Emergency Protection Gear: What is a hazmat suit?

Emergency protection gear

A hazmat suit – or hazardous material suit – is a piece of emergency protection gear consisting of an impermeable garment that covers the entire body and protects the wearer from vapors, gases, and particulates from hazardous substance. You may have heard the term hazmat suit quite a bit lately. In fact, it has become sort of a buzzword due to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and especially now that patients have been cropping up in the United States. Moreover, the stocks of hazmat suit manufacturers such as Lakeland Industries have gone up to 50% or more as a result of the Ebola panic.

Hazmat suits offer different levels of protection, and with each level the suit may or may not include additional pieces of equipment.

Hazmat suit levels of protection

Level

Protection

Equipment

A

·         Highest potential for exposure to hazard.

·         Highest level of skin, respiratory, and eye protection required.

·         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.   

·         Disposable protective suit, gloves, and boots.

B

·         Greatest level of respiratory protection.

·         Lesser level of skin protection.

·         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.

·         Outer chemical-resistant boots.

C

·         The concentration and type of airborne substances is known and the criteria for using purifying respirators are met.

·         Full-face air purifying respirators.    

·         Inner and outer chemical-resistant gloves.    

·         Hard hat.    

·         Escape mask.      

·         Disposable chemical-resistant outer boots.

D

·         Minimum protection required.

·         Gloves.    

·         Coveralls.    

·         Safety glasses.    

·         Face shield.

·         Chemical-resistant, steel-toe boots or shoes.

 

In Europe emergency protection gear is classified using six different types, most of which are roughly equivalent to the U.S. levels of protection detailed above.

European Committee for Standardization hazmat suit types

Type

Protection

U.S. equivalent

1

·         Against liquid and gaseous chemicals.

·         Gas tight.

A

2

·         Against liquid and gaseous chemicals.

·         Non-gas tight

B

3

·         Against liquid chemicals for a limited amount of time.

·         Liquid tight.

 

4

·         Against liquid chemicals for a limited amount of time.

·         Spray tight.

C

5

·         Against liquid chemicals for a limited amount of time.

·         Covers body partially.

D

6

·         Parts of body against liquid chemicals.

 

Related Read: 

Guidelines for prevention of Ebola Transmission in Hospitals