PPE Advice from OSHA’s Draft Best Practices

Powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs): The combination of high efficiency (HE) particulate filters plus organic vapor (OV) cartridges currently available for PAPRs will protect against many of the airborne hazards that first receivers might encounter (e.g., toxic dusts, biological agents, radioactive particulates, organo-phosphates and other pesticides, and solvents). Acid gas cartridges add an additional level of protection from gases such as chlorine.

Gloves: Butyl rubber gloves generally provide better protection than nitrile gloves for chemical warfare agents and most toxic industrial chemicals that are more likely to be involved in a terrorist incident, although the converse applies to some industrial chemicals. Foil-based gloves are highly resistant to a wide variety of hazardous substances and also could be considered part of the protective ensemble. . . . A combination of gloves, for example, butyl gloves worn over inner nitrile gloves, often are the best option for use by hospital workers during emergencies and mass casualties involving hazardous substances. Again, the hospital should select the combination that best meets its specific needs.

Garments: Because first receivers might become contaminated with liquid or solid (dust) contaminants through physical contact with a contaminated victim, the ideal fabric will repel chemicals during incidental contact (protection from gases is less important because gases generally will dissipate before a victim arrives at the hospital). Additionally, the optimal garment will restrict the passage of vapors, both through the suit fabric and through openings in the suit. Finally, optimal clothing also is sufficiently flexible, durable, and lightweight for long-term wear (up to several hours) during physically active work.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Washington, DC.