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PERSONNEL PROTECTION

PPE Tip 002

Hazardous Materials Protective Clothing Levels

Hazardous materials protective clothing is designed to protect a crew member from chemical exposure. Regular and special high-temperature types of PPE may not give protection against the hazardous materials encountered because gases and some liquids can enter either through the clothing or through gaps. Four recognized levels of hazardous materials protection (A, B, C, and D) are discussed in the sections that follow. The appropriate level of protection is chosen based on the suspected threat posed by the incident and recommendations by various hazardous materials references and chemical manufacturers. Hazardous materials protective clothing is not suitable for fire fighting.

Level A

The highest level of protection against vapors, gases, mists, and particles is Level A, which consists of a fully encapsulating chemical entry suit with a full-facepiece self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) or a supplied air respirator (SAR) with an SCBA escape cylinder. A crew member must also wear boots with steel toes and shanks on the outside of the suit and specially selected chemical-resistant gloves for this level of protection. The breathing apparatus is worn inside (encapsulated within) the suit. To quality as Level A protection, an intrinsically safe two-way radio is also worn inside the suit, often incorporating voice-operated microphones and an earpiece speaker for monitoring the operations channel.

Level B

Level B protection requires a garment (including SCBA) that provides protection against splashes from a hazardous chemical. Since the breathing apparatus is worn on the outside of the garment, Level B protection is not vapor-protective. It is worn when vapor-protective clothing (Level A) is not required. Wrists, ankles, facepiece and hood, and waist are secured to prevent any entry of splashed liquid. Depending on the chemical being handled, specific types of gloves and boots are donned. These may or may not be attached to the garment. The garment itself may be one piece or a two-piece hooded suit. Level B protection also requires the wearing of chemical-resistant boots with steel toes and shanks on the outside of the garment. As with Level A, chemical-resistant gloves and two-way radio communications are also required.

Level C

Level C protection differs from Level B in the area of equipment needed for respiratory protection. The same type of garment used for Level B protection is worn for Level C. Level C protection allows for the use of respiratory protection equipment other than SCBA. This protection includes any of the various types of air-purifying respirators. Crew members should not use this level of protection unless the specific hazardous material is known and its concentration can be measured. Level C equipment does not offer the protection needed in an oxygen deficient atmosphere.

Level D

Level D protection does not protect the crew member from chemical exposure. Therefore, this so-called level of protection can only be used in situations where a crew member has no possibility of contact with chemicals. A pair of coveralls or other work-type garment along with chemical-resistant footwear with steel toes and shanks are all that is required to quality as Level D protection.