Questions and Answers About Personal Protective Equipment
During the demolition of the former Abex foundry building, site workers will wear personal protective equipment to protect them from any possible effects of contamination at the site.
Q: What is Personal Protective Equipment?
A: Personal protective equipment (PPE) is gear that protects workers from coming into contact with hazardous substances during cleanup at a hazardous waste site. PPE consists of chemical-resistant clothing (a one or two-piece coverall protective suit); protective boots, gloves, and eyewear; a hard hat; and an air purifying respirator. At the Abex Site, the protective suits will be light blue in color. The level of protection each piece provides depends upon the types and amounts of contamination at a hazardous waste site.
Q: What are the protective coverall suits made from?
A: Protective coverall suits can be made from many different substances. To insulate workers from exposure, protective suits often are made of Tyvek, a non-woven, man-made fabric. These suits are not durable and are disposed after one use.
Q: What other PPE will I see workers wearing?
A: At the Abex Site, workers will wear half or full-face respirators. These respirators have cartridges in them that will filter any lead from the air the workers breathe. Workers also will wear hard hats, protective boots, gloves, and eyewear.
Q: Why must workers wear this gear?
A: To protect workers from coming into contact with contamination, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires workers to wear PPE when conducting cleanup operations at abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites, including National Priority List (NPL) sites. The Abex Site is listed on the NPL.
Workers who perform hazardous material cleanup for a living have a greater risk of exposure to hazardous materials. These workers handle hazardous materials on a daily basis and often work in situations where contaminants are known to be present. To best protect workers who deal with hazardous materials on a daily basis, OSHA requires that these people wear protective clothing.
OSHA requirements for PPE depend on the types and amounts of contamination at hazardous waste sites. Level A is the greatest level of protection, used when the highest level of skin, respiratory, and eye protection is necessary. Level D is the lowest, consisting of a work uniform providing minimal protection.
Workers at the Abex Site will wear Level C PPE, which is required when the types and amounts of contamination are known, thus requiring the use of air purifying respirators. If EPA determines that lead levels in the air are not dangerous to site workers, EPA will require workers to wear only Level D PPE.
Q: On what areas of the Abex Site will I see workers wearing PPE?
A: EPA has divided the Abex Site into three distinct zones: the Work Zone, the Contamination Reduction Zone, and the Support Zone.
The Work Zone is centered around the former Abex foundry building. The majority of lead contamination is concentrated in this zone, and this is where most of the clean-up work will take place. Workers will be required to wear full Level C PPE in this zone.
The Contaminant Reduction Zone is between the Work and Support Zones. This is the location of the decontamination trailer, Workers will enter the Support Zone side of the trailer to put on their PPE, and will exit the Work Zone side. Workers will reenter the Work Zone side of the trailer to take off their PPE, and will exit the Support Zone side. The PPE then will be decontaminated using special showers and other equipment.
The Support Zone is the final area. The Support Zone consists of the remaining site area outside of the foundry building. Those people working at the site in this zone will not be required to wear any PPE.
Q: When will I see workers wearing this protective equipment?
A: You may see workers wearing PPE when EPA sets up the decontamination trailers. When the demolition project actually begins, workers will be required to wear PPE in the appropriate zones.