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CBRN PPE

Published: 10th Dec 2010 in OSA Magazine

PPE is ever evolving to keep up with the relentless ‘progression’ of chemicals, substances and machinery which could cause harm to the operator or others.

Like many other fields, as soon as a team invents or enhances a product another team is working to counter that development. For instance, as better chemicals are developed to strip or clean a product, the protective eye ware, gloves and possibly respiratory protection required to handle or work with this new chemical have to be at the very least reviewed, and quite possibly enhanced.

The task of specifying the correct and most suitable PPE to safeguard the person requiring it - while still allowing them to perform the tasks required at a reasonable rate and with as little hindrance as possible - is formidable.

This is especially true for PPE developed to protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear contaminants - or CBRN hazards.

In the past the requirements placed on CBRN PPE were different; the only personnel involved with CBRN (formerly NBC) were military, and possibly a few ‘specialists’ in research organisations.

The interest and potential involvement of terrorist organisations in a CBRN attack has driven a major change in both the bodies involved in dealing with an event, and in the expectations and requirements of their equipment.

The type of tasks wearers of PPE would be expected to perform, the operating methods, the length of time the wearer is in the PPE and the acceptable effect on the wearer are all very different from the military model.

Until recent years, most government bodies involved in the CBRN field (the military) could accept ‘reasonable’ casualties, injuries and losses. This has changed and most countries are actively training and preparing their civil emergency services to deal with the effects of a terrorist CBRN attack, rather than the military.

The view of acceptable casualties, injuries and losses for civil emergency services is that usually there are none, and that any casualties, injuries and losses are not acceptable.

The PPE developed for the military NBC requirements has proven to be less than ideal for the highly different requirements of today’s CBRN specialist, and while functional as an initial offering there have been many improvements and upgrades.

Industry has been quick to embrace the new and highly specialised requirements of this market offering bespoke design and ‘hybrid’ variants of the standard industrial or military versions. There is a huge range of equipment now available and suitable for use in a CBRN environment, both ‘off the shelf’, bespoke or hybrid.

This only leads to an ever bigger problem for the bodies responsible for the specification of the PPE.

Levels of PPE

One of the biggest issues facing any organisation who is responsible for the selection of the appropriate PPE is determining the correct level of protection required without adding unnecessary burden on the wearers.

The fine line between ensuring that the wearer is adequately protected and introducing extra fatigue, or increasing the difficulty of their task, is never going to be easy to define.

Within the CBRN field, because the nature of the contaminant is very likely to be unknown, or at least unconfirmed initially, the highest levels of PPE are often the default for the first teams deployed.

GTS (Gas Tight Suits) and SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) offer the highest levels of protection because the wearer is in a sealed bubble carrying their own supply of uncontaminated breathing air with them.

The downside to this maximum protection is that the air supply is limited to usually around 40 minutes, and the clock is ticking away as soon as the wearer starts the set up.

The final stages of dressing can take two or three minutes and as this whole operation needs to be performed in clean air and in a safe environment, the wearer is likely to be a little distance from the ‘hot zone’, and will expend precious time and air supply getting to it.

The actual working time in the job can be as little as ten to 15 minutes when time for the following is allowed:

• Start up
• Entry
• Exit
• Decontamination
• Essential Emergency/Safety reserves

The other major issue with GTS is that they add to the fatigue and stress of the wearer. The sizing is usually a trade off between the suit being big enough in the correct areas to allow for the bulky SCBA, while still allowing free movement by the wearer.

However, if the suit is too large and loose the effect is that it will drag or hang, causing extra fatigue for the wearer and presenting a greatly increased risk of the suit being snagged or torn, which would breach the seal and therefore offer no protection to the wearer.

The manufacturers of GTS compromise by supplying the suits in a number of size options, each covering a range of height, weight and foot sizes - as the suit size increases in height, the width and shoe size increase at a relative rate.

This approach leads to the ‘One Size Fits Nobody’ situation, but it also equates to a small range of sizes being functionally usable by most people. Unfortunately the six foot eight, eleven stone individual with size 4 feet is still going to find the size range less than helpful.

When information is available about the type of contaminant, the dispersion method or type (vapour, liquid or powder, for example) and the concentration levels, decisions can start to be made about the possibilities of alternative, suitable levels of PPE.

Most of the agencies involved with the response to CBRN incidents have set themselves standard, stepped levels of protection to relieve an Incident Commander of the task of assessing individual items of PPE.

This process will form part of the Risk Assessment for the whole incident and may cover several different areas, tasks, and risks. The incident will develop and the risks and the requirements for suitable protective equipment will need to be monitored and adjusted as this happens. This is similar to the changing requirements of a manufacturing process or plant, where the needs and protection requirements change as the process continues.

The process of assessing the correct level of PPE then becomes very similar to the initial logic train used to select the items for purchase. The process or task to be carried out needs to defined, the type and nature of the hazard needs to be assessed.

One of the major changes in the way PPE for CBRN has changed over the last few years is that the various bodies - in the government, the Ministry of Defence, the Departments of Defence, and The Emergency Services - that are responsible for prescribing the correct PPE for the protection of their staff in a CBRN environment, have also been able to enjoy exemption from the possible prosecution for death or injury of personnel due to poorly prescribed PPE.

This is now no longer the case.

The USA and most of the EU have now removed any ‘Exemption From Prosecution’, which the above bodies may have had in the cases of injury
or death that could have been due to negligence.

Therefore, the Military and Emergency Services historic attitude of ‘We have decided that it gives suitable and adequate protection and therefore we are not accountable or open to legal recourse’ is no longer acceptable, and instead a ‘Duty of Care’ is normal for almost all employers now.

There have been moves in recent history to bring law suits against the Military, Governments and the Emergency Services for corporate negligence, or for failing to provide and fulfil their duty of due care. This has lead to a change in the way these bodies view their duties of care and their responsibilities.
A soldier, sailor, airman or emergency service worker who is prepared to accept their duties and the risks as laid down by their job title can still expect to have the full protection of the law, and expect the equipment to be suitable for the task they are asked to perform.

It is a basic human right, that even if you are a soldier and prepared to lay down you life in the service of your country you should still be able to expect that your employer will fulfil their duty of care to you and provide you with suitable and serviceable PPE for the task you are given.

The standards agencies used and already accepted in industry have been called upon to lay down and validate suitable standards in the field of CBRN. There are now CBRN PPE standards for the USA laid down by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). There are also many products which have achieved the CE mark used in the European Community.

The fact that there are now many items of CBRN PPE and ensembles that carry a recognised approval allows the persons responsible for choosing
the correct PPE to make a more informed choice.

These persons and bodies can now also enjoy the knowledge that the equipment is tested and approved to a known standard by an independent authority. Provided that the PPE equipment is used in accordance with the relevant standard or approval to which it is approved, the employer and the
persons who specified the equipment are well within their duties of care and responsibility.

The ability to make an informed choice when selecting the correct PPE for any task is a skill that is at present undervalued, and the task will often fall to a junior staff member.

With the whole world following the USA in the ‘where there’s blame there’s a claim’ culture, and the huge legal industry that feeds on pressing for compensation, the need to show full and transparent evidence that the employer has fulfilled their duty of care will drive forward an insistence for more formal qualifications for PPE buyers.

Overall, the changes that are happening or have happened are for the greater good and will make the people involved in the sector more diligent - and lead to a better and safer working environment for those who are prepared to work in some of the potentially most hazardous incidents in the world.
In the world of corporate responsibility and the need to have proof that reasonable care is taken in the selection of PPE, the person or body specifying the PPE is required to be both knowledgeable and diligent.

Author Details

Paul W Cave, Business Development Manager, HazmatLINK Ltd

Paul has more than 12 years’ experience working for a major CBRN respiratory protection manufacturer and nearly 10 years as a firefighter with a UK Fire and Rescue service. He says that the ever changing and challenging field of CBRN, together with the dedicated and interesting personalities that work within it make every day a new and informative experience.

HazmatLINK Ltd works together with emergency services, military and government organisations, providing products, training and advice on issues and incidents involving hazardous materials. The company provides products and services that can help to improve responder safety while helping
to reduce response time and disruption to a local community.

HazmatLINK Ltd offer a unique range of rapid, chemical identification equipment and decision aid tools developed to withstand the rigours of CBRN and hazmat response. The products are designed to meet the needs of the first responder for ruggedness, portability, reliability and ease of use, delivering results in an easy to understand format.

HazmatLINK Ltd is happy to discuss your operational needs and showcase a selection of their products, including FirstDefender, TruDefender FT, RazorEX and Hazmaster G3.

Perseus Training is the dedicated training division of the company and provides hazardous materials training for the whole range of hazmat situations, from chemical spills to Illicit drug laboratories, cannabis grows and many other challenging environments. The training Perseus Training provides is available at all levels, from initial hazard awareness to operational procedures, and can be delivered either at a specialist training facility or a location of your choice.

Contact:

HazmatLINK Ltd, Consortium House, Orchard Business Centre, Stoke Road, Stoke Orchard, GL52 7RZ, United Kingdom

T: +44 (0) 1242 808 902

E: info@hazmatlink.com

W: www.hazmatlink.com
 

 

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Published: 10th Dec 2010 in OSA Magazine

Author


Paul Cave


Paul W Cave, Business Development Manager, HazmatLINK Ltd

Paul has more than 12 years’ experience working for a major CBRN respiratory protection manufacturer and nearly 10 years as a firefighter with a UK Fire and Rescue service. He says that the ever changing and challenging field of CBRN, together with the dedicated and interesting personalities that work within it make every day a new and informative experience.

HazmatLINK Ltd works together with emergency services, military and government organisations, providing products, training and advice on issues and incidents involving hazardous materials. The company provides products and services that can help to improve responder safety while helping to reduce response time and disruption to a local community.

HazmatLINK Ltd offer a unique range of rapid, chemical identification equipment and decision aid tools developed to withstand the rigours of CBRN and hazmat response. The products are designed to meet the needs of the first responder for ruggedness, portability, reliability and ease of use, delivering results in an easy to understand format.

HazmatLINK Ltd is happy to discuss your operational needs and showcase a selection of their products, including FirstDefender, TruDefender FT, RazorEX and Hazmaster G3.

Perseus Training is the dedicated training division of the company and provides hazardous materials training for the whole range of hazmat situations, from chemical spills to Illicit drug laboratories, cannabis grows and many other challenging environments. The training Perseus Training provides is available at all levels, from initial hazard awareness to operational procedures, and can be delivered either at a specialist training facility or a location of your choice.

Contact:

HazmatLINK Ltd, Consortium House, Orchard Business Centre, Stoke Road, Stoke Orchard, GL52 7RZ, United Kingdom

T: +44 (0) 1242 808 902
E: info@hazmatlink.com

www.hazmatlink.com


Paul Cave

Website:
http://www.hazmatlink.com

Email:
info@hazmatlink.com

Phone:
+44 (0) 1242 808 902

info@hazmatlink.com
http://www.hazmatlink.com
+44 (0) 1242 808 902

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