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NIOSH releases advisory for first responders on chemical suicide incidents

October 16, 2023

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has unveiled a safety and health advisory aimed at aiding first responders.

The advisory titled “Personal Protective Equipment Recommendations for Response to Chemical Suicide Incidents” offers personal protective equipment recommendations as well as guidance on how agencies can plan and train for chemical suicide scenarios.

This recent update can be found on the US Fire Administration’s blog.

Understanding chemical suicide

Chemical suicides arise from the intentional creation of lethal toxic gases.

These gases are produced by deliberately combining common household chemicals within confined spaces such as cars, bathrooms, or closets.

Hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen cyanide, and carbon monoxide are frequently the toxic gases formed in such incidents.

Key takeaways for first responders

Responders on the scene need to recognize potential health and safety risks linked with these incidents.

In addition, being well-versed with the recommended personal protective equipment and its associated tools is crucial for an effective response.

Highlights from the advisory:

  • Emphasis on PPE for first responders: The guide focuses on minimizing the chances of exposure, injuries, and fatalities during a chemical suicide incident.
  • National guidance and standards: The document also references existing national guidelines that back the PPE recommendations provided.
  • Recognizing health and safety hazards: An understanding of potential threats during a chemical suicide response is crucial.
  • Criteria for entry: The advisory offers specifics about conditions that are immediately life-threatening during a chemical suicide incident and identifies who should be permitted to enter.
  • Additional advice: Other vital points include decontamination, clean-up procedures, and training recommendations.

For those seeking a comprehensive look at the guidance, it’s available for review here.

FSJA Comment

The recent release of this advisory by NIOSH underscores the evolving nature of emergencies that first responders face.

With the rise of chemical suicides, being adequately equipped and educated is paramount.

This guidance not only equips first responders with the necessary knowledge but also ensures that agencies can prepare effectively.

The focus on personal protective equipment emphasizes the priority of safety for those on the frontline, and the broader guidelines provide an invaluable resource for planning and training.

The inclusion of national standards further validates the recommendations, ensuring that they are in line with the best practices.

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