Firefighting Technology Focus
The future is EOS
Roger Startin, Joint Managing Director of Bristol Uniforms, provides insight into the creation of a brand-new structural firefighting PPE range, specifically designed to protect against new and emerging dangers
It is an exciting time to be launching EOS, our new state-of-the-art PPE design for structural firefighting. In recent years the industry has made great strides in further understanding the many dangers faced by modern day firefighters over and above the risk of flame, such as heat stress and exposure to pathogens, toxins and carcinogens. At the same time, fibre and fabric manufacturers have made significant technological advances to help us develop fabric combinations that offer solutions to a new and highly complex set of criteria.
Named after the Greek goddess of the Dawn, EOS heralds a brand-new era in firefighting PPE design, offering more protection, flexibility and strength than ever before.
EOS builds on the success of Bristol’s popular XFlex and UK Collaborative Framework ranges. We have listened to our customers and know that the ergonomic sports styling and high-quality specialist fabrics provided in these ranges have been very well received by firefighters on the ground. The new style retains these important features, but is also sleek and ultra-flexible, enabling even better manoeuvrability with superior protection.
It is now widely accepted that high rates of cancer diagnoses and deaths amongst firefighters could be linked to exposure to smoke particles. Recent studies, such as research undertaken by the Fire Brigades Union and the University of Central Lancashire, have revealed that exposure via the skin could be just as dangerous as inhalation, and that dangerously high levels of harmful chemicals can linger on firefighters’ protective clothing. Along with adopting practical measures to reduce risk, such as the swift removal and professional cleaning of contaminated PPE, it is important that PPE acts as a barrier to toxins and harmful particles, whilst ensuring the body stays cool and dry.
As a result, EOS has been specifically designed to minimise the build-up of toxic smoke particles in areas of the body most vulnerable to exposure. The front of the jacket and sleeves have a simpler, smoother finish, free from pockets or unnecessary features where particles can gather. The jacket zip and neck area, often vulnerable areas of contamination, are protected by a smooth double-flap front. To further reduce build-up of particles, the outer layer has no piping and a reduced number of seams, and all reflective tape is attached using heat, which results in a smoother surface.
Pockets for gloves and accessories have been carefully positioned for ease of use and to reduce particle accumulation. Storm pockets are situated at the lower back of the jacket, an area which typically receives less smoke exposure, and additional larger pockets have been integrated into the inside of the jacket.
The new range also comes with particle-blocking wrist cuffs, optional particle-blocking skirt around the torso, and optional particle-blocking wind cuffs around the ankles, for superior particulate protection. These barriers prevent dangerous smoke particles from infiltrating protective clothing, either under the jacket or via sleeves and trouser legs and coming in contact with the skin.
The skirt is connected to the inside of the jacket, creating a seal around the torso, whilst the wind cuffs are placed over the boots to create a seal around the ankles.
The wrist cuffs come as standard on all EOS jackets, following the popular design already used in the XFlex range to prevent smoke particle exposure between the glove and the sleeve.
At Bristol Uniforms we understand how essential it is that firefighters can move easily and comfortably in their protective clothing. The role of a firefighter is strenuous and physically active, involving crawling, running, climbing and carrying heavy equipment, so PPE must enable maximum movement for optimal performance.
The new EOS design is lightweight and ultra-flexible, enabling a superior range of motion and manoeuvrability. This is partly due to the introduction of a distinctive, supple reflective taping called HEX-TT. The precise cube-pattern of the new taping features tiny gaps, resulting in an outer layer that is significantly more supple and flexible, tear and catch resistant, and less likely to degrade after frequent washing. In the event that the taping is damaged, the orientation-neutral design means it is also easier to repair.
The sports styling and superior ergonomics are also enhanced by concave seaming on the jacket sleeves, and back pleats, which enable greater ease of movement.
It is of course crucial that firefighting PPE is hard-wearing and robust, and able to withstand the effects of carrying out a physically demanding role in challenging environments. As a manufacturer with decades of experience providing in-house PPE cleaning and repairing services in the UK, Bristol is well-placed to identify common areas of weakness that may need more regular repair and we have paid particular attention to these areas in the new design.
Now that the regular cleaning of kit is recommended to reduce the risks associated with smoke exposure, fire services across the world are washing their kit more frequently than ever before and will continue to see washing frequency increase in future. So now, more than ever, it is essential that PPE can withstand this additional cleaning and remain fit for purpose.
In response, Bristol Uniforms has ensured that the new EOS design is particularly hard-wearing and even longer lasting, and able to withstand frequent washing and tumble drying.
In addition, features such as the new internal elbow and knee padding systems not only provide superior protection but have been specifically designed to resist damage in these common wear and tear areas.
As a supplier to customers in more than 110 countries across the globe, we have a wealth of experience providing PPE to suit regional and national preferences, whether in colour, style, compatibility with various accessories, as well as adhering to a number of international standards.
Bright, modern and stylish, EOS is available in a choice of popular colour combinations including PBI Gold, PBI Gold and Black, Navy and Lime, Navy and Red, and Navy and Yellow.
A select combination of specialist fabrics gives optimum performance whilst being light in weight to minimise heat stress. Customers can choose from a selection of outer fabrics manufactured from PBI or Nomex fibres, for example the Hainsworth TITAN range, which offers excellent protection against heat and flame. EOS also comes with a choice of high-quality inner moisture barrier and liner systems from WL Gore, which protect against particles and pathogens and draw sweat away from the skin, keeping the body cool and dry.
Customers have the option to add radio pockets and loops to accommodate specific equipment, and the design is compatible with a wide range of accessories and equipment including integrated safety harnesses and drag rescue devices.
Suitable for international markets, EOS has been designed to meet the requirements of the CEN standard EN469 Level 2, NFPA standard NFPA 1971:2018, and the Australian standard AS 4967: 2019.
EOS comes in 28 different sizes for both male and female firefighters.
For more information visit: www.bristoluniforms.com/eos
Why comfort is crucial in firefighter protection
Suzanne Prince, UK Fire Associate, W.L. Gore & Associates, reports on why firefighting comfort is critical to effective protection
Human physiology ensures that everyone’s experience of comfort can vary. How many couples argue over the temperature of the car during a long journey? Why do some surfers prefer to wear a wetsuit when others don’t?
In everyday life, our experience of comfort is subjective, but in firefighting comfort is critical to effective protection and based on strong science. British Standard BS EN ISO 7730:2005 describes ‘thermal comfort’ as a mental condition of an individual that expresses satisfaction in a thermal condition.
Physiology and individual fitness are huge variables, but we can mitigate the risks to firefighters by providing optimum comfort. This is achieved with the use of properly fitted, lightweight firefighting garments that incorporate effective waterproofness, internal moisture management and freedom of movement.
Comfort is an integral and crucial aspect of protection. The baseline functionality for firefighter PPE has always been to protect from heat and flame, which was historically the highest risk to injury and fatality.
But some years ago, researchers identified that there are many risks to firefighters from inside their gear. These are primarily heat stress, steam burns from internal moisture at pressure points and injuries that result from fatigue and reduction in situational awareness.
Research by the NFPA shows that overexertion and physical stress continue to the leading causes of death in firefighters. Both key factors that can be mitigated by appropriate comfort.
Of course, working in the extremes of a fire with full breathing apparatus is never going to be comfortable and is only sustainable for limited periods. But if 80 per cent of a firefighters’ workload is non-fire then the greater risk comes from inside the garments manifestly as heat stress and fatigue.
Management of moisture inside the garment, the job of the moisture barrier, is key to mitigating heat stress and burn injury.
Firefighters get wet most of the time. Direct suppression of fire using hose lines with lots of water creates mist and splashback. Water dripping off ceilings and accumulating on the floor, as well as UK weather, means firefighters are wet most of the time.
Working in fire gear is mostly hot, so moisture builds up in the form of sweat generated from the inside as well. Moisture in a garment significantly increases heat transfer, often resulting in steam and pressure burns.
Gore was the first company to develop a waterproof, breathable moisture barrier to address this issue and over the years has developed a range of GORE-TEX Moisture Barriers designed to tackle the different risk profiles of modern firefighting
It is the ability to allow sweat (water vapour) to move through the clothing materials, to enable evaporative cooling, which is critical to minimising the physiological burden on the firefighter.
The inclusion of a moisture barrier ensures waterproofness from the outside while internal moisture is efficiently moved through the layers, keeping the thermal protective fabric dry and reducing the risk of steam or wet compression burns. Comfort and breathability are high, reducing the risk of heat stress and keeping the wearer cooler for longer.
Ergonomics also play a huge part in optimising comfort. Garment design needs to take account of how a suit works when other equipment is used that involve straps and harnesses which compress the fabrics and limit ventilation. Poorly designed pockets, flaps or reflective tape can significantly inhibit breathability waterproofness.
For firefighters, comfort is more than just an aspiration – it is crucial to their protection and mitigates the risks beyond heat and flame.
New website reflects expanded offering from workwear specialist
Ballyclare reports on launching a revised and updated website giving full details of the many different ranges of garments, solutions and related services the company offers
The new website – ballyclarelimited.com – features enhanced navigation which makes it even easier for users to locate the information they require, while still giving easy access to the company’s many ranges of high quality workwear and protective clothing. This process of digital development is ongoing, with the aim of enabling Ballyclare’s European partners to use the platform and the additional value-added services which will be added in the New Year.
The website details Ballyclare’s various different general and specialist workwear ranges which include T-shirts, jackets, coats, trousers, coveralls, sweatshirt, underwear and many other items. Dedicated PPE, hi vis, flame retardant, arc- and flash-resistant, waterproof and female-fit garments are also featured, along with Ballyclare solutions designed for specialist sectors such as fire and emergency services, automotive, offshore, healthcare and rail. Visitors can also find details of Ballyclare’s healthcare PPE items, such as single-use FFP2 masks, non-PPE reusable fabric masks, face shields, hand sanitisers and surface wipes.
“In redesigning the site we were looking to convey the tremendous breadth of our offering,” explains Roger Foster, Sales and Marketing Director. “We supply to a long list of major industrial distributors and public bodies including Network Rail, the Ministry of Justice, emergency services, Mercedes-Benz and Renault, and we want site visitors to know they can source everything they need, quickly and easily from our website.”
Ballyclare customers can take advantage of the website’s sizing and measurement guide, plus its trusted 100 per cent secure online ordering facility which offers both UK and European shipping options. The site is fully compatible with mobile devices, allowing customers to place orders wherever and whenever it is convenient to them.
Underlining Ballyclare’s trust, protection and innovation credentials in manufacturing workwear for specialist sectors, the website also details the company’s long-standing association with WL Gore & Associates. Ballyclare uses various innovative Gore fabrics such as GORE-TEX® PYRAD®, GORE-TEX Waterproof fabrics and the GORE® PARALLON® System to create technologically advanced workwear and protective clothing for many demanding industries and applications.
Site visitors can also find details on Ballyclare’s range of workwear services. These include workwear personalisation, laundry services, and a comprehensive selection of managed services that ensure your workwear remains fit for purpose at all times.
To view the new Ballyclare website visit: www.ballyclarelimited.com
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