Top Insights to Facilitate Selection of Proper Personal Protective Equipment for Chemical Industry

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16Employees will inevitably be exposed to hazards in the event that the organization’s engineering and administrative controls are not viable or efficacious in bringing down the exposures to acceptable standards. Properly selected Personal protective equipment (PPE) will shield the employees against the entire gamut of risks that can fatally injure them.

Why handling chemicals is fraught with risks?

Numerous chemicals can inflict adverse effects on the uncovered skin which may range from contact dermatitis to system poisonous effects by permeating the skin. Further, chemicals which are solid in nature like lead can pose contamination problem if inadvertently ingested, or asbestos which gives off fumes that can be inhaled owing to their re-entrainment in the airstream.

What is CPC?

CPC or Chemical protective clothing comprises of boots, gloves, suits and other relevant components which wards off direct skin contact and consequent contamination. CPC deters physical injury to uncovered skin which can be triggered by thermal hazards like freezing of skin by speedily evaporating liquefied gases.

CPC provides resistance to chemicals, having the potential to come in touch with unprotected skin, from permeating, penetrating and degrading the skin.

Proper selection of PPE

PPE is chosen based on a test that assesses the breakthrough time and steady state permeation rate of corrosive chemicals on a protective barrier’s sample. Breakthrough resistance is inversely proportional to the temperature of chemical and directly proportional to the ambience and thickness of the PPE. This mandates that the PPE should be of thicker material to delay the permeation of the chemical especially at higher temperatures.

In cases of pesticides and other solid state chemicals, the proper selection of PPE is contingent upon the exact solvent’s nature and formulation. As such, the requirement will vary from chemical to chemical and the appropriate PPE is to be hashed out with the manufacturer of chemical.

The ASTM method is deployed to gain insights into the breakthrough time under conditions of unbroken liquid or gaseous contact. The permeation time signified as three hours essentially means that the PPE will exhibit resistance for 3 hours to breakthrough at detection levels usually more than 1/10th microgram per cm2 per minute at normal temperature conditions.

The PPE should be effective in preventing skin contact from materials that are inherently solid like fibers, flakes etc. The solids have the potential to inadvertently contaminate the skin with the potential for ingestion or inhalation at a later date although no visible dermal risks would be apparent. PPE deters cross contamination from such chemicals by reducing the permeation potential.

PPE meant to stave off frostbite will drastically cut down the potential of skin freezing from unprotected contact with liquefied gases that evaporate rapidly. Chlorine can corrode wet skin whereas hydrogen cyanide can penetrate the skin bringing about irreparable damage and eventually death.

The choice of safety equipment should be based on the evaluation result of competent industrial hygienist who can assess the permeability potential of chemicals being used under various circumstances apart from the ones that exist in normal factory conditions.

About the author: Simon Hopes is a renowned industrial hygienist. A chemistry background and immense experience in the field have granted him the status of industry veteran. He is an authority on personal protective equipment selection.

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