HAZMAT Protection Levels
There are 4 levels of protection as designated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) workers. The levels are Level A, Level B, Level C and Level D. The hierarchy of protection levels ranges from the most protective level (Level A) to the least protective level (Level D). Depending upon the hazardous substance(s) encountered, the level of protection will be assigned. The site-specific Health and Safety Plan (HASP) must list the proper level of protection as well as other key information. The level of protection must adequately protect a worker from any biological, physical or chemical hazard.
This level of protection features a fully encapsulated vapor protection suit (full body protection) pressure demand full face Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), inner chemical resistant gloves, chemical resistant safety boots and two way radio communication.
Protection Provided: This ensemble provides the highest available level of respiratory, skin, and eye protection from hazardous substances in a solid, liquid or gaseous phase.
Level A is utilized when hazardous substances have been identified and have a high level of hazards to the respiratory system, skin and eyes. The substances present when using this level of protection are usually known or suspected to cause skin toxicity or carcinogenity. An example of an operation using this level of protection is entering a permit required confined space.
Level B protection requirements are very similar to Level A. The only difference between the two is the type of protective suit. Level B provides the same respiratory protection but less skin or outer body protection. The chemical protective suit provides liquid splash protection but no protection against vapors.
This level is used when the hazardous materials have been identified but do not require a high level of skin protection. An example is an initial site survey.
Level C is the most commonly used level of protection for workers today. This is because most contaminants at HAZMAT sites or response efforts are below the OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs). This will allow workers to use a lesser degree of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The OSHA requirements for Level C protection are a full-facepiece, air-purifying, canister-equipped respirator, chemical resistant gloves and safety boots, two-way communications system and hard hat.
Level C protection has the same level of skin protection as Level B, but a lower level of respiratory protection. The chemical protective suit offers liquid splash protection but no protection to chemical vapors or gases.
This ensemble is used when contact with site chemical(s) will not affect the skin. The air contaminants have been identified and levels have been determined. Also, the respirator canister can remove the contaminant and the site hazards have been completely characterized. Level C is not allowed by OSHA for a chemical emergency response.
The Level D ensemble is typically what one would see or experience at a construction site. This level of protection requires coveralls, safety boots/shoes, and safety glasses or chemical splash goggles. No respiratory protection is required and there is no chemical protective suit.
This level of protection is used when an atmosphere contains no known hazard.