Safety should always come before duty
We often hear serious stories in the news about professionals around the world who are injured on the job as a result of not wearing adequate protection. In the case of fire retardant reflective tape and the turnout gear it is typically attached to, firefighters expose themselves to serious danger and injury when they operate with faulty equipment and garments (or without those garments.)
An example occurred last month, February of 2012. A firefighter was injured trying to extinguish the flames that had engulfed a man during a condo fire in Tempe, Arizona. The victim in the fire was wheelchair bound and due to his medical condition was unable to evacuate the home.
A firefighter raced into the inferno without his protective gear in an attempt to save the victim. Despite no fire resistant reflective tape or PPE/turnout gear, the firefighter managed to extinguish the flames and remove the victim.
As a result the firefighter sustained second degree burns. The victim, sadly, later died due to his burn injuries.
The fire fighter was courageous in his attempt to save the victim, but safety should always come before duty. Going into a dangerous situation without the benefit of his turnout gear could have left the professional seriously injured. Without his fire retardant reflective tape, had he gone down it would have been extremely difficult for his crew to find and locate him.
Having PPE Isn’t Enough – Proper Evaluation is Key to Safety with Fire Retardant Reflective Tape
At Loxy, we regularly put our products through testing and certification to ensure products like our 9801 line of flame resistant reflective tape continue to perform properly in the field for professional workers. Crews and manufacturers should mirror these tests to ensure continued performance.
As flame resistant reflective tape is exposed to extreme heat and flame, it can gradually deteriorate. Just having PPE isn’t good enough to protect professionals like fire rescue crews and other rescue workers around the world. Departments need to create and maintain regular maintenance programs.
Turnout gear that uses fire retardant reflective tape should be inspected at least once per year. It’s the front line of defense against heat, smoke, toxic gases and blood borne pathogens. Without regular maintenance, turnout gear can become dirty, and the performance of the waterproofing and reflective tape can degrade to the point where the garments aren’t adequately performing to protect the individual.
Improving Inspection for Personal Safety of Professionals
Without inspection, it’s like a professional isn’t wearing protective gear at all, and fire retardant reflective tape loses its retro-reflective performance. Inspection should be broken into two categories: routine and advanced. Routine inspection should occur every time turnout gear featuring reflective tape is issues and then on a monthly basis as well as after cleaning. This routine inspection takes into consideration the performance of fire resistant reflective tape, moisture barriers and the thermal liners.
The National Fire Protection Association states the advanced inspection should be in addition to areas covered by the routine inspection and performed at least once per year. While this points more to U.S. based crews and turnout gear, it can apply to textiles and garments worn by fire response crews in the U.K. and throughout Europe and Asia.
The advanced inspection should include fit/overlap, integrity of fire resistant reflective tape, material integrity, moisture barrier integrity, hook and loop functionality, liner attachments and inspection of all accessories – especially those that utilize fire retardant reflective tape.
Taking the time to inspect garments ensures that every crew member is adequately covered and protected during emergency situations, so that crews wearing reflective tape and protective gear gain the maximum benefits.