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Personal Protective Equipment

Vapors, gases, and particulates from hazardous substance response activities place response personnel at risk. For this reason, response personnel must wear appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment whenever they are near the site. The more that is known about the hazards at a release site, the easier it becomes to select personal protective equipment. There are four levels of personal protective equipment.

Level A protection is required when the greatest potential for exposure to hazards exists, and when the greatest level of skin, respiratory, and eye protection is required. Examples of Level A clothing and equipment include:

  • 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; and
  • disposable protective suit, gloves, and boots.

Level B protection is required under circumstances requiring the highest level of respiratory protection, with lesser level of skin protection. At most abandoned outdoor hazardous waste sites, ambient atmospheric vapors or gas levels have not approached sufficiently high concentrations to warrant level A protection. Examples of Level B protection include:

  • 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; and
  • outer chemical-resistant boots.

Level C protection is required when the concentration and type of airborne substances is known and the criteria for using air purifying respirators is met. Typical Level C equipment includes:

  • full-face air purifying respirators;
  • inner and outer chemical-resistant gloves;
  • hard hat;
  • escape mask; and
  • disposable chemical-resistant outer boots.

Level D protection is the minimum protection required. Level D protection may be sufficient when no contaminants are present or work operations preclude splashes, immersion, or the potential for unexpected inhalation or contact with hazardous levels of chemicals. Appropriate Level D protective equipment may include:

  • gloves;
  • coveralls;
  • safety glasses;
  • face shield; and
  • chemical-resistant, steel-toe boots or shoes.

While these are general guidelines for typical equipment to be used in certain circumstances, other combinations of protective equipment may be more appropriate, depending upon specific site characteristics.