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Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment better known as PPE, is intended to offer protection against chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, and other hazards. There is currently an array of PPE but, no single piece can completely protect you. Therefore, it is important to use a combination of PPE and safety procedures to ensure your wellbeing. Personal Protective Equipment is separated into 4 categories, each offering a different level of protection. For a visual explanation of the classes of PPE click here.

Classifications of PPE

Level A protection needs to be worn when the highest level of respiratory, skin, eye and mucous membrane protection is needed. This type of protective equipment is necessary when dealing with highly toxic and hazardous chemicals such as ammonia.

Level B protection is needed when the highest level of protection is needed for the respiratory system but, not for other parts of the body. This protection level is the bare minimum recommended when encountering hazards that have not been fully assessed.

Level C protection should be selected when the airborne hazard is known and suitable for using air-purifying respirators. When considering use of this category, it is important that skin and eye exposure is unlikely to occur. Note that periodic monitoring of the air must be performed while using this category of protection.

Level D protection is typically a work uniform and used for light contamination situations only. Coveralls and safety shoes/boots are the only requirements for this class of protection. Any other articles of protection are situational (I.e. gloves, mask, etc). This class of protection is not suitable in situations where skin or respiratory hazards are present.

Types of PPE

Personal Protective Equipment comes in an array of products and protection levels. For example, surgical masks are a Level D PPE while, a full-face respirator is Level A. Both falls within the respiratory components of PPE but, offer two different levels of protection,

See the comparison tables below for more examples.

Surgical MaskN-95 Respirator  Half-mask respiratorFull-face respirator

When worn properly a surgical mask will protect the wearer’s mouth and nose from exposure to large- particle droplets, splashes, sprays, etc.  
N-95 respirators offer a close fit and are meant to protect against dust, and other tiny airborne particles.  The half-mask respirator filters air while protecting the lungs against transmittable diseases, fumes, and toxic chemicals.Full-face respirator is like the half-mask but, has added protection for the eyes and face.
Cotton/Poly BlendFlame ResistantPolyester
Cotton/Poly blend garments can be worn to protect against chemical, physical and biological hazards.Flame-resistant PPE should be worn when working with explosive or corrosive chemicals such as sodium hydroxide.This type of personal protective equipment provides splash protection against infectious materials.
Basic Safety GogglesChemical Splash GogglesFace Shield  
This type of protective eye wear is good to defend against projectiles but, not effective against splashing. This is the bare minimum level of eye protection to be worn in a laboratory.These goggles offer a tighter fit through suction. Thus, protecting the eyes from debris and chemical splashes. These are idea for wet labs, or when working with any type of hazardous liquids.  The face shield can protect the entire face from debris, projectiles, and splashes of all sorts. This PPE can be paired with splash googles for further protection.
Latex/Vinyl/Nitrile  Chemical resistant  InsulatedWire Mesh
Light latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves are used for biological hazards and chemical splashes.  Chemical resistant gloves range from light to heavy resistance. These gloves are suitable for use with organic and low to mildly hazardous liquids.  Insulated gloves are used when working with hot liquids and equipment. Also, they are good to use when working with open flames and other hot substances.  Wire mesh gloves are good to use when in environments with livestock and where cuts/tears of the skin are likely to occur.

Personal Protective Equipment comes in many variations and levels of effectiveness. Although PPE is designed to protect you from hazardous situations, it does come with some drawbacks. Such as restricted movement, vision, and communication. Some psychological and physical stressors include Claustrophobia, heat stroke, and dehydration. All of which can create new hazardous situations or worsen existing ones. To minimize the drawbacks of wearing PPE it should be worn in 30-minute increments.

Vartest offers a range of testing for PPE. Such test include:

  • AATCC 42: Impact Penetration
  • ASTM F1670: Blood Penetration
  • ASTM D751: Seam Strength
  • ASTM 1671: Viral Penetration

To find out more about PPE and the testing offered here at Vartest Laboratories contact us.

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