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Firefighters’ risk of exposure to carcinogens tackled with packaged solutions

02 October 2020

A RANGE of solutions for cleaning breathing apparatus, respiratory masks and PPE equipment that reduce the risk of carcinogen contamination within emergency teams has been launched by Dräger as part of its ‘Health for the Firefighter’ campaign.

Dräger has worked in partnership with Harstra Instruments, a leading Dutch manufacturer of cleaning and drying equipment. The launch follows a study undertaken by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) which demonstrated a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) worn and evaluated as fully operational will be contaminated within 25 minutes of use in firefighting situations.

Currently, most masks and SCBA are cleaned by hand, which is a lengthy and inconsistent process. It can also pose potential hazards for personnel.

Dräger has therefore developed a package of solutions comprised of cleaning products, logistical support and consultancy services that enable Fire and Rescue Services to mitigate firefighters’ exposure to carcinogens throughout every step of attending an incident.

The package includes simple-to-use washing machines that clean using high pressure water, drying cabinets in various shapes and sizes to accommodate each Fire and Rescue Service’s space and equipment and testing facilities to ensure products are decontaminated before going back into operation.

The final part of the new solution is an improved logistics and workshop capability to quarantine contaminated kit, clean it and then replenish with sanitised PPE to maintain operational capability. Dräger can design and engineer new infrastructure or work within an existing facility to provide optimum protection and cleaning of equipment.

Duty of Care

Andy Taylor, UK marketing manager for engineered solutions at Dräger, said it’s now well known that job-related exposures to carcinogens increases the risk of illnesses such as cancer. “Employers owe their employees a Duty of Care and are therefore looking to provide additional protection during training, post-incident and in day-to-day equipment handling operations.”

Taylor continued: “A new standard operating procedure, which incorporates comprehensive training, must be established by the Fire and Rescue Services including comprehensive training for emergency teams on how to decontaminate themselves following an incident in which exposure was likely. Standardising processes not only minimises the risk of contamination for workshop personnel, but also reduces the exposure of carcinogenic substances for the wearer. The consistency of cleaning also extends the lifetime of PPE.”

Within Harstra Instruments’ product portfolio are a range of washing and drying solutions. These include the Wash4 and Wash6DR models which can accommodate between four and six SCBA respectively, including cylinders, and up to 18 breathing masks. The Wash4 model provides the user with a choice of cleaning times. The Wash6DR washes at the same intervals, but without the need for compressed air cylinders, instead taking pressure from a high-powered air external source.

Essential to the process is the requirement that cleaned equipment is dried correctly in a drying cabinet or drying room to remove moisture. The Dräger portfolio is configurable and allows easy transfer of equipment using compatible baskets in the cleaning and drying cycle (for example the Wash9 facemask washer and the M18/45 cabinets). Once these have been cleaned and dried they can then be checked and tested and the air cylinders refilled. The SCBA is then ready for operations using Dräger workshop equipment.