Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)

Last Updated: July 29, 2018

Definition - What does Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) mean?

A self-contained breathing apparatus, or SCBA, is a type of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) falling into two subcategories: closed-circuit SCBA and open-circuit SCBA. The SCBA apparatus is a complementary unit consisting of an air cylinder tank housing compressed oxygen designed to administer regulated airflow to its user. Tubes run from the air tank connecting to thermal face wear that includes a protective hood, visor, nose guard, demand valve mechanism, and exhalation/speech membrane for respiration and communication purposes. Rescue professionals and manual laborers such as paramedics, firefighters, and oil rig workers who undergo specialized training are exclusively permitted to use SCBA protective gear during emergency situations.

WorkplaceTesting explains Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)

SCBA equipment functions by either recycling used air (open-circuit) from the air cylinder or depleting compressed oxygen (closed-circuit) from inside the air tank when performing a necessary rescue escape operation. In critical situations, the wearer braces the SCBA equipment to their body using a durable harness coupled with multiple straps to hold and secure the primary components which are the air tank and face-piece assembly. The air tank contains pressurized air that is calibrated by a gauge that measures oxygen consumption levels depending on the activity rate of its user.

For instance, an individual in a relaxed state breathes in less oxygen compared to a person exerting tremendous effort compounded by high stress factors such as metabolic respiration which can reduce the SCBA air supply capacity. However, SCBA equipment features an inbuilt alarm signal that sounds when the user reaches the ten minute warning indicating a short amount of air inside the tank prompting the individual to return to a safe area free of toxic contaminants.

While SCBA protective equipment conforms to standard health and safety protocol measures, controversy surrounding the composite materials of the face-piece lens is linked to reports of thermal degradation (melting) due to excessive heat conditions. Firefighters, in particular, have encountered dangerous circumstances involving damaged face-piece lens exposing them to burn injuries and/or carbon fumes inhalation. Proper maintenance, sanitation, and use procedures can help decrease or avoid potential accidents and/or deaths resulting from defective and/or outdated SCBA equipment.

Share this:

Connect with us

Email Newsletter

Join thousands of employment testing and employee wellness professionals.