EEUM researchers develop Personal Protective Equipment for the Portuguese Firefighters.

SizeFF Portugal – Anthropometric Study of Firefighters is the name of the project being conducted at 2C2T – Center for Textile Science and Technology, School of Engineering, UMinho, which aims to design individual protection equipment tailored to Portuguese firefighters, giving them greater protection, functionality and comfort.

The focus of the project is on increasing the protection of firefighters by reducing accidents associated with the use of inadequate equipment, clothing and accessories (footwear, gloves and helmets), both in their shape and in the measures used, providing an innovative design to provide products suitable for the main biotypes, preventing injuries and accidents that can endanger their personal safety. Allied to this goal will be the improvement in the performance of firefighters, to the extent that ergonomic needs during the handling of equipment in the various scenarios of action will be quantified and considered when designing these products.

The project originated at Cornell University, USA, in a working group involving twelve other prestigious US universities. Portugal was the only foreign country included in the project, as a result of the involvement of the 2C2T team, namely Miguel Carvalho, which allowed access to the most advanced research results in the area of Personal Protective Equipment.

In Portugal the project is, therefore, led by 2C2T, being financed with the support of the partners it manages to gather over its 5-year duration, among which are already the company Lavoro, Oldtrading, TecMinho and the Fund for Support to the Victims of the Pedrógão Fires.

In a first phase, the researchers are conducting an anthropometric survey of Portuguese volunteer and professional firefighters, consisting of a sample of women and men over the age of 18 years, with whom they will proceed to 3D body scanning using a Body Scanner (whole body, hand and foot); obtain other measures (eg: height, body mass, equipment mass), as well as conduct questionnaires and interviews in order to obtain information about problems/difficulties related to PPE, in particular clothing and footwear, and thus identify opportunities for improvement, to be considered later during product development.

Miguel Carvalho, the researcher responsible for the project, states that “the information collected with Body Digitization will allow us to obtain unique and valuable information, of interest to the Portuguese firefighters’ corporations, of great interest to companies dedicated to the manufacture of protective clothing and accessories, but also to other sectors, including health, furniture and equipment industry in general, and to the scientific community.” The goal, he says, is: “to build a database with the main shapes, measures and volumes of the female and male body of Portuguese firefighters over the age of 18, to develop products that really fit most bodies, contributing to greater comfort and protection.”

As part of SizeFF Portugal, the researchers have already been with the Voluntary Fire Brigade of Guimarães, the Fire Brigade of Porto, the Voluntary Fire Brigade of Braga, and soon will also be with the Voluntary Fire Brigade of Santo Tirso to continue with the anthropometric survey.

In the near future, it is expected that it will be possible to extrapolate the study to other activities where protective clothing is also fundamental, namely the Police, the GNR, the Military, operators of hazardous materials, health professionals, as well as to replicate it in other European countries and in Brazil.