January 12, 2023

NPPTL Evaluates SCBA Involved in a Firefighter Fatality at a Structure Fire

A report published in November by NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) describes the laboratory’s evaluation of a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) that was worn by a firefighter who died at a structure fire. The evaluation was requested by the Lower Merion Fire Department in Pennsylvania.

NPPTL’s inspection and evaluation of the SCBA unit included a component-by-component visual examination as well as testing using six NIOSH standard testing procedures and one NFPA test method. The unit passed NIOSH’s tests for positive pressure, rated service time, exhalation resistance, static pressure, and gas flow as well as NFPA’s airflow performance test. NPPTL’s team was unable to test the unit’s electrical system during the remaining service life indicator test, as the unit’s personal alert safety system “would not respond to ‘shaking the unit’ to deactivate the alarm once sounded while idle and with a full cylinder,” the report explains. NPPTL posits that this could have been caused by the electrical wire being disconnected from the SCBA’s mask-mounted regulator. However, the unit’s mechanical alarm system “functioned as designed” during NPPTL’s inspection and during the testing of the remaining service life indicator, the report states.

The SCBA, which was an MSA Model G1, 30-minute, 4500 psi unit with NIOSH Approval Number TC-13F-0786CBR, was not found to have contributed to the fatality, and NIOSH determined that there was no need for corrective action regarding the approval holder or end users of this product.

NPPTL’s report stresses that any SCBA unit involved in an incident may not be placed back in service until it has been “repaired, tested, cleaned, and any damaged components replaced and inspected by a qualified service technician.” All SCBA units must undergo a flow test at least annually.

The full report is available on the NPPTL website.