Operational hygiene in practice.
Responsibility. Safety. Trust.

In recent years, operational hygiene has become increasingly present, extensively researched and is being discussed more than ever before. As a manufacturer of protective clothing and technical equipment, Rosenbauer is intensively involved in this multifaceted topic. The term "hygiene" refers to the totality of all measures that prevent the spread of diseases and to maintain, promote and strengthen health. 

This applies not only to protection against harmful substances during operations, but also to protection against substances that are hazardous to health after. These substances can have dangerous effects for the skin and, depending on the substance, can be toxic to reproduction, mutagenic or react in other ways in the human body. 

 

Hazardous substances in use.

The general pollution of objects, rooms, water, food or people with harmful substances is called contamination. This includes viruses, microorganisms, biological toxins, and radioactive or chemical substances. Fire smoke – a mixture of many gaseous and solid toxic reactive products – is also a constant danger source. Higher concentrations of contaminants such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen chloride, hydrocyanic and hydrochloric acids, dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PCA), and other substances can occur. 

Incorporation is when these foreign substances are taken in by the body. Due to various circumstances, these can enter the body through inhalation, swallowing or through the skin, even with PPE on. The aim of operational hygiene is to minimize incorporation and thereby the risk of ingesting harmful substances. 

Decontamination, i.e., the removal of one or more hazardous substances from the surface or underlying layers, is therefore crucial to ones health. While PPE, equipment and vehicles are decontaminated after use, responders also need to shower thoroughly. In addition, wearing self-contained breathing apparatus prevents inhalation and ingestion of contaminants during operations. 

 

Measures before, during and after operations

Set-up.

In addition to a comprehensive hygiene concept, areas should be defined where it is clear which rooms may only be entered with clean service clothing. In addition, emergency personnel should receive practical training on the correct use of PPE. 

 

In field.

If possible, select low-contamination response tactics (fan, external attack, fire lance) and wear self-contained breathing apparatus. A standard procedure for undressing contaminated PPE should also be established. 

Immediately after operation.

Initial cleaning: Wash hands, neck and face after use, only then eat or drink. Shower as soon as possible and perform a rough cleaning on equipment and vehicles. 

Postprocessing.

Follow up with internal and external fine cleaning of equipment and vehicles, reprocessing of respirators and PPE, and record exposure documentation. 

Be clean. Stay healthy.

Many fire departments have already incorporated individual hygiene measures or processes. Local hygiene concepts that combine a comprehensive view of all relevant areas as well as the consolidation and coordination of individual measures, taking into account individual circumstances and conditions on site, have also already been integrated at many fire departments. 

Hygiene measures such as a boot washing facility, a locker with separate compartments for operational and private clothing, or concepts for cleaning and storing personal protective equipment are important steps in the right direction. 

In general, contaminated PPE must be cleaned after each deployment by trained fire department personnel or a service provider. Special industrial washing machines clean the textile PPE components in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions using special detergents in so-called firefighting programs. Helmets, gloves and boots are placed in appropriate automatic washing machines. After checking for damage, a washing documentation is recorded for equipment and garments. The clothing can then be provided as personal equipment or workwear pool.