ISEA Sounds Alarm on Safety Hazard Posed by MAE-Requalified Firefighter Breathing Cylinders

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MAE-requalified cylinders puts firefighters at risk and violates NFPA, OSHA and NIOSH compliance.

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“Saving lives is vastly more important than saving money,” said ISEA President Charles D. Johnson.

The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) is warning firefighters not to use so-called “MAE-requalified” breathing cylinders. Studies show they can leak breathing air. They void manufacturer warranties. They don’t comply with standards from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). And they violate Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) cylinders “requalified” by the Modal Acoustic Emissions (MAE) process can leak breathing air through the aluminum liner. MAE evaluates the carbon fiber wrap but ignores the aluminum liner, which has the potential to fail by fatigue or corrosion pitting if the cylinder continues in service beyond its 15-year design service life. Therefore, SP-16320, the Special Permit used by third-party programs to requalify cylinders through MAE-testing, should not apply to SCBA. ISEA has learned, as of March 31, 2019, SP-16320 has expired.

“Saving lives is vastly more important than saving money,” said ISEA President Charles D. Johnson. “Fire departments may be tempted by the siren song of a company that’s pushing ‘MAE-requalified’ breathing cylinders, but giving in to that temptation will put firefighters at risk of having leaky or empty cylinders when they need them most. Never run into a burning building with an ‘MAE-requalified’ breathing cylinder.”

While fully wrapped carbon fiber-reinforced aluminum-lined (DOT-CFFC) cylinders in the market today comply with U.S. Department of Transportation standards for a 15-year service life, it is unsafe to use these devices beyond their 15-year service life.

In addition to cylinder leaks, the matter is made worse for users when a rebuilt valve is added to MAE-requalified cylinders. NIOSH has stated that MAE-requalified cylinders are not for SCBA use unless authorized by the manufacturer. Due to safety risks, ISEA is not aware of any manufacturers that allow MAE-requalified cylinders to be used on their SCBA.

Clearly, a cylinder used for 15 years in the fire service is not the same as it was when new. A cylinder used for 15 years in the fire service has seen frequent, rapid fluctuation of extreme high and low temperatures, which degrades its overall integrity. Cylinders eventually fail after exceeding their 15-year service life, often due to compromised aluminum liners. Eventual failure of the aluminum liners in cylinders is well-known by researchers. MAE testing and visual inspection are insufficient to identify compromised aluminum liners.

“Fire departments seeking a safe, legally and regulatorily compliant option should speak with the SCBA manufacturer,” stated Dan Glucksman, ISEA Director of Public Affairs.

About ISEA
Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) is the trade association in the U.S. for personal protective equipment and technologies. Its member companies are world leaders in the design, manufacture, testing and distribution of protective clothing and equipment used in factories, construction sites, hospitals and clinics, farms, schools, laboratories, emergency response and in the home. Since 1933, ISEA has set the standard for the personal protective equipment industry, supporting member companies united in the goal of protecting the health and safety of people worldwide.

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