Thread: Respriatory PPE OSHA standard
06-10-2000, 06:30 PM #1bicbicFirehouse.com Guest
Respriatory PPE OSHA standard
Does anyone know what the OSHA respiratory standard is for wildland firefighting? If so, where can I find the info. What is your department doing to meet the standard?
06-12-2000, 02:55 PM #2bob1350Firehouse.com Guest
As a Incident Safety officer, I wasn't aware of a standard. Its more like put a bandana over your mouth and take aspirin/Advil for the headaches your gonna get
06-13-2000, 02:09 PM #3ddavisFirehouse.com Guest
There is not an OSHA standard for wildland respiratory protection.
NIOSH is the agency responsible for actually testing, approving and classifying all types of respiratory protection, and they do not have any class for wildland firefighting. When I spoke with their office a couple of years ago they informed me of this. At that time they had no plans to develop any, and that if they did somehow find the funding to start a project to do so, it would be many years before it would be available for use.
06-13-2000, 05:06 PM #4SWIDFCWINSFirehouse.com Guest
There are no standards. There should be. There have been several studies completed by wildland fire agencies to try and arrive at a standard of some sort. Nothing as of yet.
There are a few PPE filter type devices that are available. Check the fire trade magazines for information on purchasing one of these items. They are better than a cotton bandana.
06-16-2000, 01:48 AM #5J.WattFirehouse.com Guest
I worked on the National Wildfire Coordinating Group's (NWCG) Safety and Health Working Team when there was a three year study called the "Health Hazards of Smoke" relating to wildland fire fighters. Copies may still be available from the USDA-Forest Service, Missoula Equipment Development Center. The findings showed that most of the stuff you gag on and clean out of your nose are smoke particles 10 microns and larger. They do carry volitile compounds that disperse so fast that sampling had a hard time capturing. Particles less than 10 microns are the ones that end up in your lungs. They cause a "temporary" reduction in VOmax that is corrected by fire season ending and not breathing the air! Basically the effects are mechanical, i.,e. sore throats, hard respirations, etc. After prolonged exposure, weeks, people get run down and suceptable to colds, bronchial problems, etc.
Chemically, the biggest problem is CO. Working under inversion layers leads to a constant CO exposure. That's not to say that there may be exposure to chemicals and combinations not yet identified from incomplete combustion and reaction to heat.
The CA Dept. of Foresry and Fire Protection tested passive respirators designed by the Lawerence Livermore Lab and the FFs found that they could work in heavier smoke conditions but couldn't pull enough air through the filter system for sustained work.
The products I've seen on the market are basically a charcoal filter in an improved bandana. I've never seen any lab certified tests on the micron range of particles that are filtered. CO is still being taken into your system. Some may get a false sense of security from the heat protection of the "mask" and a less than NIOSH effective filter.
Industrial health standards that affect all workers list a basic protocol for protecting wokers from hazardous exposure, not just IDLH levels. Workers shold not work in the hazardous area. If they must then engineering fixes should be used to make the work area safe, and if that is not possible then protections appropriate to the danger must be developed and used. Related to wildland fire fighting, the exposure can't be engineered away, the materials of exposure may not be fully understood nor systems appropriate for protection perfected, so the last resort is to remove the workers from those areas affected.
The researchers found that a rule-of-thumb with smoke particles is if you have trouble seeing a co-worker clearly at a distance of 50 feet then the particle density is too high. For most wildland fires it often means just stopping and backing out of the smoke. Wind shifts are common so you'll probably get clear enough air soon. Other mitigations are needed in canyon inversions at multi-day fires. We've been moving workers to R&R at clear ares for 48 hour periods in real bad situations.
The studies are over five years old so there may be better sampling methods available now but there has not been a push to make another study.
"Anything is better than nothing" as a safety decision really doesn't fit with they way we deal with the rest of our fire fighting profession. Try to make informed decisions about safety equipment being sold to you. The bottom line is that the manufacturer wants to make a profit and if you knowingly violate your agency's safety policies you may lose some of your workers compensation protections.
Heck, after all that and 32 years on the job, I can't even bar-b-que with out my eyes slamming shut due to increased sensitivity!
06-16-2000, 11:33 AM #6monteFirehouse.com Guest
I'm in my 33rd year as a firefighter, and right now I think we as a profession are looking for technological fixes for everything. Exposure to particulates and CO have been going on for years, and being young, dumb, and stupid I stayed in the smoke as long as possible "to do the job", and found the common sense approach of reducing exposure, and rehab. are the best tools to minimize smoke problems. Bandannas are just part of the dress code. They do nothing for us when the smoke is heavy or light. The old timers knew, on prescribed burns we cut line through the smoke only when timing was important, we completed the line, layed the hose, then most of us were pulled out, a few hot spotted quickly with water, retreated to clean air, and then we waited for the fuels to burn out, and the smoke diminish enough for us to return to work. Large fires are no different, if we wait for lower intensities we have less smoke and gases to deal with, we are more effective and generally have to manage less risk. If we manage smoke risk by lessening exposure and using structural procedures for rehab. I think we would be better off. I remember many of the big fire seasons where we dealt with smoke and inversions, and many spent the winter coughing up huge goobers that looked like bad camp coffee. Some did not return to the line after that, those that did were highly sensitized to smoke, a big mess. I remember when Mt. St. Helens blew; we were directed to wear paper mask filters when working in the woods. Back then I chewed Copenhagen, now there was an ugly mess.
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