Hainsworth Technology has always taken the time to listen to firefighters and emergency service personnel around the world, with feedback acting as the driving force in developing cutting-edge fabrics that meet its evolving needs.
When developing its refreshed identity earlier this year, Hainsworth Technology sought the views of different stakeholders involved in the PPE procurement process. Among them was Andy Stevenson, a Watch Commander with West Midlands Fire & Rescue Service and Technical PPE adviser.
Andy told Hainsworth Technology: ‘In spite of countless hours training for dangerous situations, firefighters rightly need to know they can rely on their PPE as their last line of defence.’
Selecting the right kit is paramount in ensuring the safety of firefighters who face hazardous situations on a daily basis.
The importance of the role played by everyone in the procurement process was highlighted at a recent event held by West Midlands to officially unveil its new PPE.
West Midlands selected Hainsworth Technology’s TITAN 1260 fabric as part of the prestigious Collaborative Procurement Framework, a project developed to provide access to high-quality PPE, while saving time and resources by streamlining the procurement process.
Brett Egan, a former Kent firefighter of 30 years and now technical lead for the Collaborative Procurement Framework project, told the invited audience: ‘Today’s PPE offers better breathability, enhanced design, greater ergonomics and increased heat and flame protection. Making all these things work together is the key.
‘The West Midlands journey started over four years ago when the Collaborative Procurement Framework project was launched. They and other fire services involved in the programme wanted to increase their buying power with the end goal of being able to procure the best possible kit.’
The event, which took place at the fire service’s HQ in Birmingham, took visitors through the rigorous process leading to the roll-out at the start of July.
Phil Tasker, Sales Director at Bristol Uniforms, described West Midlands’ new PPE as a ‘new generation of kit’ which reflected the change in the way firefighters were wearing their PPE.
Hainsworth Technology has a long-standing relationship with West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service, stretching back over 40 years to the days of woollen firefighting tunics.
In the late 1980s, Hainsworth invented the Nomex Delta T cloth with DuPont and worked with Bristol Uniforms to create the modern day structural firefighting uniform, which was subsequently worn by West Midlands firefighters.
In 2011, West Midlands selected TITAN 1220 fabric as part of an eight-year contract with Bristol Uniforms, and now the relationship continues with the roll-out of the new kit, incorporating TITAN 1260 fabric.
The unveiling of the new PPE coincided with a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services which praised West Midlands’s emergency response work as ‘outstanding’.
The report said: ‘This is an excellent result and testament to the dedication of the service’s workforce. The fact that the service has managed to achieve this while making savings of £23 million since 2011 is proof of its efficiency in managing its finances and resources.’
Opening the PPE launch day, Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach said: ‘It is really important we have the best kit for our firefighters.
‘We are very proud to have been part of the national procurement strategy. A lot of hard work has gone into getting to this point. We have been through a meticulous process. The overriding responsibility is to be able to provide the best possible service for the West Midlands community.’
Marc Hudson, of West Midlands Fire Service, highlighted the continuing advancement of today’s firefighter PPE. He explained how the new kit:
- Is totally fit for purpose and reliable
- Meets the changing needs of firefighters and their working environment
- Provides over 20 different sizes reflecting today’s diverse workforce
- Offers more comfort than ever before
- Is hardwearing but lightweight
- Keeps the wearer cool when it is warm and warm when it is cold.
Peggy Male, who has been a firefighter with West Midlands for almost 20 years, was involved in the extensive testing under the Collaborative Procurement Framework.
Peggy said: ‘The evaluation process was phenomenal. We tried on so many different pieces of kit and we had absolutely no idea who the suppliers were. There was a real desire to listen to the feedback from firefighters who depend on the kit every day.
‘The biggest change I noticed was the dexterity of the new garments. So much more has gone into the kit from a technical perspective. We were really impressed.’
Steve Vincent, West Midlands Fire Service Area Commander, said: ‘We have found it really exciting to be part of the new framework. We are constantly looking to provide our firefighters with the best PPE to serve and protect the West Midlands community.’
Since the framework launched in 2018, Hainsworth’s cutting-edge TITAN 1260 outer fabric has been chosen by 20 fire and rescue services across the UK. The intelligent outer-shell system combines high-performance fibres and carefully positions them within the garment to deliver a fabric that maximises comfort, thermal protection and durability.
The new garments have now been rolled out to all firefighters across West Midlands FRS, with positive feedback already coming from those wearing the kit on shift throughout the region.
Richard Gorst, Sales Director for Hainsworth Technology, said: ‘The event held by West Midlands highlighted the continual advances in technology and innovation that ensure that today’s firefighters have the peace of mind that they are receiving the best possible protection.
‘It also showcased the importance of partnership, with everyone involved in the supply chain through to the end user, playing key roles in the development of the kit our fire services are able to buy.’