One of the most frequent questions we receive is “What does NFPA 1851 say?” We are posting this NFPA 1851 summary to help you know what is contained in NFPA 1851 and how it affects fire gear cleaning, inspection, and repair.
The following is a summary of NFPA 1851, the standard on firefighter turnout gear ( PPE, bunker gear, fire gear ) selection, cleaning, inspection, repair, and record keeping. The NFPA calls it “NFPA 1851: Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting.”
NFPA 1851 standard was developed to reduce the safety risks and potential health hazards related to turnout gear care, maintenance and repair. Its intent, first and foremost is to protect firefighters, their families, and the general public – anyone they might come in contact with may be contaminated. A subordinate or ancillary development to these standards is their bearing on liability issues at the administrative level as well workman’s compensation cases pertaining to the implementation and practice.
The following is a series of excerpts or “highlights” of the NFPA 1851 Standard. This document defines explicit guidelines concerning standard operating procedure, and roles and responsibilities of record keeping, inspection, cleaning, decontamination, and repair of fire protection ensembles (turnout gear). You may obtain a complete copy of NFPA 1851 by contacting the National Fire Protection Association at www.NFPA.org
1.2.1 The purpose of this standard shall be to establish a program for structural fire fighting protective ensembles and ensemble elements to reduce the safety risks and potential health risks associated with poorly maintained, contaminated, or damaged structural fire fighting protective ensembles and ensemble elements.
126.96.36.199 Cleaning, Advanced. The thorough cleaning of ensembles or elements by washing with cleaning agents. Advanced cleaning usually requires elements to be temporarily taken out of service. Examples include hand washing, machine washing, and contract cleaning.
188.8.131.52 Cleaning, Routine. The light cleaning of ensembles or elements performed by the end user without taking the elements out of service. Examples include brushing off dry debris, rinsing off debris with a water hose, and spot cleaning.
184.108.40.206 Cleaning, Specialized. Cleaning to remove hazardous materials or biological agents. This level of cleaning involved specific procedures and specialized cleaning agents and processes.
2.1.2 Program Part for Structural Fire Fighting Protective Ensembles and Ensemble Elements
2.2.1 The organization shall develop written standard operating procedures (SOP) that shall identify and define the various roles and responsibilities of the organization and of the members.
2.3.1 The organization shall compile and maintain records on their structural fire fighting protective ensembles or ensemble elements.
2.3.2 At least the following records shall be kept for each ensemble element:
Person to whom element is issued
Date and condition when issue
Manufacturer and model name or design
Manufacturer s ID number, lot number, or serial number
Month and year of manufacture
Date(s) of and findings of advanced inspection(s) by organization
Date(s) of advanced cleaning or decontamination by organization
Reason for advanced cleaning or decontamination by organization
Date(s) of repair(s), who performed repair(s), and brief description of any repair(s)
Date of retirement
Date and method of disposal
4.2.1 Each individual member shall conduct a routine inspection of their personal ensemble or ensemble elements after each use.
4.3 Advanced Inspection.
4.3.1 An advanced inspection of all personal ensembles and ensemble elements shall be conducted at a minimum of every 12 months, or whenever routine inspections indicate that a problem may exist The advanced inspections shall be conducted by a members of the organization who have received training in the inspection of structural fire fighting protective clothing and equipment.
Cleaning and Decontamination
5.1.3 Soiled or contaminated elements shall not be brought into the home, washed in home laundries, or washed in public laundries unless the public laundry has a dedicated business to handle fire fighting protective clothing.
5.1.4 Commercial dry cleaning shall not be used as a means of cleaning or decontaminating ensembles and ensemble elements.
5.1.5 When contract cleaning or decontamination is used, the contract cleaner shall demonstrate, to the organization’s satisfaction, procedures for cleaning and decontamination that do not compromise the performance of ensembles and ensemble elements.
5.2 Routine Cleaning.
5.2.1 After each use any elements that are soiled shall receive routing cleaning.
5.2.4 Should routine cleaning fail to render the element(s) sufficiently clean for service, the element(s) shall receive advanced cleaning.
5.3 Advanced Cleaning.
5.3.1 Every six months, at a minimum, elements that have been issued, used, and are soiled, shall receive advanced cleaning.
220.127.116.11 Chlorine bleach or chlorinated solvents should not be used to clean or decontaminate.
18.104.22.168 Cleaning or decontamination solution shall not be greater than pH 10.5.
5.5.3 Heavy scrubbing or high velocity power washers shall not be used.
5.6 Drying Procedures.
5.6.1 Organization shall consult with the element manufacturer for instruction on drying. In the absence of manufacturers’ instructions, one of the drying procedures provided in this section shall be used.
5.6.2 The following procedures shall be used for air-drying:
(1) Place elements in an area with good ventilation.
(2) Do not dry in direct sunlight.
6.1 Garment Repair.
6.1.10 Major A seams are critical to the integrity of the garment and restitching of more than 1 continuous inch of a major A seam shall require consulting the manufacturer, or shall be performed by the manufacturer or by a manufacturer recognized repair facility in a manner consistent with the manufacturer’s instructions.
6.1.12 Major B seams in the moisture barrier shall be repaired or altered only by the manufacturer or by a manufacturer recognized repair facility and shall not be repaired in the field.
6.1.14 Minor seams in the moisture barrier shall be repaired or altered only by the manufacturer or by a manufacturer recognized repair facility and shall not be repaired in the field.
6.1.15 All repaired stress areas shall be reinforced in a manner consistent with the manufacturer’s instructions.
The importance of maintaining the cleanliness of ensembles and ensemble elements should not be underestimated. Soiled or contaminated ensembles and ensemble elements are a hazard to fire fighters since oils and contaminates can be flammable, toxic, or carcinogenic. Additionally, soiled or contaminated ensembles and ensemble elements can have reduced protective performance.
Health risks of soiled or contaminated ensembles and ensemble elements. Soiled or contaminated ensembles and ensemble elements can expose fire fighters to toxins and carcinogens that enter the body through ingestion, inhalation, or absorption. Repeated small exposures to some contaminants can add up over time and cause health problems.
Although great emphasis is placed on safety to avoid injury or inhalation hazards while working on the fire ground, many of the toxins which lead to health risks are being carried away from the fire scene on personal protective equipment used by the fire fighter.
Toxins that a fire fighter will come into contact with are found in soot, trapped within the fibers of soiled ensembles and ensemble elements or absorbed into the materials themselves. Contact with the soiled ensembles and ensemble elements increase the risk of the contaminants being introduced into the body.
Clothing contaminated with blood or other body fluids presents a potential risk of a communicable disease being transmitted to the person coming into contact with the contaminated clothing system.
Reduced performance hazards of contaminated ensembles and ensemble elements. When clothing or equipment becomes laden with particles and chemicals, other problems are faced in addition to being exposed to toxins, such as the following:
(a) Soiled ensembles and ensemble elements typically reflects less radiant heat. After materials are saturated with hydrocarbons, they will tend to absorb rather than reflect the radiant heat from the surrounding fire.
(b) Ensembles and ensemble elements heavily contaminated with hydrocarbons are more likely to conduct electricity, increasing the danger when entering a building or vehicle where wiring can still be live.
(c) Clothing materials impregnated without grease and hydrocarbon deposits from soot and smoke can ignite and cause severe burns and injuries, even if the materials are normally flame resistant.
The full NFPA 1851 document can be purchased at http://www.NFPA.org