Hainsworth Protective Fabrics have released their latest innovative technology, AGILE – a lighter-weight textile for structural firefighting. Director Tom Hainsworth discusses the vital need for low-weight kit and why, when it comes to developing new products, the firefighter knows best.
In our business, we’ve made it our mission to actively listen to firefighters and understand the risks, old and new, that they face on the job. I think this is something that is crucial for any business developing products for the fire service. We can know what materials will combine to create a product that protects from heat and flame, but we can’t make something that is actually effective in a firefighting environment unless we understand the unique requirements and challenges that firefighters encounter.
When it comes to fabric development, we can create the most flame-resistant cloth in the world, but if it isn’t suited to a wearer who is highly active and has to maintain a comfortable body temperature throughout then we haven’t done our job effectively as manufacturers.
While we already have a popular, top-performing product in our TITAN range (which can be seen on firefighters throughout the world), we’re always thinking about how PPE fabric can be enhanced even further. Before we developed AGILE, we spoke to firefighters about their existing structural kit to understand where they felt it could be improved to help them perform more effectively and safely. The overwhelming feedback was: ‘We’re confident about the level of protection our kit offers, but it could be more comfortable. What if we had structural gear that was lighter?’
It’s a sentiment repeated by firefighters around the world. Despite the emergence of newer occupational risks, heat stress continues to be the greatest threat to a working firefighter’s life. In the face of this, it’s vital that firefighters don’t have additional strain and resistance placed on them in active situations. If a garment is too heavy or otherwise restrictive, the wearer is more likely to develop fatigue or become overheated – hindering their performance and placing their own and others’ lives at risk.
The desire was clearly there for a fabric that was highly flame-resistant and durable but also offered increased flexibility and comfort. We immediately started exploring how we could give firefighters the optimum protection that they get from TITAN while reducing the overall weight of the cloth. The result is what we’re calling the next generation of PPE fabrics – AGILE.
With AGILE, we’re emphasising the importance of comfort when it comes to firefighter safety. The fabric is constructed from ultra-fine yarns, including highly protective meta- and para-aramids, that give a lighter weight of 180gsm – over 15% lighter than TITAN. AGILE has also been designed with increased flexibility, allowing the wearer to move and interact with reduced interference.
The combination of lighter weight and more yielding fibre structure means that firefighters who wear AGILE are able to move more freely and more easily focus on the vital task at hand. This minimised restriction allows for greater endurance and enables the wearer to perform at their peak for longer periods of time – reducing the risk of fatigue and overheating.
Despite this exceptional comfort, AGILE still provides outstanding thermal protection and durability. With 72.5% of the yarns packed onto the fabric’s face, heat ingress is minimised and resistance to break-open is increased. The tight weave gives maximum resistance to penetration by liquid chemicals, reducing the risk of exposure to harmful soluble particles.
We are lucky at Hainsworth to have had over 150 years of experience providing protective fabrics to the emergency services, but our inherited knowledge is incomplete if we don’t listen to our end users. Based on the feedback and insight we’ve received from firefighters, we’ve been able to develop a fabric that gives them confidence in all aspects of their protection.
For more information, go to www.hainsworthprotectives.co.uk/AGILE
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