What Are the 4 Levels of PPE?


Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a set of tools and clothing worn by workers to keep them safe from hazards they may encounter. It can include gloves, plastic face shields, masks, and more.

PPE is used in many different industries, including health care and disaster cleanup. Knowing what type of PPE you need is critical to your workplace safety and success.

Level A

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is the gear worn by workers to reduce exposure to dangerous chemicals and physical, ergonomic, and biological hazards. It can range from gloves and safety glasses to hard hats, respirators, and full-body suits.

PPE is used to protect people from harmful exposures, and it’s important for people who work in hazardous environments to be properly trained to use it. In order to ensure that people use the right PPE for their specific job duties, employers must provide training and instruction on the proper use of different kinds of PPE.

Level A protection is the highest protection available and includes a fully encapsulating vapor- and gas-protective suit. It can also include a positive pressure supplied-air respirator (SCBA) with an escape valve and chemical-resistant boots.

This kind of PPE is used to protect first responders like firefighters and law enforcement officers who are exposed to a toxic chemical release or a terrorist attack. It’s also used by BSL-4 lab employees and military personnel who are at risk of exposure to highly toxic agents.

However, not everyone is equipped to wear level A PPE; it’s a sophisticated and complex piece of equipment that requires fit testing and medical clearance. Additionally, it’s expensive and can be difficult to maintain.

While level A PPE isn’t the right choice for most people, it can be essential for certain situations. For example, firefighters and law enforcement officers who are responding to a chemical spill need the highest respiratory and skin protection possible.

The EPA defines four levels of risk associated with chemical spills: Level A, Level B, Level C, and Level D. These levels vary based on the type and concentration of chemicals at a site, and they are used to determine which PPE ensembles should be worn by site supervisors.

When a person is wearing PPE, it must be clearly marked with the manufacturer’s name and trademark. This is to prevent counterfeit or low-quality PPE from entering the market. In addition, it must be disposed of properly.

Level B

The level of PPE needed for any specific job depends on the hazardous material present and how much protection is necessary. For example, if you’re working with chemicals that don’t pose any immediate danger to your skin or eyes, you can use Level B PPE.

However, if you work in a situation where the airborne contaminant has an imminent risk to your skin and eyes, OSHA requires you to use Level A PPE. You’ll need a full-face respirator and sometimes a face shield or safety goggles for eye protection.

You’ll also need a hard hat, earplugs, and chemical-resistant gloves. Then, you’ll wear chemical-resistant boots with steel toes and shanks for extra protection.

Level A is the highest-level protection for workers dealing with substances that can cause serious damage to your skin, eyes, and respiratory system. This includes site operations and work functions that involve a high potential for splash or immersion or exposure to unexpected vapors, gases, or particulates that are harmful to your skin.

Typically, these situations occur at lower concentrations than those that require Level B. But Level B still requires a good level of skin and respiratory protection.

For this reason, the materials used to make Level B PPE suits must be resistant to liquid penetration. This is the ability of chemicals to move through a material over time, leading to discoloration, swelling, and deterioration.

It’s also important that a suit resists the movement of toxins through zippers, seams, or other imperfections in the fabric. This is called permeation resistance, and you can test the performance of a suit by evaluating its permeation resistance rating against a known substance.

The material must have a high permeation resistance rate for level B PPE and meet ASTM F903 standards for the permeability test. This test can measure the amount of time it takes for a liquid to penetrate the suit. The longer it takes, the more likely the suit will fail, and you’ll need to replace it with a new one.

Level C

Personal protective equipment (PPE) offers varying levels of protection for different situations. They are based on the type of hazardous material, the concentration of the hazard, and the level of risk to employees.

For instance, workers involved in handling hazardous materials in manufacturing need PPE that provides full-body chemical and vapor protection and respirator masks with high permeation rates. These suits can be costly, but they are necessary to protect the health of workers.

In hospitals and other healthcare settings, medical personnel who provide care for patients with Ebola are required to wear PPE that fully covers the skin and clothing and completely protects the mucous membranes in their eyes, nose, and mouth. This is to minimize the risk of contaminating themselves with the Ebola virus during contact with infected people and with objects that have been contaminated with blood or body fluids.

It is also recommended that healthcare workers change into surgical scrubs or disposable garments and dedicated washable footwear in a clean area before entering the patient room. No personal items, including jewelry and eyeglasses, should be brought into the patient’s room.

When changing into PPE, a trained observer should supervise the donning of PPE by the healthcare worker in a step-by-step fashion and review the donning sequence with the healthcare worker before donning begins. The trained observer should read the sequence aloud during donning and follow it closely, ensuring that the healthcare worker follows all steps of the donning process.

The trained observer should inspect the PPE ensemble to ensure that it is in serviceable condition, all required PPE and supplies are available, and the sizes selected are correct for the healthcare worker. When a donning process is completed, the PPE ensemble should be inspected for visible contamination, cuts, or tears and then disinfected using an *EPA-registered disinfectant wipe or an ABHR, if available.

During the doffing procedure, the healthcare worker should use the double-gloving technique when working with patients who may not have been thoroughly decontaminated. This is especially true if the healthcare worker is working with someone who has a suspected case of Ebola or has Ebola symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and/or bleeding.

Level D

PPE is equipment that is used to protect workers from certain types of workplace hazards. These can include chemicals, physical hazards, radiation, electrical, and other environmental factors that can cause serious illnesses or injuries in the workplace. Example is xray lead aprons which are used in healthcare settings to protect medical personnel and patients from radiation exposure during X-ray procedures.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets a standard for PPE based on the hazardous environment and the type of risks that exist. OSHA has established four levels of PPE, each of which is appropriate for a specific situation and varies with the severity of the risk.

Level A is the highest level of protection available, providing respiratory, skin, and eye protection from solid, liquid, and gaseous chemicals. Level A PPE is recommended for a site that has been identified with potential hazards or when the hazards are known to be severe or will require specialized training.

In these situations, a full-body suit is required. Depending on the hazard, other equipment may also be necessary.

The main components of this ensemble are a positive pressure air respirator approved by NIOSH, chemical-resistant gloves, and a chemical-resistant work suit. Other items include steel-toed work shoes, hard hats with lower head clearance, and chemical-resistant clothing.

For example, if you are an auto mechanic, you will wear a steel-toed work shoes with a hard hat, gloves, and protective glasses. You might also use a face shield to cover your eyes when handling high-speed tools.

This level of PPE is ideal for employees who are working with a wide range of materials, including metalworking fluids and chemicals. This level of PPE is also commonly used by locksmiths, woodworkers, and metalworkers.

Another important thing to know about level D is that it is the lowest level of protection for the skin. The PPE is designed to prevent the occurrence of any kind of exposure.

Employees who work in a Level D hazardous environment will often use coveralls, safety boots, and chemical-resistant goggles to protect themselves. They can also use air-purifying respirators when there is a need to be exposed to hazardous particles or vapors. However, before leaving the site, they must always follow the proper donning and doffing procedures.

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