Chemical Protective Clothing: Some Key Considerations for Selection and Use

Protective clothing is indispensable for safety in any environment where hazardous chemicals are present and handled. Here we review several factors that companies should consider when selecting chemical protective clothing.

Factors for Consideration

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that there are several major chemical protective clothing selection factors.

  • Clothing Design
    • The design of chemical protective clothing should be reviewed in detail prior to deciding on a specific type to use. Principal factors for consideration include:
      • sizes available
      • comfort
      • ease of putting on, using, and removing
      • level of mobility enabled
      • … and a number of others
  • Material Chemical Resistance
    • Things like degradability, permeability, penetrability, and the ability to resist such factors, are significant when making selections of chemical protective clothing.
      • Degradability The level to which a material experiences detrimental physical changes resulting from chemical exposure
      • Permeability The degree to which a material allows chemicals to pass through it on a molecular level
      • Penetrability The extent to which a material allows for chemicals to pass through it via seams, imperfections, or other structural openings
  • Physical Properties
    • When choosing chemical protective clothing, essential criteria for consideration include its physical properties. Such clothing must possess strength and resistance to physical hazards and environmental conditions, such as:
      • ability to withstand repeated use
      • ability to resist tears, punctures, cuts, and abrasions
      • ability to withstand extremes in temperature (including flame resistance)
      • … and more
  • Ease of Decontamination
    • Decontaminating chemical protective clothing following use is crucial, particularly if it is intended for use more than once. In making the determination of what types of protective clothing to purchase, companies must consider the methods and level of difficulty involved in the decontamination process. This can impact the decision of whether use of disposable protective clothing is more feasible.
  • Chemical Protective Clothing Standards
    • Certain standards (for example, NFPA standards or 1910.120) should be thoroughly reviewed when evaluating various forms of chemical protective clothing.
  • Cost
    • As is the case with any selection process, cost is a major factor to be considered when deciding upon which types of chemical protective clothing a company should use. To be feasible, costs cannot be prohibitively high. At the same time, factors such as effectiveness and safety should outweigh cost considerations.

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Availability and use of chemical protective clothing are extremely important for professionals who deal with hazardous chemicals in any capacity. Equally important is having a thorough understanding of these harmful substances.

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