Examination of current U.S. female firefighting personal protective equipment (PPE) sizing and fitting process challenges: an opportunity to improve safety

Susan L. Sokolowski, Linsey Griffin, Yingying Wu, Ellen McKinney, Kristen Morris, Christine Bettencourt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Between 2010 and 2014, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimated that female firefighters experienced 1260 injuries on the fireground each year. Previous research attributed some of these injuries to ill-fitting fire personal protective equipment (PPE). Therefore, in this mixed-method paper, the authors explored the relationship between fire PPE and injuries, and how they related to sizing and fit. To achieve this aim, data were collected from manufacturer-provided web communications regarding sizing and fit, user surveys (n = 74), and 1:1 interviews (n = 31) with U.S. female firefighters. The data considered how the size and fit standards established by the NFPA and how leading fire PPE manufacturers’ interpretation of standards impacted fit for female firefighters. Interview and survey data pinpointed experiences with the PPE sizing processes that led to poor fit. The data also identified previously undocumented knowledge gaps between NFPA size standards, commercialized products, and processes used by manufacturers and firehouses to fit female practitioners. The study discovered several opportunities to improve the size and fitting process women experienced when acquiring new turnout gear. With effective fire industry partnerships and future research, women can experience fewer injuries, improved comfort, and work performance with their PPE while establishing equality with their male counterparts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number40
JournalFashion and Textiles
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the 2018 University of Oregon Faculty Grant; Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hatch under MIN-53-088; Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hatch—multistate project 1018003; Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station, Ames, Iowa, Project No. IOW05598, Personal Protective Technologies for Current and Emerging Occupational and Environmental Hazards, partially supported by Hatch Act and State of Iowa funds; 2018 University of Missouri Research Council Grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

Keywords

  • Female firefighters
  • Fit
  • NFPA standards
  • PPE
  • Sizing

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