In Austria and Switzerland, mask manufacturers have announced changes in the cleaning process. Allow us to introduce some Alpine pioneers.
Firefighters on assignment have a pretty clear dress code: PPE and respiratory protective equipment when necessary. In the Swiss canton of Zug, the voluntary fire service now has a post-assignment dress code, to: ‘No fire protection equipment in the respiratory protective equipment maintenance room!’ After general preparations, dirty respiratory protective equipment heads into the maintenance room for a thorough clean by Samuel Schmid. This is the basics of separating clean and dirty areas.
The head of the logistics department at Zug voluntary fire service tells us why firefighters end up in the respiratory protective equipment maintenance roomat all: ‘Out firefighters disassemble their respiratory protective equipment themselves and wash their own masks in our MEIKO machine.’ Only the regulators are disassembled, cleaned and tested by the logistics department themselves. That is why the maintenance room looks like a classroom: long tables and benches.
In 2018, the mask manufacturers informed their customers in Switzerland that a new regulation was coming in. This would mean disinfecting not only the BA masks but also the regulators. Confusion now reigns in Switzerland, with affected parties asking, ‘Why can’t we do that anymore? It has always been allowed otherwise.’ And what happened to good, old common sense? Do you really need to disinfect a mask and a regulator if you have only been training?
Austria is seeing similar changes to Switzerland in terms of mask hygiene regulations but Hartmut Wetteskind is unperturbed. He is Brigade Commander in Bischofshofen, Austria, and he is pleased that changes are finally coming in hygiene on assignment and occupational safety and health. ‘The mask manufacturers have told us that in the relatively near future, we will be required to disinfect regulators in Austria, too. Fortunately, we are already doing that here at Bischofshofen fire station – with our MEIKO machine.’
The brigade is based about 50 km away from the edge of Salzburg and it is the first in Austria to clean its masks using a MEIKO TopCleanM – and that is attracting attention! They started looking internationally to find the right solution. Rudolf Kussegg is the lead respiratory protective equipment technician at the respiratory protective equipment hub in Pongau where he coordinates his team’s work. He has noticed that, ‘With the new MEIKO machine, it’s a real pleasure! We used to clean masks, regulators and frames by hand. Thank God that era is over! We chose the best way to do things and now we have a set process that means we can work quickly and efficiently with a machine that has all of the relevant certifications.’
Mr Kussegg is thinking primarily of the volunteers in his respiratory protective equipment workshop, ‘They used to have to come into the workshop twice. We soaked the masks so they were completely wet and then they had to spend the night in the drying cabinet before we were able to test them.’ This reasoning resonated with the mayor as well, with whom Mr Wetteskind discussed the new purchase. The improved cleaning results and material conservation were equally as important. As if to prove his point, Rudolf Kussegg lays out a mask which was manually cleaned several times next to a mask cleaned in the TopClean M. ‘You can clearly see that you cannot remove the chemical residues from the mask by hand. The test probe detects that and alerts us to the degradation in the mask seal.’
We heard a similar story from the fire service in Switzerland’s capital, Bern. Respiratory protective safety is a motivation and a requirement for the professional fire brigade there. They maintain more than just their own equipment: they are also responsible for Bern compulsory fire service’s equipment and respiratory protective equipment containers for the professional fire service and support stations. Other fire brigades and emergency services use the services of the respiratory protective equipment workshop. In short – maintaining the material is priority number one. MEIKO can help with that, too.
‘We discovered the TopClean M on a web search,’ says Markus Kummer. Our respiratory protective equipment technician has five colleagues and between them, they clean around 400 masks. That now happens in the TopClean M and only takes a few minutes. ‘The machine fitted perfectly into our workshop with our equipment and it is also ideal in terms of performance and how it fulfils our needs.’ Before the TopClean M went online in Bern at the beginning of 2019, equipment was cleaned by hand. The change makes work easier for the respiratory protective equipment technicians and the firefighters benefit from guaranteed improved safety. ‘We give the masks a quick clean beforehand, out in the area where we wash the fire engines,’ explains Mr Kummer. The respiratory protective equipment is then taken to the dirty area of the workshop.
And Samuel Schmid? ‘We have got an innovative Brigade Commander who really cares about the safety of his people,’ Mr Schmid tells us. ‘That is why we drew up a 10 point hygiene plan. One of the points is cleaning respiratory protective equipment. The TopClean M is really helping us to implement this. It provides us with an assured process and reliable results.’
For more information, go to www.meiko.info/en/case-studies/respiratory-equipment/