Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An Improved Firefighter's Glove

Contributed by Irving J. Arons, Product Technology 1969-1994.

It all started with NIOSH (the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) in 1974. This Government Agency hired Arthur D. Little to determine what the dangers were that firefighter’s hands faced when fighting fires. The case was led by Gerry Coletta for ADL, and we studied Government reports and interviewed firefighters around the country, to come up with a potential list of hazards and how often firefighters hands were hurt, including the types of injuries.

We discovered that firefighters were usually supplied with coats and hats but were given an allowance for gloves that led them to purchase inexpensive gloves at the local hardware stores, which provided little to no real protection.

In a second assignment for NIOSH, we developed criteria and test methods to evaluate the protection provided by their clothing, including the typical canvas gloves they used. As part of this assignment, I developed a series of test methods to simulate the dangers that firefighter’s hands faced, including providing protection from cuts (from sharp edges such as metal and glass), punctures (from nails), conduction of electricity, conductive heat (from touching hot surfaces), radiant heat (from the fire energy nearby), heat penetration, and from flames themselves. In addition, I designed a test to provide for the flexibility needed for the firefighters to do their job. We tested the types of gloves firefighter usually wore against the criteria developed for these tests, and found the gloves used sorely lacking.

This led to an assignment, in 1977, from NASA (the space agency). They asked us to follow up the good work we had done for NIOSH and using the test methods we had developed, come up with an improved firefighter’s glove using “space age” materials. This case team was led by Richard Tschirch and Ken Sidman. We evaluated a number of newly available materials, originally developed for NASA’s use, to see if any could be adapted for use in firefighters gloves.

After much testing of many new-age materials, we settled on a neoprene-coated Kevlar fabric, backed up by Kevlar felt. This combination provided adequate protection from all of the test categories listed above. Two patents, covering our inventions, were issued (1, 2) and assigned to the U.S. Government, as represented by NASA.

Following publication of our work by NASA, several glove manufacturers took up the challenge and started producing the improved gloves, which were quickly adapted by firefighters around the world.

1. U.S. Patent No. 4,433,439, Heat resistant protective hand covering
Richard P. Tschirch, Kenneth R. Sidman, and Irving J. Arons, February 28, 1984.

2. U.S. Patent No. 4,454,611, Heat resistant protective hand covering, Richard P. Tschirch, Kenneth R. Sidman, and Irving J. Arons, June 19, 1984.

1 comment:

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