Not all hazmat suits are created equal. While they all feature the same seal sealing tape, they offer different degrees of protection. Discover the four classifications of professional hazmat protection.
A hazmat suit is a specialized piece of protective clothing, typically in full body suit form, designed to protect the wearer from contaminants such as bacteria, hazardous chemicals, gases and vapor, etc. To maintain the protection, most types of suits utilize seam sealing tape and other features including SCBA that isolate the breathing for complete protection.
While every hazmat suit is designed to eliminate outside contaminants, those contaminants come in different forms. As such, no single hazmat suit design can function in every unsafe environment. To provide maximum protection, a number of designed were created with various classifications based on the degree of protection. The United States and European Union have two different class system. For the United States, there is Level A, B, C and D.
Level A Hazmat Protection – Level A is considered to offer the highest level of protection against vapors, gases, mists and particles. The suit is a fully encapsulated chemical entry suit with seam sealing tape to enclose points where fabrics meet. This suit requires a SCBA or SAR with escape cylinder. To quality as a Level A hazmat suit, a two-way microphone and speaker system is worn inside the suit.
Level B Hazmat Protection – Level B protection offers significantly less protection than Level A due to the fact that the breathing apparatus in Level B designs is fixed on the exterior of the garment. Because of this, Level B garments and suits are only able to protect against chemical splash and liquids, offering protection with waterproof treated textiles and seam sealing tape. Open areas such as cuffs, ankles and at the neckline require manual sealing by other means in conjunction with gloves, hoods and boots.
Level C Hazmat Protection – The garments worn in Level B and Level C protection are functionally similar in terms of protection. The difference between the two is in the breathing apparatus. Level C protection allows for respiratory protection other than SCBA. That can include air-purifying respirators. Because of this, Level C does not provide sufficient protection in environment where the hazardous materials are unknown or the individuals has to work in an oxygen deficient atmosphere – such as one in which oxygen is displaced by other gases.
Level D Hazmat Protection – While Level D hazmat suits and clothing offer very little protection when it comes to hazardous material, they still offer some degree of protection. Because designs are typically limited to coveralls, protective boots and gloves, there’s limited protection from splash and no protection from vapors, gases, airborn toxins, etc. This type of garment is only suitable for use when the individual is not in direct exposure or danger from a hazardous material or chemical. Firefighter turnout gear is a good example of Level D hazmat protection, which also features seam sealing tape for waterproofing.