Protective Clothing for Firefighters
The European standard EN 469 outlines the minimum requirements for protective clothing designed for firefighters during firefighting and associated activities, such as rescue operations and disaster relief.
EN 469 ensures protection against accidental exposure to chemicals or flammable liquids and establishes the necessary tests to determine the clothing’s performance levels.
Protective workwear for firefighters: Mitigating risks
There are numerous hazards for a firefighter; one must consider the various aspects of this profession. The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) specified by the regulations, as designated under the EN 469 standard, provides protection in various ways:
- Protection from heat and flames during firefighting and related activities.
- Safeguarding against water in the event of rain and water jets.
- Protection against mechanical risks during specific operations.
- Ensuring safety in cases of poor visibility.
- Guarding against contact with hazardous liquid chemicals.
- Protection from limited electrostatic charges.
Scope and General Requirements
Firefighting operations are multifaceted, reflecting the diverse specialisations within the National Corps. As per this standard, firefighting attire is designed for use during fire-related situations. Key characteristics of firefighter clothing include:
- Ensuring protection for the neck, arms up to the wrists, and legs, including ankles.
- Overlapping of trousers and jackets during operations.
- Preventing rigid accessories from contacting the garment’s inner surface.
- Maintaining the performance level of the garment when wearing supplementary PPE (e.g., gloves or helmets).
- Incorporating anti-sweating barriers to prevent capillary water absorption.
- Featuring reflective bands for enhanced visibility.
- Employing fireproof, water-resistant, water vapour-resistant, and chemical-resistant materials and seams.
The fabric used in firefighter clothing follows a three-component structure:
- The outer layer, resistant to flames, heat, and abrasion, acts as the initial shield against these elements, protecting the inner layers.
- The middle layer serves as a moisture barrier, reducing water infiltration while allowing water vapour to escape, ensuring breathability.
- The inner layer, composed of thermal material, creates an air pocket that shields the operator from external heat.
Further Insights into Standard EN 469
To maximise firefighter protection, various additional PPE items are combined with clothing, depending on the specific operation at hand:
- UNI EN 15090:2012 specifies the minimum requirements and test methods that firefighter footwear must meet. It encompasses three types of footwear designed for various purposes: general rescue operations, firefighting rescue operations, and emergency situations involving hazardous materials.
- UNI EN 659:2008 defines the minimum performance requirements and test methods for protective gloves used by firefighters. This standard applies exclusively to gloves designed to protect hands during regular firefighting and search and rescue operations.
- UNI EN 16473:2015 sets out the minimum requirements for technical rescue helmets, primarily designed to protect the upper part of the head against mechanical hazards such as impacts, flame penetration, electrical, and chemical hazards.
- UNI EN 443:2008 outlines the minimum requirements for firefighter helmets that primarily protect against impacts, penetration, heat, and flames when battling fires in buildings and structures.
- UNI EN 16471:2015 lays down the minimum requirements for helmets used in fighting forest and/or vegetation fires, offering protection against impacts, penetration, heat from flames, and burning embers. It also specifies the requirements for marking and information provided by manufacturers.
- UNI EN 13911:2017 establishes the minimum safety requirements and test methods for fire hoods worn during firefighting operations. This standard is applicable in situations where protective clothing (UNI EN 469), respiratory protection devices (UNI EN 136 and UNI EN 137), and helmets (UNI EN 443) are also worn.
- UNI EN 136:2000 defines the minimum requirements for full-face masks used in respiratory protection devices, excluding those intended for underwater use. It also includes practical use tests and laboratory tests to assess compliance with these requirements.
- UNI EN 137:2007 specifies the minimum performance requirements for self-contained open circuit compressed air breathing apparatus with a full-face mask used as respiratory protection devices, excluding escape and diving apparatus. This equipment is intended for use in work situations with a minimal risk of cylinder over-pressurization due to extremely hot environmental conditions. Laboratory and practical application tests are included to verify compliance with the requirements.
- UNI EN 14458:2018 outlines the minimum requirements for visors designed exclusively for use with protective helmets or hard hats. These visors may be permanently fixed or removable from the helmet or hard hat and are not intended to protect against smoke, gases, or vapours.
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