Personal Protective Equipment
Vapors, gases, and particulates from hazardous substance response activities place response personnel at risk. For this reason, response personnel must wear appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment whenever they are near the site. The more that is known about the hazards at a release site, the easier it becomes to select personal protective equipment. There are basically four levels of personal protective equipment:
Level A protection is required when the greatest
potential for exposure to hazards exists, and when
the greatest level of skin, respiratory, and eye
protection is required. Examples of Level A
clothing and equipment include positive-pressure,
full face-piece self contained breathing apparatus
(SCBA) or positive pressure supplied air respirator
with escape SCBA, totally encapsulated chemical-
and vapor-protective suit, inner and outer
chemical-resistant gloves, and disposable protective suit,
gloves, and boots.
- Level B protection is required under circumstances requiring the highest level of respiratory protection, with lesser level of skin protection. At most abandoned outdoor hazardous waste sites, ambient atmospheric vapors or gas levels have not approached sufficiently high concentrations to warrant level A protection -- Level B protection is often adequate. Examples of Level B protection include positive-pressure, full face-piece self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) or positive pressure supplied air respirator with escape SCBA, inner and outer chemical-resistant gloves, face shield, hooded chemical resistant clothing, coveralls, and outer chemical-resistant boots.
Level C protection is required when the
concentration and type of airborne substances is
known and the criteria for using air purifying
respirators is met. Typical Level C equipment
includes full-face air purifying respirators, inner and
outer chemical-resistant gloves, hard hat, escape
mask, and disposable chemical-resistant outer boots.
The difference between Level C and Level B
protection is the type of equipment used to protect
the respiratory system, assuming the same type of
chemical-resistant clothing is used. The main
criterion for Level C is that atmospheric
concentrations and other selection criteria permit
wearing an air-purifying respirator.
- Level D protection is the minimum protection required. Level D protection may be sufficient when no contaminants are present or work operations preclude splashes, immersion, or the potential for unexpected inhalation or contact with hazardous levels of chemicals. Appropriate Level D protective equipment may include gloves, coveralls, safety glasses, face shield, and chemical-resistant, steel-toe boots or shoes.
While these are general guidelines for typical equipment to be used in certain circumstances, other combinations of protective equipment may be more appropriate, depending upon specific site characteristics.