How to inspect your firefighting kit
No matter what task you’re undertaking, your kit is your last line of defence between you and the fire, floodwater, corrosive chemicals or other hazards you are dealing with. Keeping it in top condition is of paramount importance.
While a generation ago scorch marks and dirt would have been worn as a badge of pride, today’s firefighters know that a clean, well-maintained kit is a safe kit.
In 2019, British Standard BS8617 was introduced to give firefighters guidance on the cleaning, maintenance and repairs of personal protective equipment (PPE) to make sure it keeps you safe. It covers the inspection, testing, cleaning, decontamination, drying, repairs, replacement, retirement/disposal, recording, storage and transportation of kit. It’s a comprehensive standard.
We published a blog at the time that goes into more detail about the standard and what it means for you.
Within the standard, there is a recommendation that all fire services should have a contract in place for outsourcing the cleaning and maintenance of their PPE. In order to effectively use a cleaning and maintenance company, in-house inspections are required to ensure that you’re keeping on top of any issues that might crop up between regular maintenance.
What to inspect and when
Anyone involved in firefighting or associated activities needs to complete a routine inspection every time you get a new piece of kit, at the start of every shift and after you use the kit. Your whole structural suit needs to be inspected after every call out. Different conditions can cause different issues, but sometimes general wear and tear will make itself known at the most inconvenient of times and you definitely don’t want it falling apart when you need it the most.
Each time, check your garments (jacket and trousers), helmet, gloves, footwear and fire hood.
What to look for
Some damage is not so easy to spot, so a thorough inspection is required:
• Check the surface of the fabric for holes, rips, tears and scuffs
• Shine a torch over reflective surfaces to make sure they remain reflective
• Check the durable waterproof repellent layer (DWR). Having this coating working properly will not only keep out water, but will also protect you from battery acid, other chemicals and, crucially, particulates. Use a spray bottle to mist water over the fabric. If it pools in droplets, the DWR is working fine, but if it soaks into the fabric, it’s time to get it re-treated
• Check that Velcro adheres properly and zips and other fasteners close properly. If you have been in a grassy environment, the Velcro can easily become matted and fail to close properly
• Stress test the fabric. Push a blunt object against the fabric. It shouldn’t go through, but if it does, it’s a good sign of UV damage that has weakened the fabric
What to do when there’s a problem
Your fire service should have clear guidance for what to do when PPE needs to be repaired or replaced. There are steps you can take to preserve the life of your kit. Read our blog on how to maintain your firefighting kit here.
We hope that’s a good short guide to how to inspect your firefighting kit – if you want more details about our comprehensive range of high quality firefighting garments and PPE, do call one of our experts on +44 (0) 1332 341030.