Bristol’s flagship range in structural firefighting PPE
Popular with firefighters around the world, it has accreditations from the European Standard of Certification (CEN) the International Standards Organisation (ISO), and recently achieved re-accreditation from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) under the new standard NFPA 1971:2018 (Protective Ensembles for Structural and Proximity Fire Fighting).
Here we explore the creation of the XFlex range, which has marked a new direction in the design of structural firefighting PPE across the world.
Historically, in order to protect firefighters from the dangers of fire and flame, PPE was made of heavy materials which could be hot and cumbersome to wear, hindering optimal performance and increasing the risk of heat stress. Firefighters needed and wanted lightweight, breathable garments with improved flexibility and manoeuvrability, so they could carry out physical tasks more effectively.
With this in mind, Bristol Uniforms started to look at ways of making firefighting PPE more ergonomic and comfortable. In particular, we looked at what was happening in other industries where flexibility and manoeuvrability were key. We studied the latest designs and state-of-the-art fabrics being used to allow freedom of movement and breathability and applied these principles to our designs.
Drawing on the research undertaken, our specialist technical designers developed new product designs using the very latest Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.
Various designs were put forward, which differed in construction, fabrics, shape and look. Each design was assessed and the preferred design refined. During this process we undertook ‘indicative testing’, which is independent testing of selected fabric layers to ensure they work effectively and meet the required standards.
The resulting XFlex structural coat and trouser ensemble is particularly ergonomic, featuring distinctive sports styling. It was the first to feature a ‘spiral cut’ design. This means that none of the seams of the garment are straight, but instead follow the body’s curves and contours and allow much more movement and flexibility. The XFlex design also features shoulder shaping and under arm gussets, which allow full rotational arm movement, and ergonomic three-dimensional articulated elbows and knees.
XFlex’s name came from the X shape formed by the curved seams on the garment’s elbow and its flexibility. It enables excellent range of movement which helps firefighters carry out their physical roles more effectively.
Innovations from leading fibre and fabric manufacturers, such as WL Gore, Hainsworth, PBI Performance Products and DuPont, have helped PPE manufacturers to produce multi-layered garments that protect from inside and out. XFlex features a select combination of fabrics offering resistance to fire, increased breathability, control of moisture, and a lighter weight – all of which maximise comfort and help to reduce the occurrence of heat stress.
Customers can choose from a selection of fabrics for the outer shell of XFlex garments, which also provides a number of colour options: Hainsworth Titan 1260 fabric is available in gold, Hainsworth Atlas in Paris navy, and a range of Hainsworth Titan fabric colours are available including blue, red, grey and tan.
XFlex also comes with a choice of inner moisture barrier and liner systems from WL Gore, which serve to draw sweat and moisture away from the skin, helping to keep the body cool and dry. Recently, we introduced the ground-breaking Gore Parallon System as a new option for XFlex – a particularly light-weight solution which offers unprecedented levels of breathability and thermal protection, particularly when wet, helping to prevent dangerous increases in core body temperature.
Above and beyond the style and design of firefighting PPE, correct sizing for each and every firefighter is essential to offer optimal protective performance. Kit that is too big can be heavy and cumbersome. Kit that is too small or too tight can compromise thermal protection by reducing air gaps, and may leave areas of the body exposed. So when developing XFlex, we took the decision to provide an extensive range of sizes: a total of 28 male and female sizes are available as standard. We also provide a comprehensive sizing procedure, and have the capability to send specialist teams to undertake all measuring to ensure it is carried out correctly if necessary.
For more information, go to www.bristoluniforms.com/xflex