Practical tip: correctly care for & maintain PPE against falling

Your own life literally depends on it: personal protective equipment for fall protection. That is why proper care and maintenance is also very important. In this practical tip, the most important guidelines are summarised.

Whether it's a carabiner, textile protective equipment such as a utility rope or a cable, for example: proper handling, and above all proper care and maintenance are indispensable to ensure your own safety and that of your firefighting colleagues. Observing some simple points can possibly significantly reduce safety risks.

Correct storage

Heat, cold, wet, dust and UV light (sunlight) weaken the materials that are used in personal protective equipment against falling. Correctly stored means at normal room temperature protected from light, dry and clean. You should pay special attention to correct cleaning and drying after exercises and operations. Minor contamination can be cleaned dry and removed with a soft brush. In case of a lot of dirt, it is best to use lukewarm water and a mild soap solution. Especially during drying you should avoid direct sunlight.

Regular checks

Before each use (whether emergency or practice), you should visually check the equipment for damage. Cutting or burn points, above all, can significantly weaken the material. If damage is found, the relevant piece of equipment is to be replaced immediately.
At least once a year the complete personal protective equipment must be checked by an expert (usually the kit manager), and this test must be documented. Rosenbauer's recommendation: by keeping a test log or test sheets for the individual items of equipment, you maintain order and an overview. For some products, a test log is contained in the operation manual which you can use.

Observing the maximum usage duration

The maximum usage duration of personal protective equipment is regulated by law. However, this usage duration is dependent on the respective use and can expire significantly before the legal limit is reached in case of intensive use. As a realistic usage duration for regular use and the related wear, about 6-8 years apply for safety harnesses or 4-6 years for ropes. As a general rule of thumb: the more the item is used, the faster the usage duration is diminished – even with regular care and maintenance.

For many items of equipment, the year of production is marked on the item itself. Important for the maximum usage duration though is the year of first use (maximum storage duration 2 years). Keeping a test log or test sheets is recommended, because this offers a clear overview.

There are no defined maximum usage durations for guided fall arresters (fall catcher) or connecting elements made from metal (carabiner). As long as they are fully functional and meet the state-of-the-art, they can be used. For complex devices for rescuing people or fall protection (e.g. fall protection systems, passenger winches), Rosenbauer recommends having them checked as per the corresponding manufacturer's instructions in the operating manual.