Airbag Life Expectancy Testing
I am a newly promoted lieutenant assigned to a two-man mini pumper. One of the "joys" of the truck is the fact that they have placed the airbags on my truck. In the last six months, two of our bags have failed. One blew out during a training exercise. Fortunately, no one was injured. The second developed a severe leak around the nipple. Knowing this, I have been a more than a little concerned about the safety of our bags. It was a big surprise and a welcome sight to see Ron's recent article on life expectancy testing. Does anyone out there already have a system implemented to check their airbags? If anyone has an SOP or guideline that is working, could I please get a copy of it so that I can approach the Training and Safety Committee (another added benefit of the recent promotion was being placed on this committee)so that we can avoid any further problems. Thanks all, and be safe...
AIR LIFT BAG SERVICE LIFE EXPECTANCY
As an emergency equipment distributor, I am responding to your question about SOP's or GUIDELINES concerning Air Lifting Bag Service Life Expectancy.
Copied below is a letter that I developed a couple of years ago with the aid of Nigel Letherby, Product Technical Specialist for Paratech, Inc., Frankfort, IL. Prior to posting this letter I attempted to remove all company identification so as not to have this reply interpreted as a form of endorsement or advertisement. However, so much was lost in this process (bag identifiers, etc.) that I decided to post the original letter with this disclaimer:
This posting is in no way an endorsement of any air lifting bag manufacturer. It merely attempts to provide the reader with factual data concerning the expected useful service life of air lifting bags in general.
That said, I hope you find the information copied below useful in your determination of the service life expectancy of your department's air lifting bags.
This letter concerns Paratech, Inc. - Maxiforce Air Lift Bags Service Life Expectancy and describes air lift bags manufactured from the 1980s, 1990s, the year 2000 and beyond.
Emergency response agencies may have a mixture of air lift bags and control systems. As such, the equipment manufacturer(s), air lift bag ages, construction materials and lift bag conditions could all vary. As an end user, it is important to compile an accurate description of each of your air lifting bags. After determining what you have, the user must evaluate individual bags based upon several criteria:
(1) Original construction materials and techniques.
(You may wish to consult the original manufacturer's manual or representative.)
(2) Use, care and storage environments over the bag's service history.
(Refer to your equipment logs or run forms; if any.)
(3) Age of the air lift bags.
(Usually stamped into the bag. Not just the date your department received them!)
The information below should help in determining the expected, useful, safe service life of air lift bags produced by Paratech, Inc. and carrying the Maxiforce label.
You may also find this information useful in determining the approximate useful service life of other manufacturers air lift bags if the manufacture date can be determined or if you can determine the construction materials.
* If a Paratech - Maxiforce Air Lift Bag is marked P-51 and 87 PSI "Max. Operating Pressure":
(or any other number following P), these air lift bags are constructed of
Steel Reinforced Butyl Rubber and had an expected useful service life of 6 to 7 years. Paratech has not produced these bags since approximately 1986.
* If a Paratech - Maxiforce Air Lift Bag is marked P-51 and 118 PSI Max. Operating Pressure: (or any other number following P), these air lift bags are constructed of
Steel Reinforced Neoprene and had an expected useful service life of 6 to 8 years. Paratech has not produced these bags since late 1989.
* If a Paratech - Maxiforce Air Lift Bag is marked K-17: (or any other number following K), these outsourced air lift bags were constructed of Kevlar Reinforced Neoprene and had an expected useful service life of 8 to 10 years. These bags have not been produced since approximately 1992.
* If a Paratech - Maxiforce Air Lift Bag is marked KPI-32: (or any other number following KPI ) these air lift bags are constructed of Kevlar Reinforced Neoprene and have an expected useful service life of 10 to 12 years, if manufactured in the 1990's.
* All Paratech - Maxiforce KPI air lift bags manufactured since 2000 are constructed of "BALLISTIC ARAMID FIBER REINFORCED NEOPRENE" and have a "15 YEAR" expected useful service life if properly maintained.
However, it is important to remember that use, care and storage environments over their service history may vary greatly and are not under the control of the manufacturer. As such, the result of these uncontrollable variables is the wide range of Years Of Service recommendations for all air lift bags.
On a positive note, improvements in materials and manufacturing techniques have resulted in a doubling of the expected useful, safe service life of all manufacturer's air lifting bags in less than 25 years! The next step is found in better handling and record keeping after the bags are delivered.
I hope you find this information helpful in planning for the eventual replacement of your older air lift bags.
FIELD TESTING OF AIR LIFT BAGS:
Prior to testing any air lifting bag, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's recommendations as found in the "Operations and Maintenance" manual delivered with air lift bags.
If you cannot locate this manual contact the manufacturer for testing guidelines.
Inflate an air lift bag to the "Maximum Operating Pressure" to see if it can hold the air pressure or blows up.
Whichever comes first!
(Yes, this actually happened not long ago in a large metropolitan fire department who shall remain nameless.)
I have replaced (at the department's expense) several air lift bags over the years that have "FAILED" this improper method of testing.
Most high pressure (flat) air lift bag manufacturers recommend:
"NEVER INFLATE AN UNRESTRAINED AIR LIFT BAG (ONE THAT IS NOT UNDER A LOAD) TO A PRESSURE GREATER THAN 30 P.S.I. -- SERIOUS INJURY AND / OR DEATH MAY OCCUR."
Please Be Safe,