Monday, 22 March 2010

Forest and Woodland Firefighting

The UK is classed as a low fire risk area, as we have a fairly regular rainfall pattern and no designated dry season unlike many other countries, particularly those in the tropics. However in the event of a prolonged hot dry spell we do have the potential for wildfires and these can have drastic results.

Heather particularly has the potential to be combustible as it dries out rapidly in all seasons and is what is known as a “fine fuel”.

There are three types of fires that can occur in forest and heathland, these are:
  • Surface fires where the fuel burns at or near ground level, these are the most common fires in the UK.
  • Ground fires where in dry conditions the organic soil layers themselves catch fire, these are difficult to detect and extinguish.
  • Crown fires where the surface fires ascend into the tree canopy, which can move very quickly and become very intense, this is often caused where “ladder fuels“ which are vegetation linking the ground to the crown of the trees lets the fire spread upwards. These are not very common in the UK.
There are various ways of tackling the fires including the use of water and or chemical foams to put out the fire and also dampen the surrounding areas preventing the fire spreading. Also fire breaks can be made by using shovels or mechanical diggers to remove the vegetation and make a bare earth barrier across which the fire cannot spread. The oxygen supply can be interrupted by the use of beaters.

Beaters can be broken down into three basic classes; Short handled approximately 1.9m to 2.2 m with a belt head, the head is manufactured from conveyor belt material; Long handled approximately 2.8m with a wire mesh head and Long handled with a flat metal plate sometimes these have additional chains attached. The long handle obviously keeps the person further back from the heat, but can sometimes be difficult to handle and unwieldy to transport.


Firefighting is a strenuous activity which normally takes place in difficult conditions, and can lead to heat stress, heat exhaustion and possibly heat stroke.

Everyone involved should be aware of heat-induced illnesses and know how to treat the symptoms and call for help when necessary.

The symptoms of heat stress are weakness, dizziness and nausea. Where a firefighter is removed from the fire front and given water, rest and shade, recovery will usually take place quite quickly.

Medical treatment may be required for these heat-induced illnesses and the patient should be given water and kept cool. Often firefighters may fail to sufficiently replace body fluids even when they have drunk sufficient to quench their thirst.

The fluid replacement taken in may be only half of what is actually required. Plenty of water should be drunk as soon as sweating occurs, before fire suppression starts and often more than is felt necessary. The recommended amount is 1 litre of cool (not chilled) plain (sugar free) water per hour.

To reduce fatigue carbohydrate foods such as bread, pasta and cakes are recommended.

Managers should ensure that teams have sufficient suitable food and water on site during prolonged fire suppression.


When working in these conditions it is absolutely essential for all involved to remain aware of what is happening around them. Be particularly aware of moving around on terrain whilst visibility is reduced because of poor light smoke and water sprays.

Watch out for changes in conditions for example shifts of wind direction and speed, look out for the fire moving onto steep slopes or circling behind you, look out also for changes in the type of vegetation.

Always maintain line of sight and communication with your colleagues.

Remember the following safety aid “WATCH OUT” that can be found on the AFAG leaflet 803
Weather dominates fire behaviour
Actions must be based on current and expected fire behaviour
Try out at least two safe escape routes
Communications must be maintained with your crew leader and adjoining crews
Hazards to watch for are steep slopes and the amount of fuels
Observe changes in wind speed and direction, humidity and cloud
Understand your instructions
Think clearly be alert and act decisively before your situation becomes critical

Personal Protective Equipment

As with any activity where there are safety issues the correct PPE must be worn:
  • A brightly coloured Flame Retardant cotton boiler suit i.e. Proban complying with EN 531, is recommended do not use non FR synthetic clothing particularly nylon.
  • Also recommended is the use of a protective neck cloth.
  • Protective boots with good grip and ankle support complying with EN ISO 20345. It is suggested that these should also be heat resistant.
  • Suitable protective gloves, non-synthetic e.g. leather.
  • Safety helmet complying with EN 397.
  • Eye protection complying with EN 166, to prevent eye damage from particles and embers. Helmet mounted face shields can also protect from radiant heat.
  • Hearing protection complying with EN 352 where the noise level exceeds 85 dB.
  • Respiratory masks where there is a danger of dust or particles.
As well as these essential items each person should carry water for personal consumption and to wash any burns, also a personal first aid kit, not specifically for burns. A specialised burn first aid kit must be available on site.

Granite Workwear offer a number of items that are suitable for use in these conditions including Proban Cotton Overalls in Orange, Sip Protection Firefighters Chainsaw Protective Trousers, Peltor Hearing Protection, Fortec Boots that are Heat Resistant to 300° C, Hard hats, Venitex Respiratory Masks, Bolle Eye Protection, fire retardant neck tubes & balaclavas and Venitex gloves.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Rail Industry Standards for Personal Protective Equipment

PPE generally covers a wide range of clothing and equipment that can be worn by a person at work to protect them from one or more risks to their health and safety. PPE can include; eye protection, safety helmets, hi-vis vests or jackets, gloves or safety footwear.

For the Rail Industry however there are certain items that have specific requirements, for example Network Rail basic PPE Requirements for persons working on or near the track shall wear as a minimum:

• High visibility upper body clothing with reflective tape which complies with BS EN 471: 2003 class 2 and Railway Group Standard GO/RT3279.
• A safety helmet which complies with BS EN 397: 1995.
• Safety footwear which complies with BS EN ISO 20345: 2004, providing effective support to the ankle, mid-sole protection and a protective toe cap.
• Network Rail have also introduced a ’Full Orange Policy’ where high visibility trousers must also be worn.

Particular requirements

The outer layer of the upper body clothing must be clearly marked between the vertical retro-reflective bands on the back with the name or logo of the individual’s Sentinel sponsor or other name or logo agreed with Network Rail (e.g. project, sponsor’s parent company or trade association). This can be in colour or black and either screen-printed or incorporated within a panel, which may be retro-reflective although this is not mandatory.

Safety helmets shall be provided with chin straps where there is a risk of them falling off, short peak helmets may be provided where close or hot work is required.
Holders of a Track Visitors Permit (TVP), a person with a Track Safety (PTS) card with a ‘green square’ symbol on it, or those people involved in the Network Rail Standard Maintenance Procedure NR/PRC/MTC/SE0089, New Starters Mentoring (Passport Scheme) must wear a blue helmet so that all workers can see that they may be inexperienced. All other workers must wear white, any other colours are not allowed.

The name or logo of an individual’s Sentinel Sponsor (or other name or logo agreed with Network Rail) may be marked upon a safety helmet. These markings must not exceed 10% of the safety helmets visible surface area.

Rigger boots do not meet the requirements for ankle protection and must not be used.

In addition to the above, foul weather clothing must be provided to any person whose duties require them to hold Personal Track Safety certification and shall comprise at least the following:

• High visibility jacket or coat which meets the requirements of BS EN 471:2003 class 3 and GO/RT3279 for colour and visibility and of BS EN 343: 2003 class 3 for water vapour resistance and water penetration.
• High visibility over-trousers or leggings which meet the requirements of BS EN 471: 2003 and GO/RT3279 for colour and visibility and of BS EN 343: 2003 class 3 for water vapour resistance and water penetration.

General work wear and sunglasses

Any employee or contractor of Network Rail who goes on or near the line or on the lineside shall be required to wear full-length trousers to protect against the risks from lineside vegetation and the consequences of slips, trips and falls.

Upper body clothing must not be sleeveless, garments such as singlets or vests are prohibited. Full length sleeves are recommended to protect from risks of injury from vegetation and sunburn.

Sunglasses or photochromic lenses may be worn, but care should be taken when using photochromic lenses as they can take a long time to clear when going into darker conditions.
Heavily tinted lenses may reduce the ability to accurately distinguish colours.

Ear Defenders should be worn where there is any risk of noise that reaches levels that could cause damage to hearing.

In certain conditions that will be apparent from the Risk Assessment gloves to protect from chemicals, cold or vibration also need to be worn. Also where there is a danger of fumes or dust the correct respiratory masks are needed.

If operating chainsaws or brush cutters then the correct protective clothing must be worn, all these of course must conform to the GO/RT3279 standard. Also the safety boots worn must achieve the EN ISO 17249:2004 Class 1 standard as a minimum.


In certain situations there is a need for particular accessories for example; warning flags chequered and plain, rail incident armbands (8 different wordings), Lookout Bags and Rail Handsignal Bags.

Duties and responsibilities

Requirements for PPE and workwear shall be documented in work activity risk assessments and safe systems of work. Any PPE identified as necessary through work activity risk assessments must be provided by the employer, this may include hearing protection, eye protection, masks and gloves. They must also ensure that this equipment is worn.

Employees are responsible for using PPE and workwear as required, for keeping it clean and maintaining it in a reasonable condition and for requesting its replacement if it becomes ineffective.

A full range of the items mentioned above can be found on the Granite Workwear site, under the Hi Viz Railway (Orange), Safety Boots, Forestry Footwear, Hardhats, Safety Glasses, Ear Protection, Gloves and Respiration categories.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Chainsaw Boots from Arbortec

Granite Workwear has recently added a range of Arbortec® forestwear chainsaw protective boots. These boots have been designed to incorporate a number of technical and comfort features, that we believe make them an outstanding addition to our range.

They are designed to exceed CE standards in Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3 giving a full range of protection.

The range includes the brand new Lightning boot that importantly gives Class 2 protection all round the boot even at the back; this boot is especially good for heavy duty use but is also extremely comfortable thereby reducing fatigue which is important to improve safe working. This also comes in X Large sizes 13, 14 and 15.

Also in the range are the Aquafell® Xpert™, Hydrofell®, Fellsman® Xpert™, Fellsman® Basic and the Challenger™ which is a Class 3 Wellington boot.

The Fellsman® Basic is particularly aimed at the more casual user with a very competitive price but does not compromise safety still giving full Class 1 protection.

Chainsaw Protection Standards

The EN ISO Standard 17249:2004 is specifically designed for Forestry Footwear and tests for three levels of protection:

Class 1 - the footwear has to withstand a chainsaw blade moving at 20 metres per second.
Class 2 - the footwear can withstand a blade moving at 24 metres per second.
Class 3 - the footwear can withstand a blade moving at 28 metres per second.

This protection can be afforded in a number of ways; obviously if the boot has a steel toecap then this gives a very good protection in that particular area. On the rest of the boot there is normally a padding inside made up of multiple layers of synthetic fibres that when the blade touches them causes snagging that clogs the blade and stops it. In a number of the boots in the Arbortec® range these are made of polyester.

In the Aquafell® Xpert™ and the Fellsman® Xpert™ the clogging system is the use of six layers of Kevlar® fibre which has a very high strength and is often used in body armour.
Comfort and Safety

Comfort is a very important part of a quality boot as they are worn for long periods of time and often in less than ideal weather conditions. If the boots are not comfortable then fatigue will happen quickly and this then causes loss of concentration which significantly increases the risk of accidents.

The Arbortec® range has shock absorbing properties built in and the soles have an anti-twist steel insert so that there is less danger of damage to the foot. Apart from the Challenger™ which is made from rubber the range has breathable properties and in most cases moisture absorbance to reduce the build up of sweat. For ease of use they all have speed lacing systems and padded collars.

The soles all feature specially designed tread patterns to reduce the risk of slipping and all the leather boots have a specially defined heel to fit spikes.

All the boots have steel toecaps and conform to the EN ISO 20345:2004 standard for Safety Footwear.

We at Granite believe that these boots are of exceptional standard and worthy of inclusion in our Forestry range in line with our philosophy that we offer the best products that we can find for use by professionals who are discerning in their choice of equipment.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Slip Resistant Soles

Statistics show that slips, trips and falls on the same level are a major cause of workplace accidents in the UK - almost 11,000 are reported each year to the Health and Safety Executive, they account for 39% of non-fatal major injuries. It has been estimated that these accidents cost the UK economy as much as £750 million per annum, £300 million of which is directly attributable to UK employers.

Employers use a variety of control measures to reduce the risk of slips, however due to the working conditions there may be cases where a significant slip risk remains. Introducing footwear with slip-resistant properties may be the only effective way they can further reduce the risk.

There are many safety boots and shoes that claim to have slip resistant soles; however are they truly slip resistant and what standards are they tested to?

Footwear marketed as 'slip resistant' may not perform as well as expected, so care has to be taken when choosing footwear from brochure descriptions alone.

Although footwear may be marketed as 'slip resistant', some have not been tested for this. Check with your supplier if the footwear has actually been tested for slip resistance then request the test details and results. Although the footwear may have been tested, the results from the test may not be an accurate guide as to how footwear will perform in the conditions that you want to use it in.

BS EN 13287 is the current European standard for footwear slip resistance.
This standard is a simple pass/fail test. However most footwear tested will pass testing and can therefore be marked as slip resistant. But the marking system used does not distinguish between footwear with low slip resistance and very good slip resistance. Simply passing this standard does not guarantee that the footwear will be effective in a particular workplace.

Depending on the test conditions chosen, footwear tested according to the EN standards is now marked with one of the following codes, SRA, SRB, or SRC.

The codes indicate that the footwear has met the specified requirements when tested as follows:
SRA – tested on ceramic tile wetted with dilute soap solution
SRB – tested on smooth steel with glycerol
SRC – tested under both the above conditions

Footwear products once tested and certified are stamped with the CE mark. The manufacturer also provides user information indicating the applications for which the footwear is suitable.

To provide more detailed information, the Health and Safety Laboratory have carried out a series of tests for the Health and Safety Executive, on soles that are claimed to be slip resistant and those that don’t. They use a ramp test that does not give a pass/fail but classifies footwear as exhibiting poor, average or good slip resistance where there is a particular contaminant on a given surface.

The tests were carried out on five different surface/contaminant conditions; water on steel, glycerol on steel, glycerol on quarry tile, water on 5 bar aluminium chequer plate and glycerol on 5 bar aluminium chequer plate.

The feedback from the end users is that the footwear that performs well on the test also performs well in the workplace. The study also showed that some footwear marketed as slip resistant gave a high slip risk when tested on the HSL ramp, further demonstrating that no one product will be suitable in all situations - a risk assessment should always be carried out when selecting footwear.

The detailed results of this testing can be found in the Research Report RR780. This project is a continuation of previously published work by HSE. When significant new safety, protective or occupational footwear is marketed as slip resistant or becomes widely used in the work place, HSL procures and tests it in order to assess its slip potential. This combined report now includes 86 pieces of footwear as a further 30 items were tested.

The report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy. The HSE considers that by publishing this information there is an increased likelihood that buyers will obtain good slip-resistant footwear on the basis of informed choices.

This testing focuses on slip resistance on hard indoor flooring surfaces; it does not mean that these findings can be extrapolated to show the slip resistance of footwear on the variable outdoor surfaces that can be encountered, where other factors may come into play.