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Five experienced hazardous material (HAZMAT) fire fighters participated in three cities to evaluate three HAZMAT protective ensembles. The climatic conditions for these field studies were hot/dry (above 40°C), hot/wet (above 32°C) and comfortable (18 to 27°C). Each fire fighter served as his own control and wore a specific HAZMAT protective ensemble once a day for three days. Each test involved an operationally relevant 45-min work session during a total test duration of 55 min. Rectal temperatures (TR), heart rates (HR), blood pressures, respiration rates, clothed weights, and climatic parameters were recorded before and after each test. Test results show TR, HR, and sweat losses increased to 39°C, 208 beats/min, and 2.4 kg, respectively, during the hot/dry, hot/wet exposures. The wet bulb globe temperature levels for the hot/dry conditions exceed the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended limiting criteria and were marginal for the hot/wet tests. Physiologic parameters measured during comfortable conditions were lower than those measured during the hot/dry or hot/wet conditions. Differences in suit design were clearly reflected in the measured physiologic parameters and the effort required to perform work. Suggested suit modifications are discussed to reduce clothing encumberance and enhance work efficiency.
hazardous material, protective clothing, fire fighters' clothing
President, Biotherm, Inc., Beavercreek, OH