Proper PPE use protects firefighter health

One of the National Volunteer Fire Council’s (NVFC) Firefighter Health and Safety Priorities for departments is: Provide and require the proper use of full personal protective equipment (PPE).

There are obvious safety reasons for wearing full PPE correctly every time, but there are also important health reasons. Proper use of PPE protects you from inhaling potentially dangerous smoke, debris, and toxins, which could otherwise cause significant harm to your lungs, respiratory system, and general health. PPE also protects your skin so that you don’t absorb harmful particles and toxins through your skin. Protecting your head with a helmet can prevent head injuries that could lead to acute or chronic health conditions.

The benefits of wearing PPE fully and properly when responding to incidents or participating in certain training activities are numerous. So are the dangers that come with not protecting yourself with PPE. In addition to wearing PPE correctly, you must make sure the PPE is in good condition and properly maintained.

Create a culture within your department where proper and full use of PPE is standard and anything less is unacceptable. Make sure the leaders of the department lead by example. Take responsibility for your health and safety and Respond Strong.

What you can do today

  • Adopt the NVFC’s Health and Safety Priorities in your department, and use this day of Health Week to focus on the Equipment B.E.S.T. Practices: “Provide and require the proper use of full personal protective equipment” and “Maintain all equipment based on established safety recommendations.”
  • Let your members know that they must use their SCBA fully and properly every time. Safety equipment doesn’t work if it’s not being used. Hang flyers, signs, or posters at the station to remind members that this is the policy of the department.
  • Hold a drill on donning your PPE to make sure everyone knows exactly what needs to happen when the next call comes in.
  • Conduct an inspection of all of your station’s equipment and determine which items need to be replaced sooner rather than later. It may not be possible to upgrade everything right now, but make a plan for securing the most needed equipment now and develop a schedule for equipment that will need to be replaced in the future. Ensuring every piece of equipment is working effectively keeps you safer.
  • Review with all members how to properly maintain, clean, and store each piece of PPE and remind them they need to follow these procedures every time.
  • Encourage every member of your department to take advantage of free online PPE trainings and webinars, some of which are listed in the resource section of this page.
  • Make sure all of your respirators are clean and in working order.

One thought on “Proper PPE use protects firefighter health”

  1. This is a well researched, insightful post. Like Lion, we at DuPont are continuously looking at new ways to improve upon our existing technologies to help better protect firefighters. We encourage firefighters to use all the information sources they have at their disposal to stay abreast of newer technologies that are being developed on an ongoing basis. For information on DuPont Protection Technologies, please go to http://bit.ly/cqKZhE.

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