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Friday, March 3, 2017

Firefighters and Protective Hoods (a guest post by LMCIT Loss Control Field Consultant Troy Walsh)

Guest blogger/LMCIT Loss Control
Field Consultant Troy Walsh
There is no argument that firefighting is a dangerous business. Now, new dangers are being researched to increase firefighter safety. Cancer among firefighters has unfortunately become more common, but so has the research and education on how to help prevent these cancers.

Routes of cancer-causing carcinogens vary with each person and type of personal protective equipment (PPE) the firefighter wears, but firefighter protective hoods may be the weakest link. The boots, protective pants and coat, gloves, and helmet typically have two or three layers of protection for the firefighter underneath. Even with those layers of protection the risk of exposure is still a threat, but the protective hood only has a single layer of protection.

The firefighter in the left-hand image is double-covered from the coat, helmet, and helmet rear flap. But look near the mask and notice the hood: under the hood is the firefighter’s skin.

Look closely at the hood pictured in the image to the right and you can see a definitive exposure line where the firefighter has the most exposure—and this hood has only been used in two fire situations.

Educating firefighters about the exposures is a start. Increasing maintenance and cleaning of PPE will also help in reducing these exposures. As research and education advance, firefighters will need to adapt to new procedures to reduce these exposures to remain long-term firefighters.

Here are some links to additional information:

  • This short news report helps explain these types of cancers and routes of exposure.
  • A 6-minute education piece for firefighters on protecting themselves and others from cancer-causing exposures.
  • A brief clip on firefighter PPE contamination and routes of exposure.
  • This bulletin from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) discusses firefighter hoods. 


  • Up next: A guest blog on the regulation of lower-powered vehicles—“Spring Wheels”—from mini trucks to electric bicycles.

    Stay safe,
    Rob and Troy

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