New NIOSH Program to Approve SCBA Use by Fire Fighters

NIOSH begins a new program to approve SCBAs for use by fire fighters and other first responders to terrorist attacks.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is beginning a new program to approve self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for use by fire fighters and other first responders after terrorist attacks.

A SCBA is a type of respirator commonly used by fire fighters that provides air to users from a pressurized supply cylinder or tank carried on the back.

NIOSH approval of an SCBA will indicate the apparatus will provide needed protection to first responders in situations where an act of terror has released harmful chemicals, pathogens or radioactive materials into the air. Approvals will be based on positive results from rigorous tests on sample units submitted to NIOSH by manufacturers and from stringent evaluation of manufacturers' quality control practices, technical specifications and other documentation. Positive results demonstrate that the device provides the required level of protection against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents.

Products that meet NIOSH requirements will be included on a list of special SCBAs approved by NIOSH for use by first responders in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear emergencies. In addition, the products' manufacturers will be authorized to label them as "CBRN Agent Approved" by NIOSH.

The new program builds on NIOSH's long-established program for approving respirators in traditional workplace settings such as mines, industrial plants, construction sites and health care facilities, in situations where potential hazards generally have been identified and respirators typically are used as part of a larger occupational safety and health program.

The new program incorporates performance criteria for SCBAs from the traditional program and augments them with additional criteria pertinent to situations in which chemical, biological and other agents may be used as weapons of terror and hazards may be difficult to predict. For example, SCBAs also must meet NFPA standards for heat- and flame-resistance, and must be resistant to chemicals that may be used as weapons, as determined by laboratory tests involving the chemical warfare agents sarin and mustard gas.

Further information about the program will be posted shortly on the NIOSH Web page at www.cdc.gov/niosh. NIOSH is in the early stages of developing similar CBRN certification requirements for other types of respirators, such as air-purifying devices, for first responders.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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