A hands on approach
Like most items of PPC, a lot has changed over the years in the manufacturing of Structural Fire Fighting Gloves. With so many gloves on the market today, we are here to discuss what actually makes a fire glove and the features you should be looking for to assist you in finding a fire glove solution which best suits your operational requirements.
A structural fire glove consists of three main components; the outer shell, internal lining and a waterproof membrane (moisture barrier) but all differ depending on the standard requirements and country of origin.
There are of course many other important factors to consider such as performance, construction, dexterity, cost, standards approvals, warranties and much more that we will touch on.
For many years the outer shell of the leather fire glove has been the norm but now with the advancements in materials there are many alternatives to assist the move away from the traditional leather fire glove. The question is do we really need to look at new outer materials offered or is leather still the answer as it will always offer excellent fire fighting capabilities especially for hand and foot protection.
With so many different variances of leather used such as cow hide, elk hide, split cow hide, grain elk hide, top grain hide and swine hide there are certainly a lot of alternatives out there.
Also due to the vast amount of Kangaroo hide available in Australia, the last decade has seen Kangaroo leather become another alternative for the use in the outer material for structural fire fighting gloves.
All the leathers mentioned above have advantages and disadvantages but one thing they all have in common is that leather is becoming old technology and as humans we are always looking at pushing the boundaries for new advancements and to create better alternatives.
Leather gloves by nature, and to comply to varies standards do feel bulky. The new direction of blended fibre gloves (non leather) do not have the same bulk as current leather gloves. Non leather gloves also offer greater wicking properties to ensure there is not a build up of moisture in the outer material as leather is quite absorbant which then add’s weight making it feel quite heavy. Also when wet leather is weakened against abrasion and cut resistance where material keeps the same properties whether it is wet or dry.
With these advancements over the last decade, the development of new materials and blends there is a lot more choice than in the past for the manufacturing companies and then the consumer. Other well known fibers such as Kermel®, PBI® etc. are now being blended with other materials such as woven Nomex®, Aramid/Viscose FR.
Due to the palm of the glove being subjected to more risk of abrasion and general wear and tear even more higher end materials are being blended such as FR silicon coated to Kevlar® fabrics or even blending Kevlar® with steel fibreglass and Silver threads to achieve greater overall protection and strength. All of these blends and variations may all sound confusing to the consumer but the main objective from the manufacturer is to offer as lighter weight as possible outer which also offers a high level of protection due to the extreme conditions it will be subjected to over the products life.
Now that we have discussed the outer fabric it is time to look at what makes up the internal workings of a structural fire glove and what you should be looking for. Many manufacturers keep this information in house as there is quite a science in trying to keep the heat from transferring through the glove as well as maintaining dexterity. Again just like the advancements with outer materials the same advancements have been developed with the internal thermal lining of a Structural Fire Fighting glove. New internal liners such as Kevlar®/Silver blends are offering many things such as thermal and cut protection, antibacterial, odor – inhibiting, anti – static and thermo dynamics to again assist the fire fighter in their day to day duties. Kevlar® is commonly used as it is an Aramid fibre with a low specific weight that offer’s high tensile strength, excellent heat resistance, dimensional stability, and low elongation to break plus it is also chemical resistant and has outstanding abrasion resistance.
The feel of greater dexterity does not just boil down to the thickness of the glove as design also plays a large part plus like most things it is all about wearer perception. One major factor that assists greatly with dexterity is the cut of the glove. Ten years ago the majority of structural fire fighting gloves we’re 2 dimensional but now again with the advancements in technology, manufacturing capabilities etc. you will find that the majority are 3 dimensional. A 3 dimensional design enables the manufacturer to design a glove that is ergonomically designed for higher wearer comfort and tactility from a ergonomic cut glove based on the natural hand position. One other thing when selecting your structural fire fighting glove is ensuring that the lining is fitted correctly to ensure that it can not be easily removed from the glove when donning and doffing and the liner is retained in the glove after washing. Again usually selecting a high end glove with warranties will ensure less risk that the internals of the glove are fitted correctly and will stay in place for a long period of time.
A moisture barrier is also an essential component to the construction of a Structural Fire Fighting glove. Adding a moisture barrier can be a challenging task for some manufacturer’s as it needs to be fitted correctly between the internal and external layers. People may think that all moisture barriers offered are generally the same but this is not true as there is a large amount of technology that goes into creating a moisture barrier. When looking at the correct moisture barrier protection do your homework as glove moisture management plays a large role in protecting the fire fighter especially from moisture build up that can cause steam burns. Most moisture barriers are not there just to stop moisture entering the glove but also to offer breathability and assist with extracting moisture away from the skin due to such things as a build up of sweat. However extracting moisture away from any PPC that consists of a moisture barrier is extremely difficult at the best of times. Also when selecting a structural fire fighting glove look at what type of moisture barrier is offered as there are generally two types of moisture barriers with one just offering moisture protection and other’s offering permanent protection against blood, viruses, and body fluids fire fighting gloves. Again look at the amount of protection offered and how it is offered depends on the quality of the moisture barrier provided as they do vary. It is important to select the right moisture barrier which will offer the right level of protection for the task at hand but like anything it is best to have more protection then not enough which is why I always advise that you source a glove with full protection against blood bourne pathogen, body fluids etc.
In summarising as discussed above there are a number of alternatives for you the consumer to consider when purchasing a Structural Fire Fighting Glove. It can be quite confusing and daunting for most, if you keep in mind these three most important factors dexterity, correct and up to date Standards Certification relevant to your country and Manufacturer Warranties you should be well on your way selecting the right fire glove for your requirements.
For more information, go to www.eskaaus.com.au