Hazmat Suits for Hazard Protection
You must be reading this post because you have tons of questions about hazmat suits. If you are, then you are not alone, many people are in the same shoes. You must know what these suits are and how to use them because they are not an everyday item.
We put this post together to help you out with all your hazmat suit questions. After reading this post, you should know if you need one or not and how to find the best one for you.
What is a Hazmat Suit?
We begin defining by telling you that “hazmat” is actually “hazardous material suit.” According to the US Department of Homeland Security, a hazmat suit is overall worn by people for protection from hazardous substances or materials. Such materials include radioactive materials, biological agents, and dangerous chemicals.
Safopedia defines a hazmat suit as a piece of PPE made of impermeable material. This suit is designed to protect the wearer from hazardous materials and substances. It also protects from radioactive and biological agents in an environment where one is exposed to such. Note that they are not to be used in warfare. (Learn More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazmat_suit)
Users of Hazmat Suits
Hazmat suits protect the wearer from four major types of elements or agents. When we consider these, it becomes easier to state who the users of hazmat suits are. We have put together a list below to help you understand clearly who needs a hazmat suit.
- Laboratory scientists and other individuals that work with chemicals. Hazmat suits are made from rubber or heavy PVC, Teflon, and Tyvek. These materials act as a physical barrier to protect the wearer from splashes and spills of chemicals.
- Firemen and other individuals working around high temperatures. The materials used in making the suits are reflective and insulating. As a result, they reduce the effects of high temperatures and fires.
- Medical personnel and other workers dealing with biological agents. When treating a patient who is infected with certain viral infections, it is necessary to wear hazmat suits. A vivid example is the treatment of a patient with the Ebola virus.
The suits are mostly powered with air-purifying respirators accompanied with hoods that protect the wearer from different body fluids.
- Workers in nuclear plants and radioactive stations. It is dangerous to inhale radioactive gases or particles. With these suits, the wearers are protected from direct contact with radioactive or nuclear radiation.
Situations to Use Hazmat Suits
The situations to use of Hazmat suits depend on the level of protection that is required by the wearer. There are different levels of suits with Level A providing the highest form of protection and D the least protection.
- Level A suits are used in situations where the wearer cannot afford to be contaminated. It is mostly worn when there is a risk of contamination from an unknown source. These suits are usually vapor-tight so they protect against both airborne and liquid substances.
- Level B suits are very similar to those in level A only that this time, the breathing apparatus is not necessarily encapsulated. They are worn when there is a risk from a known source but the wearer requires a high level of protection. They are preferred when the suit will be worn for extended periods because of respiratory freedom.
- Level C suits are regarded as the most common of the lot. They are needed in a situation where the wearer does not need as much respiratory protection as Level B suits. These suits are not vapor-tight and are mostly worn by nuclear, biological, and chemical agents.
Disposable or Reusable Hazmat Suits?
Choosing between a disposable and a reusable hazmat suit is totally dependent on what you do and personal preferences. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages. We will share these with you so that you can make your decision.
Disposable hazmat suits
One of the major advantages of disposable gowns suits is their weight. They are by far lighter than their reusable counterparts which means they are likely to be more comfortable.
In addition to this, many versions come with integrated boots, socks, and gloves. The implication of this is that they are easier to don and doff. Let’s consider a few more specific pros of disposable hazmat suits.
Cost of purchase and maintenance
Without a soothsayer, you should know that disposable suits are cheaper than the reusable ones. This means you should invest in a disposable suit if you don’t need one too often. By the way, since you are disposing of it immediately after use, it doesn’t come with extra maintenance costs thus saving you money.
Generally, disposable suits are perceived as safer and we will tell you why. Let’s say while working, a harmful chemical touches the suit. You dispose of the suit immediately since you don’t have to wash it afterward.
There is also less risk of getting the environment contaminated. This is because the moment a suit is contaminated, you doff and dispose of it and don a new one. So far, disposable suits have proven to be more resistant to chemicals because of the use of several laminates.
Reusable hazmat suits
Just like disposable suits, the reusable ones also have specific strong points. If you are disposed to these advantages, then you may choose a reusable hazmat suit instead. Some of these advantages include:
Many companies are looking at how they can become sustainable which means they are seeking to phase out disposable items. When you have to dispose of a suit after each use, it is clear that it is not sustainable. By the way, the more of these suits we dispose and process, the more damage we are doing to the environment.
Reusable suits do not cause any harm to the environment. You can wear them over and over as long as you follow the maintenance instructions and the suit is not damaged. So while they are costlier, reusable suits save you cost in the long run.
Another thing to consider is the fact that reusable suits are mechanically stronger than their disposable counterparts. This means that with the right contamination procedure, you can efficiently and frequently use a reusable suit.
The breaking point
Most times, the decision boils down to how much you are willing to spend on the suit. The difference between both may run into hundreds of dollars or euros.
Disposable suits are cheaper but then, you have to buy so many. Reusable suits, on the other hand, cost a lot more but you don’t need so many. This means if you will use the suit frequently, a reusable suit is a better option, while disposables are better for an occasional user.
Types of Hazmat Suits
There are two different classifications of hazmat suits, the European classification, and the USA classification. We will discuss both in this section.
The European Classification
The suits here are split into six groups, each one is discussed below:
- Type 1 – Provides the wearer protection from gaseous and liquid chemicals. They are gas-tight and are equivalent to the level A of the US classification.
- Type 2 – Protect the wearer from gaseous and liquid chemicals. They are not gas-tight and are equivalent to the level B of the US classification.
- Type 3 – Protect the wearer from liquid chemicals for short periods. They are liquid-tight.
- Type 4 - Protect the wearer from liquid chemicals for short periods. They are spray-tight and are equivalent to the level C of the US classification.
- Type 5 - Protect the wearer from liquid chemicals for short periods. They will only cover some parts of the body and are equivalent to the level D of the US classification.
- Type 6 – Protect only a part of the body from liquid chemicals.
The United States Classification
Under this classification, the suits are split into four levels, each is discussed below:
- Level A – The suits in this level provides complete encapsulation and are vapor-tight protecting the wearer from contact with airborne and direct chemicals. The suits come with Self-contained Breathing Apparatus also known as SCBA. They are used when there is a threat to human health and life from chemical spills.
Hazmat gear in level A protects against splashes, mists, gases, and vapors which is why they have to be gas-tight. They are also splash resistant and vapor-tight thus protecting the wearer from dangerous substances and chemicals.
- Level B – They are not as protective as those in level A because they are not vapor-tight. These suits are also worn with SCBA that can be positioned internally or externally depending on the suit. You wear these suits when there is a risk of chemical splashes.
It is important to note that they do not protect you from gases or vapors. They usually come with gloves, clothing, and boots that are resistant to chemicals.
- Level C – As you will expect, they offer less protection than the preceding level B. These suits are worn along with gas masks or respirators alone. Many of the firefighting clothing you know fall into this category.
The suits in this level basically protect from airborne substances and hazardous chemicals. However, they are not to be used in chemical emergencies or in zones where oxygen is deficient. This equipment will also require the wearer to put on a hard hat along with disposable outer boots that are resistant to chemicals.
- Level D – They are usually not seen as hazmat suits but as work clothing. This is because they do not come with any protection for the respiratory tracts. Instead, they protect the eyes alone from splashes.
By this description, we know that level D suits present the least level of protection. As a result, they are only used when there are no possible risks of exposure to chemicals.
How Effective are Hazmat Suits?
In the workplace and, indeed, everywhere else, we are faced with different kinds of risks daily. Regardless of the risks that come our way, there is always a weapon to defend ourselves. It is always a matter of knowing what the weapon of defense is and how it can be used.
When it comes to chemical risks, whether airborne or liquids, the best defense is hazmat suits. We have already defined them above but the question is how effective are they?
A hazmat suit is a physical barrier that acts as a shield between the wearer and the chemicals. They usually come with an independent oxygen source so the wearer needs not to worry about breathing inconveniences. The idea behind hazmat suits is to separate the wearer from the contamination in the environment.
These suits range from simple to complex and advanced. The simpler ones are worn when the wearer only has to worry about splashes or spills of liquid chemicals.
However, there are times when the wearer needs a higher level of protection from airborne contaminants and the fumes of toxic chemicals. In such cases, the advanced suits are donned. This is because asides from the protective nature of the clothing, they are also vapor-tight and air-tight.
Since hazmat suits are so versatile, they can be used by people in different professions. Examples are healthcare workers, military personnel, firemen, workers in radioactive stations, etc.
Insurance during chemical warfare
When there is chemical warfare, hazmat suits are most times the defining factor between death and life. You will also notice that individuals who work in waste disposal wear hazmat suits as well. In this case, they may wear disposable suits instead so that they can dispose of the suits daily.
Staff working at nuclear power plants wear these suits to protect themselves from carrying radioactive contaminants to their homes. More recently, we have seen health care workers attending to patients suffering from viral infections wear hazmat suits. Looking at this gives a clear picture of how effective these suits are in protecting the wearer from dangerous chemicals.
How to Select Hazmat Suits
To choose your hazmat suit, you need to take into consideration your task. This will show whether the suit will provide sufficient protection against the risks posed and the environment you work in. Some of the factors to consider include:
- What do you want to protect the worker from?
- Which worker are you planning to protect? Here, provide details about the worker such as:
- Gender of the worker (male or female)
- Underlying medical conditions
- Waist measurements
- The environment where the worker operates – what are the surroundings like?
- Confined space
- explosive area
- flash fire
- mechanical stress
- other individuals present such as patients
- What kind of risk is the worker undertaking while carrying out the task?
- How long is the worker likely to wear the suit while working without a breakthrough?
- How can you classify the task in terms of the risk posed (low, medium, or high risk?
- Will the worker is carrying out the task, will there be any climbing or navigation involved?
- Will the worker use their hands a lot while working on the task?
- Does the task involve exposure to chemicals?
- Is the worker going to be attending to infected patients?
- Will the worker need to carry any heavy objects during the task?
- What class of suit is needed to carry out the task? This is dependent on the level of protection required. We have already described the different classifications of suits above based on the US and European classifications.
- In the United States of America, there are four levels of suits. They are categorized into levels A, B, C, and D.
- Hazmat suits in Europe are classified based on type. There are six classes of suits and they include 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
- Other key considerations. There are several other factors you should consider when choosing a hazmat suit for a task.
- It is very important to find out if the wearer will need to wear an additional breathing apparatus. Sometimes the apparatus may be worn internally or externally. This is dependent on whether the suit is all-encompassing or non-encompassing.
- Additional accessories you should consider. This a list of extra accessories you should consider before choosing a hazmat suit.
- Cooling vest
- Anti-fog visors
- Ventilation systems
- Optional connectors which are needed for extending decontamination.
- The required footwear for the work environment.
- The material used in the suit and visor design.
- Flame retardant material with self-extinguishing capabilities.
- The type of seam used in sewing the suit. This includes heat-sealed, bound, or sewn seams, etc.
- Height adjustment.
- Gloves, glove liners, and Kevlar over-gloves.
- Gloves, socks, and boots with a gas-tight fit for more safety.
- Limited use
- For training programs alone
- Ebola hazmat suits
These are some of the factors you should consider when choosing a suit. Making the right choice of hazmat suit ensures that you are completely protected regardless of the risks involved.
Proper Way to Use Hazmat Suits
Learning the proper way to use hazmat suits is key if you will be protected. Proper use of these suits is split into donning and doffing them properly and caring for the suits. We will look at both briefly in this section of this post.
Donning and doffing your hazmat suit
You cannot wear all hazmat suits or doff them in different ways. Each suit has a specific set of instructions regarding donning and doffing. This is because of the risks surrounding the different tasks.
It is, therefore, imperative that you wear suits following the procedures laid down by the manufacturer. Be sure that you completely understand the procedures and check with co-workers to ensure you are all on the same page. Every good quality suit comes with a set of instructions or guidelines on how to don and doff the suit correctly.
However, to ensure that you are protected and you do the right thing, you must:
- Purchase suits that come with very clear instructions.
- View all instructional videos regarding doffing and donning along with co-workers before using the suits.
- Ensure that all your workers are consistent with the procedures provided in the instruction manual and accompanying videos.
- Supervise both processes when there is a need, especially during training sessions.
- Assign donning and doffing partners when there is a need. In such cases, the partners must be available before any of the processes are carried out.
You should note that many of the hazmat suits require the help of a partner to properly don and doff the equipment. When getting suits, you should consider this, especially if you are short on staff.
Caring for Hazmat suits
Before you purchase the suits, it is very necessary to find out about the maintenance of the suit. This covers cleaning the suit, disinfecting it, and storage of the suits. Just like the donning and doffing processes, the maintenance of suits differs depending on the materials used.
One of the key characteristics to look out for is the life span of the suit. This will always determine how it should be maintained. Some of the questions you should ask in this regard include:
- What is the nature of the suit, disposable or reusable?
- How should it be cleaned or disinfected?
- Can it be stored? If yes, how should it be stored?
- Are there any accessories or sections that should be disposed of after a task?
- How long was the suit designed to last for?
- Can the suit be repaired if there is the damage?
Along with these, you should find out the specific shoes required to accompany the suit. You should take time to observe the suit for holes, cracks, damages, discoloring, breaks, swelling, etc.
It is also important to observe the soles of the shoes to be sure that they are not worn. This is necessary to avoid slips and falls in the workplace which may lead to injury.
People rarely purchase hazmat suits except when situations have gone haywire. Most times, only people who need them will buy them. You need to be sure that you need one as well as why you need it before buying it.
We have shown you what to look out for when buying a hazmat suit as well as the proper use of these suits. You must follow instructions when using these suits. Else, you will put yourself at risk of infection or injury. (For information, more details, visit https://www.trendebut.com .)