MES Rescue Air Bag Testing

MES Fire offers Airbag testing on all makes and models of Airbags that can be done at your station. Most manufactures have a shelf life of 10-15 years and recommend testing after 3-5 years from purchase and every year after 10 years. If you never had you airbags tested they are most likely due. Please contact the MES Representative using the form below to schedule an appointment or if you have any questions.

Why are you not testing your airbags?

Airbags or Lifting Bags, as they are sometimes referred, are “Pressure Vessels” plain and simple. A high-pressure airbag operates at 116-174psi and contain enough volume to make a full pressure failure extremely hazardous or worse yet, deadly. Every user of SCBA equipment is aware of the dangers involved in using an “out of hydro” compressed air cylinder, but never consider that an old airbag may produce the same hazards.

In the United States we have taken the safety performance of compressed air cylinders for granted. This is due to strict Governmental standards and the careful adherence to the standards set by the cylinder manufacturers.

In 1973, after the high-pressure airbag was invented in Germany Manfred Vetter, the German government classi ed it as a “Pressure Vessel”. Since the airbag was classified as a “pressure vessel”, a test standard was developed for new airbags and a standard was mandated for testing old airbags. The DIN standard was German Law and like our DOT SCBA cylinder was adhered to without exception. Air-bags are not subject to the DOT “pressure Vessel Standard” in the United States, despite the fact by de nition, they are in fact “Pressure Vessels”.

Why is airbag testing not regulated in the United States?

The DOT only regulates the transportation industry and sets safety guidelines within its jurisdiction. Since airbags are not transported full of compressed air, the DOT does not have jurisdiction and cannot regulate them.

Because there isn’t mandated testing, every manufacturer establishes their standards for performance and quality, and this includes usable service life. While some manufacturers set a speci c age requirement, usually 8-10 years, for the retirement of their airbags. Others just suggest removal from service prior to failure, without any guideline on when that might be. Vetter has always supported the DIN standard for new airbags and the testing standards for existing older airbags, as the only way to qualify new airbags for service and appraise the quality of existing older airbags for continuation of service.

While airbag testing is not a “perfect” science, the track record is quite good. Tested bags that are operating within their specified test dates rarely fail in the field as normally the failure occurs to the air-bag who being tested.

Vetter is the only manufacturer that follows a government standard for manufacturing and re-certification. After 30 years of experience they believe that “over pressure” testing is the only way to qualify an airbag for service, new airbag or old. The problem with setting a fixed age requirement for airbags is that good airbags may be discarded and unsafe airbags are left in service. A fixed age of 10 years for discarding an airbag does not remove the weak 9 year-old airbag from service.

What is the Vetter Test Standard?

Every new airbag is tested with water to acceptance test pressure. The next test is also a water test, with an unrestrained airbag, to 130% of full operating pressure. This test is done at intervals 5, 10 and every year after 10 years of age. Vetter has established 18 years as the maximum age for a rescue air-bag, providing it has been tested in accordance with this standard.

Can I tell if the airbag will fail by looking at it?

Probably not, unless there is gross external damage visible. Testing is the only way. Do not wait for a failure that could occur during a rescue. Test you airbags before it is to late! The rescue service is a “be prepared” business. How can you tell if your airbags are ready for service if you do not test?