The Hazmat Suit: A Guide to Keeping Workers Protected
Different jobs in high-hazard industries present various dangers to workers on the job site and supplying the proper protection can help keep them safe. However, doing so effectively means knowing the right hazmat suit and protection level for each job function.
This article briefly defines a hazmat suit, the industries that use it, and explains its various protection levels.
What is a Hazmat Suit?
The term “hazmat” is a combination of “hazardous” (haz) and “materials” (mat). Also known as a decontamination or dangerous materials suit, the hazmat suit is personal protective equipment (PPE) that incorporates impermeable whole-body clothing and other specialized equipment to protect workers while handling harmful substances or working in a hazardous environment.
Industries That Use a Hazmat Suit
Hazardous materials exist on many job sites, meaning workers from various industries require some form of hazmat suit. Common industries where this PPE type is necessary include but is not limited to the following:
Oil and Gas
Hazmat suits are necessary in the oil and gas industry because of potential exposure to various hazardous substances, including the following:
- Toxic gases
- Corrosive chemicals
- Radioactive substances
- Flammable materials
The construction industry is not always associated with hazmat suits, but specific circumstances require them. More specifically, they are often essential for removing or handling hazardous materials during renovating or demolishing older buildings when toxic materials are disturbed.
Those materials include the following:
- Lead-based paint
- Silica dust
The utilities industry, which includes water, gas, and electricity, typically requires hazmat suits during repair, maintenance, and emergency response activities. This industry often involves working in confined spaces in conjunction with:
- Managing hazardous waste
- Performing decontamination operations
- Working near biological hazards
- Repairing gas leaks
Hazmat suits are critical to the pharmaceutical industry for several reasons, most notably because of the sector’s strict quality and safety standards in manufacturing. Companies must ensure workers wear the PPE necessary to handle pharmaceutical agencies that might be highly toxic or carcinogenic.
The mining industry uses hazmat suits to protect its workforce when unearthing ores and minerals, sometimes in hazardous environments. This practice often exposes miners to an array of dangers, including the following:
- Harmful chemicals
- Toxic gases
- Radiation (when mining for uranium or other rare earth elements)
The chemical industry relies on hazmat suits to ensure worker safety and prevent environmental contamination, where workers handle many poisonous and highly corrosive chemicals. Hazmat suits protect workers from exposure to these dangerous substances during various tasks, including the following:
- Chemical tank cleaning
- Maintenance procedures
- Chemical transportation
- Emergency response
Hazmat Suit Protection Levels
Global hazmat suit protection levels are similar but differ slightly in the number of groups and gradation. Examples from the United States and Europe are as follows:
- Level A: Maximum protection from gases, splashes, and mist. This level includes garments, a full-face mask with gloves, a breathing apparatus, and special footwear.
- Level B: Protection from hazardous chemical splashes, excluding vapors. This level includes garments, gloves, special footwear, and a full-face mask with breathing apparatus.
- Level C: Guards against harmful chemicals and includes garments, gloves, boots, and respirator. This level protects against specific hazardous materials but is inappropriate in an oxygen-lacking atmosphere or during a chemical emergency.
- Level D: Used only in areas without direct contact with chemicals and includes a pair of coveralls and chemical-resistant footwear. This design is unsuitable for a chemical emergency.
- Type 1: “Gas-tight” protection from gaseous and liquid chemicals.
- Type 2: Non-gas tight” protection from gaseous and liquid chemicals.
- Type 3: “Liquid jet tight” protection from liquid chemicals for a finite period.
- Type 4: “Liquid saturation tight” protection from liquid chemical spray for a finite period.
- Type 5: Protection from airborne dry particles for a finite period.
- Type 6: Protection from a “light spray” of chemicals.
Complete Protection Requires the Right PPE and the Best Safety Solutions
The hazmat suit is essential PPE for workers in hazardous industries, where each environment poses significant dangers and requires different degrees of protection. From level A (or 1) to level D (or 6), understanding the function of each suit is critical to ensuring the health and safety of your workers on the ground.
However, providing teams with the proper protective gear is only a partial solution. To protect your workers entirely, you need a risk management product that helps you find hazards and prevent accidents before they happen, allowing you to rely less on garments and equipment. Consider working with us to configure a tailored solution for your safety needs.
Contact us today to learn more.