There is much more to it than a simple Yellow Hazmat Suit.
HazMat Suit Buyer Guide: Level Designations, Definitions of Terms, OSHA Links
Whether as a first responder or for ongoing hazardous materials cleanup and maintenance, one should always be a prepared with knowledge, training and equipment. A HazMat Suit is more than just coveralls and a mask. Hazardous Materials can be toxic, corrosive, bio-hazardous, radio-active, flammable, combustible, volatile, chemically unstable, or otherwise dangerous gasses, liquids or solids. Solids in particulate form, such as radio-active dust from nuclear materials, is exceptionally dangerous and requires the highest level HazMat Suit equipment.
Selecting a suit is based on application (hazardous material and situation) and fit (size). This HazMat Suit Buyer Guide represents a preliminary and introductory foundation on which to develop your PPE purchasing strategies. Below is a discussion of the Levels of protection that HazMat Suits are classified by, a Definition of Terms used on this website, and links to OSHA guidelines and requirements essential in formulating the equipment and training needs of your organization.
Level Designations of HazMat Suits
In the United States, HazMat Suits are organized by a Level code, A, B, C and D, with “A” being the most comprehensive protection and “D” being the least.
Airtight and fully enveloped, the Level A suit is a complete life support system, providing a separate environment for the hazardous materials worker to confront the tasks at hand. Ideally a one piece suit, the gear includes chemically protective gloves and boots with steel shanks and toes, a complete face mask and hood, with a self contained breathing system located inside the suit. A positive pressure system is employed to slightly inflating the suit to prevent even the slightest particulate matter (gas, liquid or dust) from entering the suit and contacting the wearer. An emergency backup air supply and two way communications gear complete the outfit. A water supply and drinking tube may be included for longer duration, especially in warm environments. This type of suit can quickly exhaust even the most fit worker, and great care must be taken not to puncture or rip the suit during operations.
Similar in configuration to the Level A suit, the air supply may be located outside the suit’s protective envelope. Therefore the Level B suit does not offer protection from gasses (vapor). The coveralls may be of a two piece design.
Another step lower in protection, the Level C suit, its essential that the exact hazard or contaminant and its level of concentration be known for safe operations. Level C is distinct in that breathing devices need not be self contained, but may include masks, respirators and air filters.
This lowest level of coverage includes steel toes and shanks on boots, and chemical resistant coveralls – ONLY. Otherwise the wearer is vulnerable and must exercise care in determining possible hazards which may require a gear upgrade. Standard fire fighting gear falls into this category.
Definition of Terms
HazMat = Hazardous Materials
PPE = Personal Protection Equipment
CBRN Suit = Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear (current military terminology)
NBC Suit = Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (former military terminology)
HazMat Suit and OSHA
The United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration or OSHA has created guidelines regarding Hazardous Materials Handling, HazMat Suits, Chemical Protective Clothing, PPE, etc. Below are links to their website for definitive information and compliance requirements.
Always seek professional consultation when choosing or using HazMat Suits or responding to a situation involving Hazardous Materials. Call 911 or your local emergency response team. Safely dealing with hazardous materials requires training and experience.
For special discounts and savings, this HazMat Suit Buyer Guide continues with a selection of quality coveralls organized by manufacturer, model and size … just click here.
[Photo Credit: Chris309 under the GNU Free Document License]
“Managing Hazardous Materials Incidences Vol. III (Revised 2000), Medical Management Guidelines for Acute Chemical Exposures” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
This guide is available in PDF format at this link: CLICK HERE