Tags: Meiko, PPE

IFSJ Exclusive: Cleaning PPE by machine – the reality

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Meiko looks at 3 case studies of European firefighters who are using the latest mask washing machines

Kehl Fire Department

What can you squeeze into six minutes?

That is not something Karlheinz Fimeyer has to worry about any longer when he is working in Kehl Fire Department’s BA mask cleaning room. Using the TopClean M to clean BA masks and regulators means that the BA equipment manager no longer has to search for something else to do at the same time.

That is because the shortest cycle of the washer-disinfector takes just six minutes. Previously he had to wait 45 minutes until everything was clean – but of course that was when the BA masks were still being cleaned in a conventional dishwasher.

“Kehl’s BA equipment maintenance team played an important role in developing the new Meiko TopClean M mask washing machine,” says MEIKO. “We worked with them to perfect the basket in which the masks are arranged for cleaning.

“Our development department designed special containers for the small mask components and we worked very closely with Karlheinz Fimeyer and his colleagues to find the best solution for cleaning regulators in the same machine, while keeping them at eight bar pressure during cleaning.”

Fimeyer enthuses about a quantum leap in mask cleaning: “Instead of having to leave the machine running while I find something else to do, I can now simply get everything done in one go.”

Stuttgart Airport Fire Service

Airport fire service takes occupational health and safety seriously when it comes to mask cleaning.

Stuttgart airport is the largest in BadenWürttemberg, and its fire department employs 81 people, all of whom are trained in the use of specialist breathing gear. The fire service has a stock of 140 breathing apparatus (BA) masks, and when Kevin Vogel and his colleagues pull them on they instinctively trust that everything is properly sealed, their compressed air cylinders are full, and there are no herpes or tuberculosis viruses – or indeed any other microorganisms – lurking in their masks.

Recently the three BA equipment managers have been cleaning the SCBA gear in a TopClean M from MEIKO.

The previous manual cleaning method with a formaldehyde solution had prompted numerous complaints to the airport fire chief because the BA equipment managers occasionally experienced unpleasant skin or respiratory complaints.

“Our in-house system for monitoring hazardous substances has been tightened up, so without the TopClean M I would have needed to go through the process of getting the cleaning chemicals approved for safety,” Rudlof tells. The TopClean M washer-disinfector has made that process unnecessary – and the new cleaning and disinfection machine is also saving the BA technicians a considerable amount of time.

“We clean the masks from a total of 40 fire services, though only after their training drills. Whenever a big training exercise takes place on-site at the airport, we typically have to clean 100 masks in one go,” says Rudlof.

The rapid and reliable cleaning cycles of the MEIKO TopClean M washer-disinfector make it an invaluable member of the BA cleaning and maintenance team. And if ever something goes wrong, the local MEIKO dealer is just 5 kilometres down the road and responds almost as fast as the fire service. Shift leader Moser neatly sums up the firefighters’ expectations: “Our needs are pretty simple. All we ask for is top-quality equipment.”

Fire Department Idar-Oberstein

Working in the fire service is often about acting fast and relying on instinct – but there are some jobs which take time and careful planning. Jörg Riemer, Fire Chief of the Idar-Oberstein Volunteer Fire Department, Udo Schuff, head of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) equipment, and Klaus Schneider are all fully trained BA equipment managers. They manage the equipment used by the 150 active firefighters deployed in this town in the Hunsrück region of Germany.

Famous as a gemstone centre, Idar-Oberstein’s fire service may be run on a volunteer basis, but these three men are municipal employees. They work full-time to ensure that all the firefighters’ gear works perfectly in the event of an emergency – including the personal protective equipment (PPE) that all their colleagues rely on.

Udo Schuff and his colleagues, who are all in their 50s, tried putting the individual mask components in a cloth bag and washing them in the washing machine they use for the firefighters’ duty gear.

“But unfortunately it didn’t work well enough so we had to finish off the cleaning by hand,” Schuff says. “We’re grateful to the city council for approving the purchase of a TopClean M in their budget. We’ve been using the machine to clean our 250 masks and regulators since September 2014,” Schuff says enthusiastically. Schuff’s colleague Jörg Riemer emphasises that one of the biggest advantages of the new solution is that “none of our full-time or volunteer equipment managers come into contact with detergents or disinfectants anymore”.

This is a key point, especially for Udo Schuff. He suffers from a chronic lung disease which means he is no longer able to wear breathing apparatus sets. His colleague Klaus Schneider is equally pleased with the decision they made: “The machine is exceptionally easy to use and actually produces better results than manual cleaning.”

Find out more about Meiko’s TopClean M at www.meiko-uk.co.uk

This article was originally published in the April edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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