It is particularly important for firefighters to have Personal Protective Equipment with high protection performance, high wearing comfort and long usage times. The requirements resulting from everyday use have increased continually. At the same time, the range of features of firefighters' protective clothing has expanded, making its evaluation more complex. Whereas the requirements of the legislative framework comprehensively ensure the technical safety testing of firefighters' protective clothing, there is no integrated, contextual approach to evaluating its usability. In order to be as practically relevant as possible, a comprehensive evaluation should take place within the context of use, taking account of all relevant aspects (e.g. other pieces of equipment that are used), in order to ultimately simplify the selection of design variants.
The aim of this dissertation was therefore to develop an approach to evaluating the usability of firefighters' protective clothing that would include suitable evaluation methods and metrics. To ensure its transferability, the proposed evaluation approach must take account of the context of use, users’ practical experience and experts' specialist knowledge in equal measures. To begin with, product-evaluation parameters are generated in user tests on five models of protective clothing in an empirical study with 50 participants; these parameters include, for example, user ratings, climatic sensation and sensation of mobility. Based on the comprehensive, detailed evaluations of the protective clothing and its components, a multi-stage procedure is developed for data reduction and for deriving evaluation metrics. By systematically involving experts and users, it was possible to use a card sorting process and a Delphi survey to derive key issues for the development of the evaluation approach and the derivation of weighting factors for individual product characteristics or data groups of the product review.
The proposed approach is considered to be a suitable system for developing and selecting protective clothing that is fit for purpose. The derived evaluation metrics can assist this process and, in conjunction with a technical safety check, provide significant added value for the use of firefighters' protective clothing. Even if the developed evaluation approach cannot, because of its complexity, constitute a quick product test, it distinguishes itself in particular through the intensive participation by users and experts. In principle, therefore, it can be viewed as a suitable method for product evaluation.
Please download the complete report "Development of an evaluation approach for the usability of firefighters' protective clothing" (in German only).
Entwicklung eines Bewertungsansatzes für die Gebrauchstauglichkeit von Feuerwehrschutzkleidung.
1. edition. Dortmund: Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin 2015.
ISBN: 978-3-88261-151-9, pages 215, Project number: F 2202, paper, PDF file