Proper care of PPE is essential to reducing the risk of carcinogenic exposure to your personnel. NFPA 1851 – Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Firefighting is the foundation for building a high-quality PPE program. These standards cover everything from selecting PPE to its eventual disposal, and Fire agencies should use this standard to create a robust PPE management program. In addition to following NFPA 1851, departments that adopt an asset & inventory management solution, such as First Due, can have complete command over their PPE management program.
Agencies should establish a PPE care and maintenance program of standard operating procedures that "identify and define the various parts of the program and the various roles and responsibilities of the organization and of the members…" (NFPA 1851, 4.2.2). The key here is the creation of comprehensive documentation, so your personnel understand their role in maintaining their PPE in optimal condition.
Section 4.3 of the NFPA 1851 describes in detail the necessary data on each piece of equipment. These include the PPE user, manufacturer details, documentation of inspections, cleaning, repairs, and retirement date. Ideally, you should have thorough documentation of each piece of PPE from the time it's taken out of its package when brand new until it's disposed of. Does this take extra time and effort on the part of your personnel? It sure does, but First Due's with Assets & Inventory Management program at your side, documenting data is easy. In addition, with our Kits feature, you can assign PPE ensembles to personnel, which enables them to conduct routine inspections, advanced inspections, cleanings, and repairs.
Your crews should conduct routine inspections "at the beginning of each duty period and after each use" (NFPA 1851 6.2.1). Teams should inspect for soiling, contamination, physical damage like rips and tears, damaged or missing reflective trim, seam integrity, proper fit and assembly of the components, and any concerns specific to a piece of the ensemble, like thermal damage to a helmet.
Advanced Inspections are to be "conducted annually for all issued PPE or whenever a routine inspection determines potential damage" (NFPA 6.3.3). These inspections, typically from the manufacturer, require training and are more thorough than routine inspections. Like regular inspections, advanced inspections "shall be documented" (NFPA 6.3.4). The optimal way to accomplish this is through First Due's checklist feature. You can schedule checklists for Kits and equipment at specific intervals or ad hoc for checking equipment after an incident. Checklists are an easy way to remain in compliance with NFPA 1851.
The days of wearing soot-covered turnouts as a badge of honor are over. Multiple studies have demonstrated the ill effects dirty turnouts can have on the body. Keeping turnouts clean is one of the most essential components of a PPE program. The reduction of carcinogens and other hazardous substances not only protects your crews but also extends the useful life of the PPE. Chapter 7 of NFPA 1851 spells out cleaning and decontamination processes. Of note is section 7.2.2. – Preliminary Exposure Reduction Procedures. This section explains wet and dry mitigation techniques when exiting an emergency scene. The advanced cleaning section describes what to do once back at the station. Of course, complete documentation of PPE cleaning is necessary. Once again, First Due has you covered with our Work Orders feature. This part of our Assets module lets you assign and track cleaning for every piece of PPE in the system. You can generate reports to ascertain the completion status of work orders.
Chapter 8 details proper repair techniques for tears, char marks, ember burns, and abraded areas. The manufacturer, independent service provider, or specially trained personnel make repairs, but you must thoroughly document them. A proper Work Order management tool like First Due enables easy and accurate documentation of all PPE repairs that become part of the PPE's permanent record.
PPE doesn't last forever. NFPA 1851 states that PPE elements "shall be retired…no more than ten years from the date [they] were manufactured" (NFPA 1851 10.1.2). Of note, the standard states that crews can use retired PPE for "training that does not involve live fire, provided the…ensemble elements are appropriately marked as being for non-live fire training only" (NFPA 1851 10.2.2). Therefore, continued good documentation about retired PPE must be easy to manage within your agency's asset management software.
Managing an effective NFPA 1851 program is a data-intensive endeavor. You are likely dealing with hundreds of pieces of equipment, each with dozens of data points. It takes more than just spreadsheets to tackle a project of this magnitude. Having robust, easy-to-use, and easy-to-manage software like First Due can help with the heavy lifting of PPE management.
From inspections and cleaning to repairs and retirement, NFPA 1851 details everything you need to know about PPE management. The power and versatility of First Due's Assets & Inventory module make it easy to adhere to the extensive documentation required by this standard. Compliance is in reach with First Due as your partner in PPE management.