrocarbons.

These chemical compounds have been linked to various diseases, including cancer.

Structural firefighting bunker gear ensembles do not provide complete absorption exposure protection from these compounds.

Actions for employers

Employers should develop and implement policies and procedures on:

  • use of artificial smoke
  • use of respiratory protection and personal protective equipment (PPE) during training with artificial smoke
  • ventilation and decontamination following the use of artificial smoke
  • limiting cross-contamination to other firefighters and equipment

Safety considerations for use of artificial smoke

Consider the following for the protection of workers:

  • elimination: use of alternatives to artificial smoke such as covering the visor or facepiece to simulate reduced visibility
  • substitution: use of less hazardous types of artificial smoke
  • administrative controls: limit the amount and duration of exposure of workers
  • PPE: use appropriate respiratory protection such as self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) or an aerosol type cartridge respirator until the artificial smoke is completely ventilated from all affected areas
  • read the Safety Data Sheet for the product to be used and follow the manufacturer's instructions

After using artificial smoke

Following artificial smoke use, consider these measures:

  • ventilate the area to reduce airborne levels of chemicals below the occupational exposure limits set out in Regulation 833
  • while wearing appropriate gloves and any other appropriate PPE, wipe down all equipment with a mild solution of soap and water or as per manufacturer's instructions
  • clean bunker gear
  • launder all clothes which were worn under bunker gear during training
  • shower as soon as possible after training

Applicable regulations and acts

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