The first duty of firefighting PPE has always been to protect the crew from the immediate external risks associated with exposure to heat and flame. However in recent years, research has raised additional concerns about firefighters’ health, which has prompted major technological advances to provide additional protection.
The dangers of heat stress are now well known and PPE, fabric and fibre manufacturers have taken great strides in creating new technologies and designs to help keep the body cool. Although the effects of smoke exposure are less understood, it’s of equal concern due to the worryingly higher rates of cancer diagnoses and deaths amongst firefighters. This has presented a new challenge for the industry, to create PPE that acts as a barrier to toxins and harmful particles, whilst ensuring the body stays cool and dry.
In particular, studies have shown that firefighter protective hoods are the most penetrable piece of clothing worn by firefighters. A safety bulletin issued by the NFPA in January 2017, warns that hoods are particularly concerning due to direct exposure to a firefighter’s skin, and states that: “The face and neck have been identified as a significant area of dermal exposure to products of combustion and potential carcinogens.”
Particulate Protection Hood
In response, Bristol Uniforms has developed and launched a revolutionary new hood which is proven to be 99.8% efficient at filtering harmful smoke particles. Worn under the helmet and collar, it covers the neck and jawline – areas of the body that are known to be particularly vulnerable to smoke contamination.
Crucially, the hood is also lightweight, soft and breathable, allowing heat and moisture to escape, thereby reducing the risk of heat stress.
The Particulate Protection Hood has been certified to standard EN13911:2017 – the latest version of the CEN standard for Fire Hoods, which has recently been updated.
The new design is made up of Dupont’s Nomex and Kevlar fibres with viscose in a knitted fabric, and crucially features the innovative new Nomex NanoFlex particulate barrier. Nomex NanoFlex has been specifically developed to prevent contamination from potentially harmful particles. The new material is flame-resistant with superior particle barrier performance, but is also highly breathable, thin and light-weight – essential characteristics for the prevention of heat stress, and for improving comfort.
According to Roger Startin, Joint Managing Director of Bristol Uniforms, the key to developing the Particulate Protection Hood was to get the balance right between minimising heat stress and creating a barrier against harmful particles:
“Our ultimate goal is to offer maximum protection against all potential hazards, whether the danger is coming from fire, heat or smoke particles, and whether the health risk is immediate or longer term. Our aim was to devise a new fabric combination offering superior protection against contamination, but at the same time we had to make sure this would not compromise breathability and increase the risk of heat stress. In the past, the most effective particle barriers have also been hot and heavy, so the challenge was to find a solution to meet all the criteria.
“Thanks to a unique combination of materials, our new Particulate Protection Hood offers very high particle filtration but is also comfortable, soft, and not too heavy or hot to wear.”
For more information, go to www.bristoluniforms.com