Comparison of Use, Storage, and Cleaning Practices for Personal Protective Equipment Between Career and Volunteer Firefighters in Northwestern Kentucky in the United States
Most occupational research on firefighter exposure in the U.S. has been conducted in large urban cities with career firefighters. Over 70% of U.S. firefighters, however, are volunteers, a population overrepresented in small rural fire departments and thus under studied. We conducted three focus groups with individuals from eight fire departments in the Green River Firefighters Association fire protection district in northwestern Kentucky. Based on these focus groups, we developed a survey and administered it to 43 career and 187 volunteer firefighters at their annual fire training school. Based on their responses, we identified significant variables related to existing personal protective equipment (PPE) use, storage, and cleaning practices of firefighters. Except for storage, work practices related to the use of turnout gear (coats and pants) showed no significant difference between the two groups of firefighters. A majority of both career firefighters (85%, n = 16) and volunteer firefighters (59%, n = 57) stored their gear at the fire department (p < .05). Although turnout gear is the core component of PPE, 11% of the volunteer firefighters did not own turnout gear Both firefighter groups have a substantial challenge with respect to PPE practices. Career firefighters deal with more frequent exposures to fire-related contaminants during training and while on duty. In contrast, volunteer firefighters lack the resources needed to properly maintain, clean, and store their PPE, concerns that are not addressed by National Fire Protection Association recommendations.
Speaker / Author:
Jooyeon Hwang, PhD, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, Hudson College of Public Health University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
Ritchie Taylor, PhD, Department of Public Health, College of Health and Human Services, Western Kentucky University
Gretchen Macy, EdD, Department of Public Health, College of Health and Human Services, Western Kentucky University
Charles “Mac” Cann, MPH, Department of Public Health, College of Health and Human Services, Western Kentucky University
Vijay Golla, PhD, Department of Science and Mathematics, Texas A&M University–San Antonio