Decontamination – Firefighter control measures
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Decontamination – Firefighter control measures

09 August 2021 By Laura Megson - Category Buyer for Emergency Services at YPO

Firefighter PPE

Firefighters are exposed to many challenging situations and working environments with the potential to have long-term effects on their health.

The risks

Regular cleaning of PPE kit not only maintains its lifelong protection levels from heat exposure, but also helps reduce long-term exposure to harmful toxins. Firefighters follow three types of cleaning, routine, advanced and specialised cleaning as defined in The National Fire Protection Association - NFPA 1851. The NFPA 1851 standard was created to establish proper PPE maintenance and limit the exposure of fire ground contaminants to firefighters. The standard covers selection, care, and maintenance of structural and proximity firefighting PPE.

It states that routine cleaning is to be performed after any fireground use where soiling has occurred. It involves brushing off to remove debris from the clothing, rinsing it with water, and applying spot cleaning as necessary. Undressing from contaminated PPE kit presents a high risk of cross contamination, passing from the kit to the firefighter and is a well-rehearsed procedure. The handling of the kit after undressing is equally important to reduce exposure.

Reducing the risk  

There are a number of specialist laundry services, decontamination machines and skin wash products available on the market. Laundry services follow strict guidelines to wash and maintain specialist PPE. Service providers must comply with Directive 89/656/EEC – The use of Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations. The kit is usually transported in red soluble alginate bags which dissolve as the kit is washed.

Most firefighters have two sets of PPE kit issued. This enables the use of an off-site laundry facility. However, it’s not always possible to use an outsourced service for self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) because most firefighters share this equipment, so it cannot leave the station in case a major incident occurs. The cleaning can be carried out by hand or can be done by machine in a short space of time. Decontamination machines can also be used to clean helmets and are simple to operate.

Decontamination wipes, shampoos and body washes have also been developed and scientifically proven to eliminate harmful toxins that firefighters are exposed to. The wipes and other products remove the most harmful dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Research has identified that long-term exposure to these toxins increases the risk of cancer.

Firefighters are at an increased risk of developing different types of occupational cancer due to the smoke and hazardous chemicals they are exposed, so investing and implementing various methods of protection helps reduce the risk.  

Sourcing the control measures for implementation

Specialist PPE kit, laundry services, decontamination machines and products are widely available from specialist stockists, and utilising a framework or DPS is a great way to ensure you’re sourcing goods or services via a compliant route. Generating healthy competition within the market via further competition gives you great value for money, and does not mean you are to compromise on quality.  


Why not get in touch with our team today to see how we can support you and help protect our Firefighters futures. Alternatively, you can view our Specialist PPE framework or Laundry (Including Specialist PPE) DPS

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