VIKING helps reduce cancer threat with a new innovative fire suit

VIKING helps reduce cancer threat with a new innovative fire suit reacting to growing evidence of elevated cancer rates among fire fighters, VIKING’s new “Gothenburg” fire-fighting suit* is purpose-built to provide its wearer with greater protection from potentially harmful substances.Esbjerg

Denmark, 18 September 2014 – Working closely with a Swedish fire service, leading marine and fire safety equipment manufacturer VIKING Life-saving Equipment has developed an important new fire suit that helps to shield fire fighters from harmful contamination.

In May this year, a study of Nordic fire fighters reported on cancer diagnoses among 16,422 male fire fighters from the five Nordic countries. Replicating the results of a major US study currently being concluded, the Nordic study found increased cancer risk among fire fighters compared with the general population.

Since protecting people is at the core of VIKING’s corporate essence, looking for ways to address the cancer issue for the thousands of fire fighters who wear its products is a natural step. So when Gothenburg, Sweden-based Räddningstjänsten Storgöteborg (RSG), one of Sweden’s most respected fire services, invited fire safety equipment manufacturers to help it develop the next generation of fire suits, VIKING didn’t hesitate.

“With such compelling evidence, the relationship between fire fighting exposures and cancer cannot be ignored,” says VIKING CEO Henrik Uhd Christensen. “And that’s why we’ve been working to find ways to increase their protection on the job.”Fire fighters are potentially exposed to a wide range of known and suspected carcinogens through their work.

While factors such as shift work may explain some of the increase in diagnoses, it remains a fact that there is a risk of exposure, for example, to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and asbestos. In fact, the increased incidence of cancer, while described by both studies as moderate, is attracting considerable attention around the world.The Gothenburg suit“The Gothenburg suit” – or PS7200 as it is designated in VIKING’s range of fire suit products, is inspired by VIKING’s multi-piece suits worn predominantly outside Europe. But where those suits are primarily designed to enable easier washing and repair, the new VIKING suit’s design objectives were far more ambitious.

The key idea, introduced by RSG Procurement Manager Katarina Appelqvist, was to create a suit whose outer shell could easily be removed by the fire fighter after attending a fire, leaving him or her wearing the inner layers as perfectly usable clothing, for returning to the station. In this way, dangerous particles on the outer shell could immediately be removed from close contact with the fire fighter into a “washing bag”, this also minimizes contamination of interior surfaces of vehicles and fire stations.“We are highly attentive to our fire fighters’ working environment, and the idea of a detachable outer shell grew with every step of the process,” says Torbjörn Petersson of RSG´s Technology and Equipment Department. “We wanted to reduce the amount of time our people could be exposed to the risk of contamination.

At the same time, removing the outer shell can help to keep the workplace clean from ordinary dirt and dust, too.”In the initial development rounds, RSG worked closely with all the manufacturers, co-developing and testing safety-approved prototypes from each. After crawling, climbing, stress-testing and suit removal, fire fighters were asked to rate each prototype oncomfort, overall impression and removability of the outer shell.

The VIKING prototype convincingly won the test – and a multi-year contract for supply of the new fire suit.The Gothenburg suit’s outer shell is made of the latest generation of PBI® fabrics. These fabrics are constructed using the inherently flame-resistant and thermally stable PBI® fiber from PBI® Performance Products, known for outstanding protection against heat and flames. The material is extremely strong, and maintains its resilient structure after many washes. On the inside is a CROSSTECH® SR 2 Layer Laminate, which doesn’t lose its high breathability even after exposure to extreme heat, and which, with the outer shell removed, continues to protect the wearer from the five most common chemicals, according to 1971 NFPA standard, including blood, bodily fluids and petroleum products.Fire fighter comfort received special attention, with features such as pre-bent knees and elbows, a removable hood, and superior, adjustable flexibility to handle many different work situations. The highly durable suit is reinforced with DuPont™ Kevlar® in arms, knees, in the pockets, and at the hem of the pants and the jacket. Attention to detail is evident throughout the design, making it easier, for example, to don communications equipment.

“Comfort is a key part of ensuring safety,” says Henrik Uhd Christensen, “An uncomfortable suit may not be worn properly or even avoided where possible, reducing the wearer’s level of protection from heat and contamination.”Katarina Appelqvist points to other advantages, too. “The new suits make it easier for the fire fighter to visually check his or her gear, and it makes it even easier, and probably faster to repair the outer shell.”General durability was also important. A strategy behind the multi-piece design was the ability to extend the lifetime value of components. Making it possible to purchase a new lining or outer shell rather than discarding the entire suit if only part of it is damaged or worn. The outer shell can handle at least 30 washes before re-impregnation.

According to Katarina Appelqvist, RSG’s innovative approach to the procurement process has led to a highly optimized suit design: “All of the features were listed in the original requirements of the tender, but we knew it would take an innovative form of procurement based on competitive dialogue to achieve such an ambitious goal. As buyers, we wanted to use this new approach to make the most of the expertise manufacturers have to offer, and we’re proud that RSG has been able to contribute to a breakthrough in the market.

Any innovations can have their teething problems, but like us, VIKING has had the attitude right from the beginning that we could create a really great fire suit together.”*

Patent pending