Knowledge of the different HAZWOPER levels and types of personal protective equipment (PPE) is important because of the many different types of hazards found on a hazardous waste site. The worker needs to know how to properly select their PPE, as well as understand the limitations of the PPE they are using. In addition, knowing the signs and symptoms of heat stress and how to prevent it is important to the worker because of the PPE they are required to wear. Anyone entering a hazardous waste site must be protected against potential hazards. The purpose of personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE) is to shield or isolate individuals from waste site hazards. The hazards may be chemical, physical, or biological. Careful selection and use of adequate PPE should protect the respiratory system, skin, eyes, face, hands, feet, head, body, and hearing.
The first section of our HAZWOPER training describes the written PPE program. The following sections then describes the various types of PPE that are appropriate for use at hazardous waste sites. It also provides guidance in PPE selection and use. Storage and maintenance of PPE is discussed in the section describing the PPE inspection program. The final section discusses heat stress and other key physiological factors that must be considered in connection with PPE use. Use of PPE is required by OSHA in 29 CFR Part 1910. The OSHA regulations are reinforced by the EPA in 40 CFR Part 300. The EPA regulations require all private contractors working on Superfund sites to conform to applicable OSHA provisions. Contractors also must conform to any other federal or state safety requirements deemed necessary by the lead agency overseeing the activities. No single combination of equipment and clothing is capable of protecting against all hazards at HAZWOPER sites. Thus PPE should be used in conjunction with other protective methods.
The use of PPE can itself create significant worker hazards; for example:
• Heat stress
• Physical and psychological stress
• Impaired vision and reduced mobility (ability to move around)
• Difficulties in communicating In general, the greater the level of PPE protection, the greater are the associated risks.
A written PPE program should be established for work at all hazardous waste sites. (OSHA requires a written program for selection and use of respirators in 29 CFR Part 1910.134.) The two basic goals of a PPE program should be (1) to protect the wearer from safety and health hazards, and (2) to prevent injury to the wearer from incorrect use and/or malfunction of the PPE.
Therefore, a comprehensive PPE program should include the following:
- Hazard Identification
- Medical Monitoring
- Environmental Surveillance
- Selection, Use, Maintenance and Decontamination of PPE
- Employee Training
The written HAZWOPER PPE program should include policy statements, procedures, and guidelines. Copies should be made available to all employees, and a reference copy should be available at each work site. Technical data on equipment, maintenance manuals, relevant regulations, and other essential information should also be made available.