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  1. #1
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    Default leather turnout boots in hazardous materials environment

    Can any one tell me the real story about leather turnout boots. My safety officer says I shouldn't allow them. He say's they can not be decontaminated as easily as rubber, and they will need to be replaced every time they are exposed to hazardous chemicals. My firefighters say they are safer to wear because they offer a better fit are more comfortable and have better traction when climbing ladders. Is there more to this? Any thoughts would be appreciated.
    Last edited by szwirn; 12-11-2002 at 11:46 AM.


  2. #2
    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    You know, I had never though about this before, but leather is no longer allowed on turn out gear because it is too hard to decon. I also knew several guys at an FD that shall remain nameless who said one benifit of wearing leather was no Haz-Mat entries for them, you had to have rubber to go into the hot zone (I didn't make the connection until just now).

    I would have to guess that the leather could absorb stuff that rubber would not (wore my rubbers for the 1st time in 3 months last week for a large fuel spill). Helmets are hard polished leather, so liquids won't absorb as well, keep your boots polished and they will be good as well, but a scuffed up toe...

    That said, I love my leathers and won't be too happy with any officer who told me I could not wear them, they are the best thing since peanut butter.

  3. #3
    Forum Member Lewiston2FF's Avatar
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    That is true that leather cannot be completely decontaminated. I have a leather helmet and boots and keep a spare peice of tactical tupperware and rubber boots in case of a hazmat response. Even if you polish your leathers till the cows come home (get it- leather, cows) there will be spots that are missed like the area where the upper and sole are joined. I personally would be quite ****ed if I was told I couldnt wear my leathers. But in a hazmat situation I will swap leather for rubber so that I can wear my leathers again.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  4. #4
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    Default Have Fun with this one

    Nothing can be completley decontaminated once it has been exposed. That is why most ensembles are disposable. Leather is no more or less susceptible in this manner to chemical impingement then structural fire boot rubber. If you are doing any kind clean up in turnout gear you need to have a serious overhaul of your SOPís. Look at youíre your DOT -ERG, if it says in the guide pages that Structural Turn outís is sufficient then you can wear structural turn out gear weather or not it is Leather or Rubber. If you canít were structural turn out gear or the chemical is an Unknown then the only level of protection is a level ďAĒ Suite.
    ďJust when you think something is made to be Idiot Proof. They go a head and make a better IdiotĒ

  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber fallujahff's Avatar
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    Default

    Personally, I don't think there is a problem wearing leather boots in a HAZMAT situation--BUT....

    I would definately swap out my leather boots for a set of rubber ones I keep handy for HAZMATs. Not for safety but why mess up a perfectly good (and expensive) set of leather boots? They could be cleaned but then again, you never can tell!

    We don't have an SOP on the issue.
    "When you are safe at home, you wish you were having an adventure-when you're having an adventure, you wish you were safe at home"

    --Thornton Wilder

  6. #6
    MembersZone Subscriber N2DFire's Avatar
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    O.K. - Here's a twist on the topic. What Level of Haz-Mat response does your Department provide ??

    Although my FD has a few people trained to the Operations Level (Myself included) we only provide an Awareness Level response. Anything at the Ops. or Technician Level is handled by the county wide Haz-Mat team.

    I am also the only FF at my FD who wears leather boots (had to shell the $$ out of my own pocket but it was worth it).

    Now - the reason for my ramblings - Since my FD only operates at the Awareness level, then by all rights I should never have to come into contact with the product(s) in question so my having leather boots should not be an issue.

    If I should for some reason come into contact with said product(s) then the situation must have gone very very bad, in which case the cost of replacing my boots would be very far from my mind. Also the cost of replacing them would be billed back to the person/agency responsible for the incident rather than fall to myself or my FD anyway.
    Take Care - Stay Safe - God Bless
    Stephen
    FF/Paramedic
    Instructor

  7. #7
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    Default

    N2D I agree with you. I wear leather boots, and my company operates at Operations level, but even if you are in the warm zone doing decon work you will most likely be in a level B suit so you'll have (or at least you should have) the tyvek boots on over all your other gear right. So I still think wearing the leather boots is OK in those situations.


    Stay Safe !

  8. #8
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    I agree with Neman13.
    Lets's go back to when we learned the different levels of Haz Mat training.
    With the awareness level you are conducting a size up from a distance recognizing that their is a problem and calling for help. Leather boots, or Nike or bare feet should be fine because you are not getting involved in the incident.
    At the opperations level you shouldn't get in the product either, so leather isn't a problem again.
    At the tech level you may get in the product but you better be wearing the correct ppe, and turnouts aren't it.

    Level D is a work outfit NOT TURNOUTS NIOSH doesn't recognize turnouts as a level of protection for haz mat and neither should you.

    Our turnouts are structural firefighting gear. They are not the appropriate PPE for most other situations like, confined space, haz mat, trench, building collapse, rope rescue, water rescue, EMS, etc. Why do we make life harder then it is. Wear the appropriate ppe for the incident.

  9. #9
    MembersZone Subscriber Halligan84's Avatar
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    Why worry about contaminating 200 dollar leather boots when your wearing a 1500 dollar set of PPE that will be contaminated just as fast?? Structural PPE has NO place in a haz mat clean up or mitigation. I realize that for oil and fuel spills thats what you have, but for about 50 bucks a CASE you can get some cheap tyvek coveralls that will protect your gear or uniform along with some disposable rubber overboots and either latex or nitrile gloves and be wearing something much more appropriate.

    Switching boots and helmets is insane.

    Leather boots in a haz mat is just another in a long list of old wives tales that gets spread here.

  10. #10
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    Default

    Here is my 2 cents:

    Leave the leathers for Fire/Rescue runs.

    For Hazmat, and of course depending on the product, you want new equipment that has no chance of prior damage.

    You cannot be 100% sure that your everyday boots don't have a puncture or other damage to them. Too risky for me. Also don't want to take some chemical, or smell of fuel oil to the next call; (probably a medical run, or worse something combusting).

    I agree it's better to bag and dispose a set of $100 rubber boots than a pr. of $250 leathers.

    Dress in leather when firefighting, put on the rubber ( or other acceptable material) for Hazmat.

    PS above quotes are in Canadian $$$, that amount to much less in the US greenback.

  11. #11
    This space for rent NYSmokey's Avatar
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    If you wear gear which is not approved by your department, who pays for it when it gets screwed up at a Haz Mat? Some chiefs might have a hard time paying $250-300 to replace a pair of leather boots when you could have used your department issued rubber boots.
    Tom

    Never Forget 9-11-2001

    Stay safe out there!

    IACOJ Member

  12. #12
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    Lightbulb

    I believe the University of Delaware did a very extensive study on the benefit of leather over rubber boots. Most of the boot manufactures are familiar with this study and I'm sure they will be more than happy to send it to you.
    As for the Decon issue so what. There is always the "what if situations". How many times in your career have you absolutely had to be immersed in hazardous materials? We all get a little fuel on our boots once in a while but is it really going to hurt anything?


    Good luck,
    John

  13. #13
    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    Default What is contaimination

    If you have are dispatched to a haz-mat call you can take all the time in the world to suit up (provided you are tech level), but most of us go to haz-mat calls that started out as MVA's or fire calls and we were not aware of the hazards until late in the call, if at all. Even when we are aware, or you going to wrap yourself up in tyvek before entering a fire at the local Ace hardware store? Tons of hazmat there, some real nasty stuff.

    The two most common contaminants are fuel and blood, both of which can be washed out of gear. It is my understanding that leather does not clean up as easy, especially suede such as knee and elbow patches, which is why the stuff is now no longer allowed (by NFPA if memories serves). As I posted earlier, a scuffed toe on a leather boot might absorb blood and fuel as easily as suede, and you can't stick a boot in the washing machine, making it very tough to decon (this will not make me give up my beautiful leather boots ) Rubber boots can be washed clean of bio-hazard and fuels.

    I walked away from a multi vehicle roll over a couple of weeks ago where a FF'r had blood on him, and someone stank of gasoline on the ride home.

    Originally posted by fireman1075
    We all get a little fuel on our boots once in a while but is it really going to hurt anything?
    Well, if your next call involves you crawling into a room and contents fire, you might begin to regret that diesel fuel soaking into the cuffs of your pants

  14. #14
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    Default Re: What is contaimination

    Originally posted by Fire304


    I walked away from a multi vehicle roll over a couple of weeks ago where a FF'r had blood on him, and someone stank of gasoline on the ride home.

    Well, if your next call involves you crawling into a room and contents fire, you might begin to regret that diesel fuel soaking into the cuffs of your pants

    This is an example of the "what if" thinking that I spoke of earlier. What if I made an alarm and had no other place to stand but in a puddle of diesel that was deep enough to make it over my soles. Then what if I was immediately dispatched to a structure fire without having a chance to rinse off my boots. Then what if the location of the structure I was working was hot enough to reach the ignition temperature of diesel. Then your right rubber boots are much safer than leather.

  15. #15
    MembersZone Subscriber E229Lt's Avatar
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    I knew I should have saved that rubber coat I was issued as a probie.

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