Product quality is key to maintaining lifetime PPE performance

A firefighter operates with the same gear for around eight years, so it is vital that it continues to deliver consistent levels of performance throughout the lifetime of the garment.

That is easier said than done, given the clothing will be exposed to some of the most extreme conditions such as intense heat, smoke, chemicals, liquids and high abrasion in environments that can impact wear. Improved awareness of the risks posed by particulates has led to an increase in the requirement for the number of washes almost doubling from 24 to 44, which means garments must be more durable than ever.

For over 30 years GORE-TEX Moisture Barriers have been proven to deliver lifetime performance in firefighter PPE and continue to be the first choice for most fire services around the world. That is because each product is designed to meet the specific demands of the increasingly challenging environment throughout the operational lifetime of the garment. There are examples of garments with GORE-TEX Moisture Barriers that continue to meet performance requirements after having been in constant use for 12 years.

The company’s range of waterproof, breathable moisture barriers are incorporated into structural firefighting kit, search and rescue gear, as well as footwear, gloves and wildland PPE. They play a critical role in providing head-to-toe protection from fire, blood pathogens, chemicals and particulates while keeping the wearer dry from inside and out.

The success of the company’s products is the result of investment in quality processes to ensure the maximum levels of performance, durability and product integrity.

That continued investment has resulted in a range of ground-breaking products such as GORE-TEX Moisture Barrier with GORE® CROSSTECH® Product Technology as well as the revolutionary GORE-TEX Moisture Barrier with GORE® CROSSTECH® Product Technology GORE® PARALLON® System.

The company’s test labs are comparable to those used in many of the independent institutes and in many cases Gore has developed specific test methods where previously no standardised tests existed.

Biophysics and Flame Protection labs allow Gore engineers to measure the properties of component materials, Gore laminates and fully constructed garments, as well as footwear.

The Environmental Chamber can recreate up to 95 per cent of the environments on the earth’s surface. The Heat and Flame Protection lab allows Gore to precisely measure and analyse the ability of its products to provide the three key elements of burn protection: flame resistance, thermal insulation, and thermal stability.

GORE-TEX Moisture Barriers with GORE® CROSSTECH® Product Technology are certified to EN469, AS/NZS 4967 and the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100, as well as NFPA 1951, 1999 and 1971. They maintain that level of performance thanks to outstanding resistance to wear and abrasion and the ability to consistently retain high breathability and waterproofness after exposure to extreme cold and heat.

Gore only partners with garment suppliers who can guarantee a total quality approach throughout the manufacturing process. Companies that make Gore products must comply with Gore Manufacturing Standards. These standards require the manufacturer to adhere to specific quality levels for production environments, processes and machinery used in the manufacturing process. Gore specialists provide recommendations to production sites to ensure that manufacturing standards are met and implemented, at which point the manufacturing plant receives a Gore license. Certification is audited and reviewed.

Manufacturers that are licensed by Gore can rely on the company’s ongoing support. Gore specialists advise and train management and staff at the manufacturing site on the use of Gore machinery and assist in the optimisation of the manufacturing process. Regular site tests ensure that the manufacturer is achieving consistent high quality and samples are regularly taken from the production line for comparison against the original prototype garments. This is to ensure stability and performance throughout the lifetime of the garment.

In any garment the weakest point for entry of water is the seam or sewn fabric join. In order to maintain the integrity of the whole garment without compromising breathability and waterproofness, Gore developed its own proprietary GORE-SEAM® tapes, adhesives and seam sealing technology to ensure that every seam and every tiny stitch hole in a garment are sealed.

Unlike some products which see a reduction in breathability after multiple washes, GORE-TEX Moisture Barriers maintain consistent levels of breathability over many years of washing.

Only manufacturers licensed by Gore can use the seam sealing technology and propriety equipment developed by Gore and they must complete the necessary competency certifications before manufacturing commences.

Gore’s stringent process for quality assurance ensure that buyers who specify GORE-TEX Moisture Barriers do so with absolute confidence in the garment’s integrity for its entire operational lifetime.

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