According to Best Glove Manufacturing, it is reassuring to know should an accident or emergency ever arise; there are people that can help us.
EMTs, firemen, police officers and many others devote their time to ensure our wellbeing.
But who keeps these emergency responders safe? What kinds of guidelines exist to protect the health and safety of these individuals?
Luckily, in the United States there is an organisation that takes into consideration the needs of such workers.
The NFPA or National Fire Protection Association provides standards, research and other information on fire prevention and public safety.
Indeed, these individuals protect those that protect us. Comprised of professionals from a diverse cross-section of society, the NFPA Standards committees have one common goal: to ensure safe working conditions and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Emergency Response Personnel.
While the NFPA Standards pertain to a wide variety of work environments in the U.S., the NFPA 1999 Standard has a much more specific focus.
The NFPA 1999 Standard on Protective Clothing for Emergency Medical Operations was developed by the Technical Correlating Committee on Fire and Emergency Services Protective Clothing and Equipment.
It establishes performance criteria for hand, torso, limb and face protection for emergency services responders during incidents that involve emergency medical operations.
The primary objective in the development of NFPA 1999 is to provide emergency response personnel with garments, including gloves and face wear that protect against exposure to blood borne pathogens during emergency medical operations. This standard defines the minimum performance requirements for protective clothing as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Why create a standard so specific? The main concern was the possible exposure of medical personnel to Hepatitis and HIV.
These highly pathogenic viruses have been the major concern of healthcare providers for the past two decades and with the recent emergence of terrorist activity and fears of a global pandemic, there are new concerns over Anthrax, Smallpox, SARS and Avian Influenza.
Put requirements to the test:
In the safety industry, testing procedures need to address a lot of items before being put into practice.
Many test methods and performance requirements are based on surveys of emergency medical services personnel from their actual experiences in the field.
PPE garments must pass a variety of requirements before use, including viral penetration protection, overall liquid-tight integrity, material strength, physical hazard resistance, seam strength and closure strength.
The NFPA 1999 Standard includes performance requirements for examination gloves, work gloves, cleaning gloves, footwear, footwear covers and face protection devices.
For these specific garments of PPE, there are precise parameters for each individual piece of equipment. These standards ensure that no matter what kind of PPE is used, the user will be safe. Below is a sample of the criterion that is used to create the PPE standards:
Emergency medical exam gloves:
- Sizing: The glove must be available in a variety of sizes
- Liquid tight integrity: The glove must have an AQL (Acceptable Quality Limit) of 1.5 or better using ISO sampling criteria
- Blood and body-borne pathogen protection: The glove must pass the Biopenetration test using the Bacteriophage Phi-X 174 test with no penetration of the model virus for at least 1 hour of exposure of the entire glove to the test virus
- Rubber properties in tension: The glove must pass the tensile strength and elongation properties in an "as received" condition following heat aging and isopropyl alcohol immersion
- Puncture resistance: The exam glove must pass a puncture test and exhibit a minimal degree of protection (> 4.5 Newtons of force to puncture). This does not provide protection from a needle-like object, but rather a nail
- Dexterity testing: The glove must exhibit a great degree of dexterity-including a marked difference in performance between bare hands and gloved hands
- Protein levels: The glove cannot have extractable proteins above 50 µg per g
There are two other types of hand protection described in the new version of NFPA 1999.
In addition to exam gloves, emergency medical work gloves and clean up gloves are also specified.
They too require much of the same testing requirements needed by emergency medical exam gloves. Some additional testing requirements include chemical and abrasion resistance, grip test, donning ease and tactility.
Emergency medical work gloves do provide the barrier protection from blood and liquid-borne pathogens as well as a higher level of physical protection for incidents where rough or sharp surfaces could be contacted.
Where, in contrast, the cleaning gloves are single-use items to protect wearers during cleaning and decontamination of EMS equipment.
All of the performance requirements specified in NFPA Standards are based on existing ASTM or ANSI Standards.
Standards that save lives:
Today, in the U.S. and around the world, security seems to be first on our mind.
Measures have been taken to ensure the security and protection of not only the civilian population, but to those who arrive on the scene of an emergency first.
In an effort to provide the most qualified safety garments for first responders, the Department of Homeland Security announced on February 26, 2004 that DHS Grant money must be used to purchase Personal Protective Equipment that has been certified as compliant with one of five different NFPA Standards.
While the war on terror maybe headline news, it is important to note that many standards are pre-existing and were developed by the National Fire Protection Association long before the attacks on September 11, 2001.
They were written using hours of effort and expertise gleaned from years of experience in the field. Some of them even address the unthinkable terrorist events. Others such as NFPA 1999 are applicable to the everyday use of our local and national Emergency Medical Services.
We must get the word out. There are products made to provide protection in a variety of environments.
The third party certifications of PPE, like those from the NFPA, for Emergency Medical Services is a process that is monitored by certifying bodies that visit the manufacturing facilities and perform inspections.
Products that are certified by third party organisations are proven to be safe for Emergency Medical Services Personnel.
Safety standards and precautions are industry wide concerns-they are not solely relegated to those that wear the garments.
The manufacturers of the certified PPE products take this certification seriously. They have committed to providing ideal product, designed to protect our first line of defence, the first responder.
EMS personnel are there to protect us in times of trouble and emergency. NFPA 1999 Certified products are the perfect protection for them.