Record keeping requirements for personal protective equipment

Record keeping is an integral part of the NFPA 1851 compliant program. NFPA 1851, 2008 Edition has very specific requirements for what records should be maintained regarding your departments structural and proximity personal protective equipment. Departments should maintain records with the complete history of these items including any rental or loaner gear. This information can be tracked either on hard copy or by computer but must be easily accessible. It can also be handled by the department themselves or by an outside organization of the department’s choosing. Many Verified Independent Service Providers (ISP) can offer this service, freeing up firefighters to concentrate on serving their community.

The records for each element should include eleven detailed pieces of information:

(1)     Person to whom element is issued – This includes the person to whom the gear is currently issued as well as to whom it may have been previously issued. This can be tracked by whatever means your department identifies its personnel whether that is by name, payroll number, employee number, etc.

(2)     Date and condition when issued – Date when issued is fairly self explanatory but be sure to maintain record of any prior issuance to another firefighter as well. Although condition when issued is less well defined in NFPA 1851, the terminology your department chooses should be well defined and consistent.

Although every manufacturer’s label is formatted differently, items (3), (4) and (5) can be easily found on any manufacturer label.

(3)     Manufacturer and model name or design

(4)     Manufacturer’s identification number, lot number, or serial number

(5)     Month and year of manufacture

(6)     Date(s) and findings of advanced inspection(s) – Advanced inspection is required a minimum of every 12 months or anytime there is cause to suspect a problem.

(7)     Date(s) and findings of advanced cleaning or decontamination – Advanced cleaning is required a minimum of every 12 months or anytime the  gear is soiled or contaminated.

Not to be confused with routine cleaning and inspection done by the individual firefighter, which does not require tracking, advanced cleaning and inspection must by done by a Verified ISP or department’s trained personnel and all findings recorded.

(8)     Reason for advanced cleaning or decontamination and who performed cleaning or decontamination – Records should show if this was  the annual required cleaning, due to soiling, decontamination or other reason and by whom the elements were cleaned.

(9)     Date(s) of repair(s), who performed repair(s), and brief description of repair(s) – Unlike cleaning and inspection all repairs, whether basic or  advanced, must be tracked including date, who completed the repair and a description of what was done. While basic repairs can be done by both verified  and non verified organizations and ISPs, a department or ISP must be verified to perform advanced repairs. Of course, the manufacturer can perform any necessary repair to an element.

The last two requirements are self explanatory but easy to overlook. Without this information it will quickly begin to appear that your department has far more gear than it does.

(10)  Date of retirement

(11)  Date and method of disposal

Additional requirements for ensembles with CBRN protection can be found in NFPA 1851, 2008 Edition, Chapter 4.3.

All of these requirements have benefits to the department far beyond just staying compliant. This information can be used for many purposes from comparing durability of different fabrics or manufacturers to preparing future budgets but most importantly compliance with these requirements goes a long way toward insuring the safety of your firefighters by making sure their gear is regularly cleaned and maintained.

Remember, if you are uncomfortable with, unable to or just need assistance with tracking of your department’s personal protective equipment there are a number of resources available to you including most Verified ISPs and your element manufacturer.