Page 35

(NIOSH)/OSHA/EPA classification system is often used in describing general levels of protection:

Level A provides maximal protection against vapors and liquids. It includes a fully encapsulating, chemical-resistant suit, gloves and boots, and a pressure-demand, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) or a pressure-demand supplied air respirator (air hose) and escape SCBA.

Level B is used when full respiratory protection is required but danger to the skin from vapor is less. It differs from Level A in that it incorporates a nonecapsulating, splash-protective, chemical-resistant suit (splash suit) that provides Level A protection against liquids, but is not airtight.

Level C utilizes a splash suit along with a full-faced positive or negative pressure respirator (a filter-type gas mask) rather than an SCBA or air line.

Level D is limited to coveralls or other work clothes, boots, and gloves.

OSHA requires Level A protection for workers in environments known to be immediately dangerous to life and health (i.e., where escape will be impaired or irreversible harm will occur within 30 minutes), and specifies Level B as the minimum protection for workers in danger of exposure to unknown chemical hazards. The NIOSH and the Mine Safety and Health Administration designate performance characteristics for respirators and provide approval for all commercially available respirators. Chemical protective clothing is not subject to performance standards established by a government agency, but the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has developed methods for testing the permeability of protective clothing materials against a battery of liquids and gases. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has incorporated the ASTM test battery into the currently accepted standards for protective suits for hazardous chemical emergencies. Although a basic rule in selecting PPE is that the equipment be matched to the hazard, none of the ASTM permeability tests employ military nerve agents or vesicants. However, the NFPA is currently in the process of developing testing standards that will address the threat of nerve agents, cyanides, and vesicants.

Access to PPE

In the event of a chemical-agent incident, it is most likely that the first emergency personnel on the scene will be police or firefighters. The former will almost never have chemical PPE and should simply relay observations to the latter. Firefighter ''turnout" or "bunker" gear designed for fire

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement