The Hazmat suit
This personal protective equipment is commonly called "Hazmat suit" by professionals as it is the abbreviation of "hazardous materials". This class 3 PPE protects the skin from dangerous substances. It will cover the whole body (full suit) or some parts (partial protection) following the user's needs.
Depending on the type, it can be gas-tight or product-tight in any form and have antistatic properties. Most chemical-resistant coveralls must be anti-abrasive, resistant to even small tears, strong enough to avoid punctures, and sufficiently impervious to prevent the entry of hazardous materials.
The different protection types
There are six main types of chemical coveralls, from type 1 as the most powerful to type 6 as the least protective:
It is impervious to gaseous chemicals and vapors, liquid aerosols, and solid particles. The Dräger CPS 5800 (high chemical risk) suit is mainly designed for industrial operations on ships or confined spaces because it offers high mobility.
Gas-tight, liquid or gaseous chemicals, liquid aerosols, solid particles, with or without external self-contained breathing apparatus with open circuit and compressed air inside the clothing. It is the case of the CPS 5900 chemical protection suit that includes the SCBA under the garment for optimal safety.
Gas-tight, against liquid or gaseous chemicals, liquid aerosols, and solid particles. Like the Type 1a chemical-resistant suit, this one is available with or without an open-circuit, compressed air self-contained breathing apparatus outside the garment.
Gas-tight, with a breathing air system providing an airline.
Against chemicals, liquids, and aerosols, not gas-tight, so-called "diving suit" for sites with high chemical risks, with a breathing air system providing positive pressure.
Liquid-tight. It is suitable for workers in the petrochemical or chemical industries, such as the CHEM3 for example.
Aaerosol spray-proof, activated carbon filtering suit that filters all gases (like the TS series suit). It is suitable for laboratory coats.
Solid particle tight. It is appropriate in asbestos removal and powdering operations in the agricultural environment (such as NS series chemical protective clothing).
Like the NS series from RSG, this chemical protective clothing is impervious to light sprays or splashes. It is ideal for spray painting operations, insecticide spraying, low-concentration pesticide spraying, boat hull care and maintenance, or general care and cleaning applications.
Permeation and penetration
For those new to the field of chemical protection, these two terms may seem similar and confusing. However, these two aspects are also necessary for selecting the right equipment, so we specify them.
Chemical penetration occurs only through holes, cracks, or seam defects in the suit. The penetration time will therefore vary depending on the structure of the Chemical Protective Clothing.
The permeation of the chemical through the Hazmat suit will be systematic because it passes through the fabric molecules. The permeation time will therefore depend on the texture and its sealing capacity. There are six classes of CPC according to their permeation time:
- Class 1: 10 min permeation
- Class 2: 30 min permeation
- Class 3: 60 min permeation
- Class 4: 120 min permeation
- Class 5: 240 min permeation
- Class 6: 480 min permeation
We can assume then that a type 1 suit, such as the CPS 7900 chemical protection coverall, will tend towards a class 6 with a significant permeation time. The CHEM3 type 3 suit from RSG has an intermediate performance. It belongs to classes 1 to 4. It is especially against dangerous projections and even certain chemical warfare products.
European Standards for Chemical Protective Clothing
The European Union has set standards to determine the minimum requirements for this Personal Protective Equipment manufacture. They change following the type of suit and the levels of protection required.
NF EN 943-1
Standard for type 1, 1a, 1b, 1c, and 2 protection; defines the minimum requirements for ventilated and non-ventilated chemical protection; gas-tight (type 1) and non-gas tight (type 2). Some of these suits can be combined with a powered air-purifying respirator, such as the PureFlo 3000-W ventilated welding helmet that can be worn with the appropriate protective coverall.
NF EN 943-2
Standard determining the minimum requirements for type 1 a ET (Emergency Team) and type 1 b ET suits dedicated to emergency teams.
NF EN 14605
Standard for type 3 and 4 hazmats defining the minimum requirements for limited use and reusable protection. It concerns integral clothing with liquid-tight (type 3) and aerosol-tight (type 4) connections between the different parts. Additional equipment may be subject to other European standards.
NF EN ISO 13982-1:2005
Standard fixing the requirements for type 5 integral chemical suit resistant to airborne toxic solid particles. The elements completing this set may comply with other European standards
NF EN 13034:2005
Standard setting the minimum requirements for type 6 hazmat suits (or type PB 6 for partial protective clothing) with limited performance, restricted use, and reusability. It determines the degrees of protection against liquid chemicals, liquid aerosols, or low-pressure splashes that do not need the presence of a barrier against liquid permeation. This standard also applies to the connection points between the different elements of the hazmat. The partial protection type PB 6 is not subject to the same technical tests as the integral type 6.
NF EN ISO 6529:2003
Standard identifying the requirements for protective suits dedicated to testing the resistance of their material to the permeation of liquids and gases. It determines the classification of protection clothing according to the time of permeation but also the penetration of liquids and gases.
NF EN 1149-1
Standard for the minimum requirements of chemical protection suits for tests that must have electrostatic properties.
NF EN ISO 16602:2007
International standard for the classification, marking, and protection requirements for all chemical protective clothing against chemicals.
Norme précisant les exigences minimales pour les combinaisons hazmat non ventilées protégeant de contamination radioactive à travers des particules.
This standard specifies the requirements imposed on the VPCs protecting against electrostatic charges caused by electric discharges in ATEX zones.
Standard that characterizes the requirements for protective suits against infectious agents, reusable and limited use.
Standard that specifies the characteristics of a protective garment against short-term contact with flames.
Chemical protective suit: factors to consider
Before wearing protective clothing, it is essential to analyze and determine all the factors that will contribute to the choice:
There are several criteria regarding the user's missions to consider:
- Duration of the operation
- Frequency of the mission
- Which body parts and skin surfaces are involved
- Risks identification concerning the projection of residues that may become lodged in seams, welds, or closures. For this reason, a protection garment with a back opening might be better to protect the user from any rests penetration
- Risks if the worker can handle the hazardous substance directly
- Analysis of the action to choose a suit perfectly suitable to the freedom of movement
- Presence of one or two people to assist the operator in putting on and removing the PPE
Identify the substances involved
It is essential to know what type of product the user will encounter to anticipate the risks, its nature, and its concentration level:
- if the substance is liquid or gas: anti-splash or anti-gas hazmat
- if the body is a freon: the suit must be strong enough to withstand extreme cold and not break
- if the substance is flammable: the protective clothing must be fireproof, and the boiler suit
- if the substance is explosive: the protection must have electrostatic and antistatic properties for use in ATEX zones
- if the element is bacteriological or chemical
- if the product is solid
If we cannot determine the nature of the chemical element or its concentration level, we would choose the hazmat suit with the highest level of protection.
Here are some examples of substances and their consequences on humans. It is often hard to realize this without having been confronted with it.
- Hydrogen sulfide (H2S): unpleasant odor at low levels, deadly at 1000 ppm or more, irritation to eyes, nose, throat, and lungs
- Hydrogen fluoride (HF): strong odor, can cause lesions and burns on the skin and mucous membranes, conjunctivitis
- Sulfur dioxide (SO2): strong odor, irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, can cause asthma or asphyxiation
- Nitrogen dioxide (NO2): strong chlorine odor, causes headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath or pulmonary edema at high concentrations, risk of asphyxiation
- Ammonia (NH3): strong odor, very irritating in gaseous form or in solution, burns eyes and skin
- Methanol (CH3OH): slightly irritating to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract, risk of asphyxiation
- Sulfuric acid (H2SO4): corrosive to eyes, skin, and respiratory tract, risk of asphyxiation even with short-term exposure
- Nitric acid (HNO3): burns to the skin, eyes, respiratory and digestive tracts.
The material of chemical protection
Each material has specific properties that make it more or less suitable for solvents or mixtures. A suit can be CE-marked if its material has minimum chemical and physical properties and must be identified and labeled. Its level of manufacture must also be regular, and its quality must comply with the ISO 9000 standard with periodic checks.
Here are some examples of materials:
- D-MEX: offers lightness and flexibility of the garment; allows a high permeation time; resists cold substances; is fireproof and self-extinguishing; reusable.
- Symex: resistant against acids, welding splashes, and hydrocarbons; strong against abrasion; reusable.
- Umex: protects against chlorine and ammonia; offers the flexibility of movement; unbreakable in contact with frozen products; reusable.
- Zytron® 500: comfortable, flexible, and lightweight; strong protection against many hazardous materials; disposable coverall; suitable for low mechanical stress; ideal for industrial chemicals and combat gases with long permeation times.
- Tychem® F: perfect for handling fluids and solids; disposable and lightweight; suitable for low technical stresses; shelter from organic hazmat and high concentrations of inorganic hazmat. Type 3, Dräger offers the disposable SPC 3700 suit in Tychem® F with a CVA 0700 ventilated air vest.
- Tychem® C*: preferred for infectious agents and acids; disposable coverall; adapts to low mechanical stress.
- PVC: flexible; against low concentrations of acid and soda; reusable; tear-proof; resists strong splashes of fluids.
- Flexothane® : léger et souple ; contre le pétrole brut, l’huile de machine, colorants, poussières ; réutilisable ; perméable à la vapeur d’eau.
In addition to the operation, identifying the constraints of the work area and the environment is also significant. Indeed, if the agent is in a confined space or narrow zone, he will need adapted equipment to get sufficient freedom of movement. A work area with sharp surface manipulations requires a rugged and cut-resistant suit. Outdoor work will provide more choices because of fewer constraints.
Upstream analysis and work are essential to choosing the chemical-resistant coverall that matches the user's needs. In addition, we must not forget the various must-have accessories (included or not in the VPC) for good protection: boots, gloves, visors, breathing apparatus, cooling jacket, and refreshments...
Today, manufacturers and distributors offer more and more applications or software to help choose the right chemical protection suit according to all these criteria.