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Maintaining a Relationship with your SCBA

Posted on by Jaclyn Krah, MA

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is the day of the year dedicated to showing our significant others just how much we care. Boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, and wives all scurry to make the day special with chocolates, flowers, romantic dinners, and thoughtful gifts. Why? Because good relationships take work. Good relationships take maintenance.

Have you ever thought about your relationship with your personal protective equipment? For instance, the men and women, such as firefighters, who use Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) know that this device is their life partner of sorts—providing them with a breathable air source in the midst of hazardous environments. SCBA respirator users must be aware that problems with their device can arise if it is not properly maintained. Correct inspection, cleaning, upkeep, and service procedures are all vital to ensure optimum SCBA operation. Whether you are the user or the service technician of the SCBA, never assume that you know the best methods of carrying out these procedures. Unlike your human significant other, your respiratory partner comes with instructions to keep the relationship running smoothly. Pay close attention to the guidelines issued by the SCBA manufacturer for proper care and maintenance. (See the NIOSH/NPPTL User notice.)

Ever succeed at sweeping a potential partner off their feet with a romantic gesture, only to have it fail miserably when tried on another potential love interest?  Each person is unique and must be approached differently… much like respirators. Maintenance procedures and training are unique to each respirator manufacturer and model. Additionally, any equipment changes to the original respirator configuration may entail new training and maintenance requirements. Manufacturers must include instructions for different configurations in the training and maintenance manual if an equipment modification impacts the use or maintenance of the respirator.

When in a relationship, it is important to understand the role you play. Some tips to improve the relationship between you and your SCBA include:

  • conduct  daily inspections of your SCBA  
  • be able to identify the signs that indicate an SCBA should be removed from service and examined by a certified technician (there are training courses to help you with this!)
  • know which maintenance operations  must be performed by trained and certified technicians as part of the manufacturer’s maintenance cycle instructions. (You wouldn’t want your dentist fixing your car!) These specific operations should only be performed by someone who has been trained and certified on the specific model.

You’ll be sure to get what you want if you effectively clean and sanitize your SCBA.  This will help you avoid RTDs (i.e., respiratory transmitted diseases). Actually, even your employer has a role to play. Your employer is required to give you the training and help that you need to keep your relationship healthy.

But don’t make assumptions—follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  If you do not have access to those instructions, check the manufacturer’s web site. If you still can’t find them, general cleaning and sanitizing guidance , applicable to many types of respirators, is provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). More specifically, NFPA 1852 Standard of Selection, Care and Maintenance of Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus provides guidance that can be followed to ensure the continued efficient operation of SCBA.

Care and maintenance of your SCBA unit are vital steps to staying safe in the hazardous environments you face in your important job.  The best Valentine’s Day present that you can give to your loved ones is coming home to them safe and sound.

Jaclyn Krah, MA

Ms. Krah is a Health Communication Specialist in the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory.

Posted on by Jaclyn Krah, MA

18 comments on “Maintaining a Relationship with your SCBA”

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    Very nice article that has a great message! “Know your SCBA” There is nothing more important than repetitive skills training with your SCBA, nothing. If we were diving today at a depth of 100′, we would check our equipment thoroughly right? Same thing for your SCBA, you can’t breath the smoke from todays fires any more than you can breath under water. When something occurs that might interrupt your air supply, muscle memory repetitive skills training is what is going to help you solve the problem underwater or in the toxic environment of a fire. Muscle memory is why after driving a clutch car for a while and you get into your spouse’s car with an automatic and your left foot try’s to push a hole in the floor. It is an automatic response. “Knowing your SCBA” allows those muscle memory skills to be a natural movement without having to concentrate. If you are over concentrating on operating your SCBA you might have neglected your situational awareness of your environment. In SCUBA you may be descending/ascending to fast due to a pre-occupation with your SCUBA gear or lack of basic SCUBA skills, in a fire fighting environment the fire fighter may be pre-occupied with their SCBA and have a high consumption rate or not maintain their situational awareness and miss communications, miss signs of flashover, signs of the fire suppression effects, the list goes on.
    There is nothing more important to a fire fighter (or diver) than their SCBA (or SCUBA). Repetitive skills muscle memory training is a critical skill that can fade or waist away without constant vigilance, either through constant use in a busy environment or most often through practical training. Fire fighters should consider the morning clean up of the station. Every fire station has this opportunity to increase the “air time” by doing morning clean up “on air”. Just think of the skill set you are providing your fire fighters by giving them 8-10 on air uses per month! What you could possible find is a much more quiet fire ground with no air loss from not hitting the doff button when disconnecting the MMR, ease in making the connection and how you are helping them build their muscle memory skills with their SCBA so they can concentrate on the environment they find themselves in.
    Very nice article!

    You blog post was clever and caring. I like how you tied safety equipment to love of self and family and Valentines day…

    Great article! As a dentist you do not want me to service your car. However you can learn alot by talking with the experts and learning how to maintain your scuba gear. Ask questions of those who know!

    Happy Valentines Day to everyone. Thanks admin for sharing this article. I always check my SCBA at least once a week.

    This is exactly what we tell all staff.

    Being in the cleaning industry you would be shocked at the amount of cleaners that have developed breathing problems due to not wearing the correct breathing apparatus when using chemicals.

    I myself have develop lung problems and regularly have bouts of breathing difficulty.

    WE brought in a policy to ensure all staff are issued with the correct PPE at the outset of there employment.

    Damien Carter

    This is one of the reasons why i use my personal equipment when I go would like to tell all that keeping your equipment clean is the only way to avoid diseases.

    A great article, everyone must be responsible about infections and diseases , this is just one of the thinks we must care for to live a healtier live.

    Appreciation, Jaclyn. I really loved the way you’ve covered this article and perhaps, I’d say that you’ve done a great job in making this compact article.

    Thanks for your exciting article. One other problem is that mesothelioma cancer is generally the result of the inhalation of fibers from asbestos, which is a dangerous material. It’s commonly viewed among workers in the building industry who definitely have long exposure to asbestos. It is also caused by moving into asbestos covered buildings for some time of time, Inherited genes plays a huge role, and some people are more vulnerable to the risk than others.

    Thanks Jaclyn for this nice article! We should always check SCBA regularly. Keep safe for our family.

    differently… much like respirators. Maintenance procedures and training are unique to each respirator manufacturer and model. Additionally, any equipment changes to the original respirator configuration may entail new training and maintenance requirements. Manufacturers must include instructions for different configurations in the training and maintenance manual if an equipment modification impacts the use or maintenance of the respirator.

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