Knowledge, Behaviors, and Attitudes Related to Gear Cleaning Among Central North Carolina Firefighters
Background: Persistent organic pollutants, combustion byproducts, and chemical contamination are just some of the occupational hazards that firefighters are exposed to both from dermal exposure when responding to fires and from contamination of their own personal protective equipment (PPE). Although the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1851 PPE Care and Maintenance guidelines provide recommendations about how firefighters should clean their gear after a fire, there is variability in gear cleaning, and current gear cleaning practices are less than optimal. Understanding potential influences of knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes such as each fire department’s resources, shift logistics, and culture is a critical step in developing policies and interventions to improve gear cleaning practices. The aims of this study were: 1) to describe gear cleaning knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes among North Carolina firefighters, and 2) to explore demographic factors related to knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes. Methods and measures: 5 firehouse departments in North Carolina were surveyed for their gear cleaning attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge. 4 linear regression models were used to determine potential demographic predictors, and explore their potential association with our firefighter’s knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes related to gear cleaning. Results: Overall, indirect attitudes towards gear cleaning were positive, but behavior scores did not reflect firefighter’s knowledge. Race, education, and age were shown to be significant predictors, but years on the job failed to. Conclusions: While this is a novel study that addressed an understudied population, policies and interventions need further research needs to address gaps between knowledge and behaviors related to gear cleaning. There are several potential factors that could be influencing this gap such as differences in resources between each fire department, shift logistics, and firefighter culture that need to be reflected in future policies and interventions to improve gear cleaning practices.
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