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HAZWOPER Personal Protective Equipment Levels for Employees

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), HAZWOPER trainees must adhere to four levels of personal protective equipment (PPE). These four levels were created to protect workers dealing with hazardous materials in various circumstances, and are covered in the HAZWOPER training courses. It is essential that employers familiarize themselves with these PPE levels, as it protects their employees from hazards they will encounter on the work site. Typically, the onsite commander will determine the personal protective ensemble level based on conditions at the scene. For hospitals and other first receivers/responders, PPE selection depends on predetermined chemical procedures laid out by the employer.

HAZWOPER Level A suit with SCBA

The 4 PPE Levels include:

Level A: According to OSHA Level A PPE should be worn when, “when the greatest level of skin, respiratory, and eye protection is required.” This type of protective equipment is needed for dealing with highly toxic and dangerous chemicals such as ammonia.

Level A protection consists of: 1. Positive pressure air respirator with emergency self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) that has been approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) OR full face-piece SCBA with positive pressure. 2. Inner and outer chemical resistant gloves 3. Coveralls (as needed) 4. Long Underwear (as needed) 5. Fully protective chemical suit 6. Hard hat (to be worn under the protective suit) (as needed) 7. Chemical resistant steel-toe and boots. The boot shank, the supportive structure between the insole and outsole, must also be steel. 8. A disposable protective set of suit, boots and gloves. These protective items may be worn over the protective suit.

Level B: Level B PPE should be worn when an employee needs the highest level of respiratory protection, but less skin and eye protection is necessary. This protective ensemble is used on initial site entries where hazards may not have been fully identified yet.

Level B protection consists of: 1. Positive pressure air respirator with emergency self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) that has been approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) 2. Chemical-resistant gloves (double-layered) 3. Clothing that is resistant to chemicals 4. Chemical resistant steel-toe and boots. The boot shank, the supportive structure between the insole and outsole, must also be steel.

Level C: Level C PPE is similar to Level B; however, Level C protection is selected when, “the concentration(s) and type(s) of airborne substance(s) is known and the criteria for using air purifying respirators are met” (OSHA.gov).

Level C protective equipment consists of: 1. Air purifying half-mask or full-face respirators that have been approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) 2. Chemical-resistant clothing, with hood - two-piece chemical-splash suit and disposable chemical-resistant overalls. 3. Out and inner chemical-resistant gloves 4. Chemical resistant steel-toe and boots. The boot shank, the supportive structure between the insole and outsole, must also be steel. 5. Outer boot-covers (chemical-resistant) 9. Escape mask (as needed) 6. Face shield (as needed) 7. Hard hat (as needed) 8. Coveralls (as needed)

Level D: Level D PPE is used for “nuisance” level contaminants and offers minimal protection to the employer.

Level D protection consists of: 1. Coveralls 2. Gloves 3. Steel toe and shank boots (chemical-resistant) 4. Boot covers (disposable) 5. Safety glasses 6. Escape mask (optional) 7. Hard hat (optional) 8. Face shield (optional)

PPE generally includes 4 types of protection:

Respiratory – Responders should be wearing the proper equipment to protect them from breathing contaminated air. This consists of respirators that must be approved by NIOSH. Respirators work by removing contaminants from the air, or by providing clean air from an external source such as a SCBA.

Eye & Face – According to the CDC, everyday about 2000 U.S. workers have a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. Eye and face protection prevent workers from being injured by hazardous fragments such as sparks and chemical splashes. It is essential you are trained to use the proper eye and face protection, as it could prevent serious injury.

Skin – Protective skin equipment prevents responders from being exposed to harmful chemicals via skin contact.

Noise – Exposure to loud noises can cause hearing loss, disorientation, and anxiety. Using protective noise equipment such as earplugs or earmuffs can prevent damages to your hearing. While seemingly overwhelming, the OSHA PPE guidelines serve to protect you in dangerous situations. Any in-depth HAZWOPER course will go over personal protective equipment and applications with you. National Environmental Trainers offer 8, 24, and 40 hour online courses in compliance with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.120 regulations – as well as many other programs for employers and employees to obtain HAZWOPER training.

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