Manufacturing & Processing sector case study

Australia is known for its picturesque beaches, sweeping plains, and tranquil bushland; however, it is the latter which often proves most problematic as the extreme summer temperatures edge towards the top of the thermometer. In years gone by, temperatures stretching well into the 40 degree mark have been appropriately accompanied by warnings from authorities about the need for fire safety. However, it is not only fires in bushland which wreak havoc with residential and commercial structures also susceptible to devastating fires.

Fire safety for firefighters

It is often easy for fire safety to be viewed as fire extinguishers in the correct location, fire blankets used for the right reasons, sprinklers fitted into a building, and emergency exits labelled and constructed appropriately.

However, focussing only on these types of safety measures can overlook an obvious safety concern: what about the firefighter? 

Enter AS/NZS 4967:2009, Protective clothing for firefighters – Requirements and test methods for protective clothing used for structural firefighting

In the event of a fire, most emergency plans should have a point at which to dial ‘000’ to alert the emergency services. Depending on the fire, and other factors, the fire brigade will normally arrive within minutes, equipped to deal with the task at hand, they will likely enter the building to extinguish the fire and/or carry out a rescue of those trapped. It is at this point that AS/NZS 4967 steps in aiming to provide the firefighters with protective clothing, designed to meet minimum performance requirements specified in the standard and therefore protect the firefighters while fighting the fire. There is no doubt these individuals are the biggest beneficiaries of AS/NZS 4967, 

but with Standards Australia being charged with achieving an overall benefit for Australia in developing a standard, the positive impact of this standard stretches further than the shirtsleeves of a firefighter.

A comprehensive response to fire 

The intensity of many structural fires surely highlights the need for guidance on how to develop personal safety equipment for firefighters. In one case, a commercial premises in the Docklands, Melbourne caught fire requiring approximately 60 firefighters to be inside the building extinguishing the flames. This type of incident is only one example of the cases experienced on a regular basis by state and territory fire brigades. 

This type of firefighting operation is supported by the standard, AS/NZS 4967, as it seeks to provide a minimum level of performance for the protective clothing used by firefighting personnel. Moreover, in a distinct difference to other fire safety standards, such as AS 1851-2012, Routine service of fire protection systems and equipment, AS/NZS 4967 is focused on advising Fire Services, manufacturers and suppliers of the minimum performance requirements for protective clothing to be worn by structural firefighters. This safety equipment used by these selfless individuals must provide the obviously necessary protection from heat and flame at extreme temperatures but also protection from the physical hazards during a relevant firefighting operation, all of this has to then be balanced with ensuring firefighters are not over protected which then compromises breathability and comfort. 

AS/NZS 4967 aims to achieve all of this, and 

when the standard is benchmarked with other like standards across the world, AS/NZS 4967 will be one of the leading examples for firefighter safety.

The damage of fires is clear to everyone, and AS/NZS 4967 is one of a number of standards aimed at ensuring those putting their life on the line are as safe as possible when they do so. In the case of AS/NZS 4967 the outcome of developing the standard is a clear guideline for manufacturers to provide superior personal protective equipment for our nation’s firefighters as they go about their daily job in one of the most intense working environments on earth.  

This case study is available in PDF format.