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When The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA®) 1937 was ratified October 25, 2020, it brought with it new recommendations for rescue tool care and maintenance, guiding service technicians and the first responders who use the tools in requirements and best practices that assure end users and the patients they treat are safe during extrications. The standards are already in effect and should be posted online soon; in the meantime, we sat down with HURST Jaws of Life® Engineering Manager Tammy Horne for her key takeaways.

What does NFPA 1937 mean for the industry?

Ultimately, safer equipment. Prior to NFPA 1937, the only guidance a user had was what manufacturers put in their user manuals – what to inspect, clean, grease, etc., and when and how often. As a manufacturer, we can’t enforce this, much like a car manufacturer can’t force me to change the oil in my car. It is, however, in my best interest to do the regular car maintenance established by the manufacturer. That’s true for rescue tool owners, too. By adhering to NFPA 1937 and establishing procedures as part of a program to provide for the selection, care, maintenance and record keeping of rescue tools, lifting bags and components, it will reduce the potential health and safety risks associated with poorly maintained, contaminated, damaged or obsolete equipment.

We see several references to written records and training. Who does this impact?

NFPA 1937 includes recommendations for both service technicians and fire departments in terms of written records and training. It’s a critical step in tool ownership. Think of it the same way you would care for your own car. I live by the rule, if I am good to my car, it will be good to me. I do the regular maintenance, per the manufacturer, and I have yet to be stranded on the side of the road, knock on wood. Record keeping ensures an organization’s equipment is inspected and serviced regularly. By doing so, the rescue tool or lifting bag should perform – and perform well – when lives may be in jeopardy.

In terms of specifics, NFPA 1937 requires tool-owning organizations to create a record keeping system. The recommendation includes written instructions for a variety of things such as care, maintenance, inspections, tests, repairs, etc.; forms to document minimum requirements during inspections, tests, and repairs; and forms to record and report defects found during inspections and to track the equipment. Organizations should remember that dealers and service technicians would be a great resource to start with when it comes to the maintenance records of their current rescue equipment.

NFPA 1937 also requires fire departments keep a written training program for both rescue tool and lifting bag use and application. Again, dealers may be able to assist fire departments with compliance.

NFPA has a new recommendation for lifting bag inspections; why was the update necessary?

NFPA 1936 recommends that ALL lifting bags of 15 years of age or older should be taken out of service and destroyed. This is because natural rubber, used in all rescue lifting bag systems, degrades with time, and for safety reasons only has a 15 year safe usable lifespan; however, it’s important to note that due to use and exposure, lifting bags can last a much shorter period, and NFPA 1937 is a perfect time to implement standard operating procedures to ensure lifting bags stay in tip top condition. For example, there is a requirement within the standard, Chapter 7, that falls under Technician Maintenance (7.1.2) Inspection Frequency (7.1.2.1), that states, lifting bags shall be tested annually by a certified, factory-trained technician to perform such testing. Along with the User Maintenance inspections after use and monthly, all of this minimizes risk and keeps everyone safe.

Speaking of factory-trained technicians, NFPA 1937 requires care and maintenance of all rescue tools by the manufacturer or factory-trained technician. Is this new?

HURST has always stated that only factory-trained personnel can do maintenance and repairs, and having this requirement in NFPA 1937 helps stress the importance of having properly trained individuals working on the rescue equipment (4.4.9). End users can do basic maintenance such as cleaning, lubricating, and checking for loose or damaged parts after each use, but annual service checks and maintenance must be done by an authorized dealer; in the case of HURST, that would be a Hurst factory-trained technician.

Rescue tools are sophisticated devices with precise assembly specifications. In many instances, special tooling is required. If this tooling is not used, the tool can be damaged. Keeping equipment appropriately maintained by properly trained individuals ensures that equipment will work dependably and stay in service longer.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

NFPA 1937 ensures equipment safety, longevity, dependability, and user satisfaction, which we all agree is important. Ultimately, it helps everyone be prepared for their jobs. For dealers and technicians, they can be better prepared for maintenance by being able to get information prior to going to the department; that information could possibly expedite any service that may be needed. For the technician, NFPA 1937 provides safer conditions when working on the equipment. Because of the record keeping, they will see when the tool was last serviced and what was done during that service. And for end users, they will have equipment they are confident in using.