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IFSJ Exclusive: Machine vs manual BA mask cleaning with MEIKO

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TopClean M from MEIKO is designed to make the BA mask cleaning process fast, cheap and hygienic

Working by hand is not to be underestimated – but it is not the best option for cleaning BA masks or regulators. In response to the length of time it takes to effectively clean this vital piece of firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE), MEIKO has developed TopClean M: a cleaning solution that is designed to be fast, hygienic and cost effective.

The problem

When on duty, firefighters must rely completely on their colleagues and their equipment. In Germany they refer to this as the “safety chain”. The safety chain combines all actions, methods, tactics, equipment and appliances associated with the safe use of respiratory protection and, in extreme cases, makes it possible to safely rescue the wearer of respiratory protection equipment by means of respiratory protection emergency rescue.

The safety chain includes all safety philosophy associated with respiratory protection during preparation for deployment, deployment itself and post-processing. Breaking the safety chain can put the life of the person wearing respiratory protection equipment at risk.

The post-processing referred to includes the cleaning of respiratory protective equipment. In the same way that certain hazardous situations can only be combatted by following certain processes. These valid processes are a great help when cleaning PPE.

Valid processes are not guaranteed in manual cleaning. Like many processes that are carried out by hand, manual cleaning is prone to error: incorrect dosing of the chemicals used, insufficient wetting of products, not enough application time – or too much application time, if you get distracted by another task in the middle of manual cleaning.

This is exactly what happened at one fire service. The results: the BA masks were left in the cleaning bath much longer than they should have been. The softener in the rubber parts of the mask dissolved, causing black marks on the firefighters’ faces the next time they used them.

The solution

To ensure that firefighter masks remain robust and are not damaged during the cleaning process, MEIKO developed the TopClean M: a modular system for cleaning of respirators, full-face masks, regulators and SCBA frames.

Unlike with manual cleaning, damage to BA masks like this will not happen with the TopClean M as all the parameters associated with the cleaning process (time, chemicals, mechanics, temperature) are predefined and run reliably.

The integrated door locking ensures that the processes cannot be interrupted once the start button has been pressed.

And a built-in empty indicator ensures that cleaning cannot commence without sufficient chemicals. According to the expert opinion of Professor Walter Popp, Head of Hospital Hygiene at Essen University Hospital, following intensive testing, he said that: “TopClean M delivers good cleaning and disinfection performance. (…) As a general rule it is preferable to use a machine rather than manual methods to clean BA masks.”

User safety

If manual cleaning is not carried out under the correct conditions, users can be put at an even greater disadvantage: cleaning vapours can be inhaled, chemicals can damage the skin and contaminated PPE can even harm those it is designed to protect. By contrast, machine cleaning is completed in a closed system, i.e. inside the TopClean M. What this means above all, is more safety and security for users, as they do not come into direct contact with the cleaning chemicals.

Saving time

Another disadvantage of manual disinfection is that it takes up the valuable capacities of respiratory protective equipment technicians – in particular when they are charged with removing all traces of chemicals from the equipment they are tasked with cleaning.

If it takes an average of 4.5 hours to complete the cleaning and disinfection process manually for 4 BA masks, using TopClean can reduce this time by 60%. All the technician has to do, is to take the BA masks apart, place them into the baskets and subsequently put them back together and carry out standard checks. TopClean M does the rest, with programme cycle times of between 6 and 10 minutes.

Using the TopClean M, up to four BA masks can be cleaned and disinfected simultaneously in next to no time, or eight regulators, or four BA masks and four regulators simultaneously.

Thomas Happersberger, Commander of Lahr City Fire Service, said that the MEIKO solution was an improvement on their previous methods: “Our previous manual process was reliable, of course. But the TopClean M and machine cleaning takes things to a whole new level, by giving us a much more consistent and reliable process.”

Olaf Fernys, who together with a colleague, is responsible for cleaning 892 BA masks and 661 regulators at Leipzig’s fire rescue headquarters, summarises all of these arguments quite simply: “It is not just about saving time; the improvement in safety and hygiene delivered by the TopClean M from MEIKO is more important.”

Machine cleaning in the TopClean M also means more safety and security for respiratory protective equipment technicians, because the cleaning and disinfection process delivered by the machine is approved by leading BA mask manufacturers.

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

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

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