What is in this article?:
- What's new in NFPA hazmat-protection standards
- Change is in the Air
NFPA 1992 and NFPA 1994 recently completed their revision cycles, and NFPA 1991 is undergoing the process. Learn what’s new in these standards.
The National Fire Protection Association’s project on Emergency Services Protective Clothing and Equipment encompasses 19 active standards and seven technical committees. In this project, there are three standards on chemical protective clothing that are the responsibility of the Technical Committee on Hazardous Materials Protective Clothing and Equipment. Two of these standards have been revised recently, while the third is undergoing a major review.
Each standard contains explicit purpose statements:
- NFPA 1991, Vapor-Protective Ensembles for Hazardous Materials Emergencies, establishes “a minimum level of protection for emergency response personnel against adverse vapor, liquid-splash, and particulate environments during hazardous materials incidents, and from specified chemical and biological terrorism agents in vapor, liquid splash, and particulate environments during chemical and biological terrorism incidents.”
- NFPA 1992, Liquid Splash-Protective Ensembles and Clothing for Hazardous Materials Emergencies, establishes “a minimum level of protection for emergency response personnel against adverse liquid-splash environments during hazardous materials emergency incidents.”
- NFPA 1994, Protective Ensembles for First Responders to CBRN Terrorism Incidents, establishes “minimum levels of protection for emergency first responder personnel assigned to incidents involving CBRN terrorism agent.”
NFPA 1991 provides performance requirements for protection against hazardous vapor, liquid-splash and particle exposure. As an “ensemble” standard, protection of the entire body from chemical exposure is addressed — head, hands, feet, legs and torso. This standard specifies a totally encapsulating garment that will maintain air pressure and prevent inward gas leakage (i.e., a Level A garment as defined by OSHA and the EPA). The performance requirements demand a high level of barrier to 27chemicals, which includes two chemical warfare agents. In addition to barrier, there are performance requirements for cold flexibility, durability and flame-resistance. The requirements of the standards are applied to each component of the ensemble (gloves, footwear, garment, visor, seams and closures).
NFPA 1991 provides optional requirements for protection from liquefied gases and for escape from flash fires. While the base requirements of NFPA 1991include a minimal flame resistance test, the flash fire option requires that the garment provide a level of thermal insulation, resist ignition and maintain vapor protection when exposed to a simulated chemical flash fire. The liquefied-gas option addresses the hazards from common gases that are shipped as liquids, e.g., ammonia, chlorine and hydrogen chloride. These hazards are cold temperature and the higher barrier challenge presented by the more than 100-fold denser liquid state of these room-temperature gases.
When NFPA 1991 was first published, there were no chemical protective materials available that could meet the requirements. This standard has stimulated the development of a number of high-performance chemical protective garment materials that are used in both industrial and emergency situations.
NFPA 1992 provides requirements for protection against adverse liquid splashes. Of the three NFPA chemical protective clothing standards, NFPA 1992 is unique in that it allows for either garments or ensembles. While an ensemble protects the entire body, a garment is limited to the arms, legs, torso and head. Garment requirements do not address the interface between gloves and sleeves, between boots and pant leg and between hood and respirator. The chemical test battery for NFPA 1992 is seven chemicals using a less-sensitive penetration tests, and there are requirements for durability and cold flex. While NFPA 1991uses a whole garment gas inward leakage test, the whole garment requirement in NFPA 1992 consists of 20 minutes in a shower.
NFPA 1992 also includes a flash-fire escape option similar to NFPA 1991, but does not have any flammability requirements in the base requirements.
NFPA 1994 addresses potential hazards to first responders at CBRN terrorism incidents. The activities anticipated by NFPA 1994 include assessment, extrication, rescue, triage, decontamination, treatment, site security, crowd management and force protection. The requirements of the standard do not address hazards from high-exposure activities such as spill containment and cleanup, leak-stoppage, container isolation, body recovery and evidence collection.
Since its introduction, NFPA 1994 has defined four levels of protection for CBRN first responders. The highest level of protection now is incorporated into the requirement of NFPA 1991. Class 2ensembles and Class 3ensembles are evaluated for chemical protection against five industrial chemicals and two chemical warfare agents using a permeation test with a chemical challenge lower than that required in NFPA 1991. The barrier requirements for Class 2 are tied to thebarrier requirements for CBRN SCBA while Class 3 is tied to the NIOSH CBRN air-purifying respirator requirements. Level 4addresses hazards from air-borne and liquid borne particles. Class 2and Class 3 garments are evaluated for whole-garment vapor and liquid splash inward leakage while Class 4garments are subjected to whole-body, particle inward leakage testing.
As an ensemble standard, NFPA 1994addresses protection for the entire body, and the interfaces (gloves-sleeves, hood-facepiece, boots-pant leg) as well as seam and closure (zipper) performance. The vapor inwards leakage and shower performance of the garments are tested with each make of respirator that is intended to be used with the garment.
As written, the requirements of NFPA 1994 do not address traditional hazmat operations. Nothing prevents a manufacturer from exceeding and adding protection against additional hazards. However, certification only addresses the requirements of the standard. Any additional claims have to be substantiated by the manufacturer. The purchaser has to rely upon the manufacturers’ affirmation of any performance attribute that is not addressed in the standard. However, it is possible to certify garments to both NFPA 199 2and NFPA 1994 to address concerns with its use in hazmat situations.
CBRN first-responder requirements also are available as options for structural and proximity firefighting (NFPA 1971), technical rescue (NFPA 1951) and EMS (NFPA 1999). The performance criteria, challenge chemicals and test methods follow those developed for NFPA 1994, relying upon that technical committee’s expertise in chemical protective clothing.
NFPA 1991and NFPA 1994 do not provide “use” criteria. Here is one way to consider use of these garments in a CBRN situation:
- Class 1 (NFPA 1991). Extended operations in the death zone, exposure to the actual dispersal device and to the chemical and biological agents in concentrated form.
- Class 2 (NFPA 1994). Operations in an environment that exceeds IDLH concentration, where the victims may be non-ambulatory, but viable. The Class 2 requirements are not intended for extended exposure to high volume or concentrations of chemical agents.
- Class 3 (NFPA 1994): Operations in the environments that do not exceed IDLH limits and an APR is appropriate, where the victim may be impaired but ambulatory. The Class 3 requirements are not intended for extended exposure to high volume or concentrations of chemical agents.
- Level 4 (NFPA 1994): The hazard is particles (either biological or radioactive), and an APR or a PAPR provides adequate respiratory performance. The requirements of Level 4do not include protection from ionizing radiation emitted by the radioactive particles.
NFPA 1991, 1992and 1994 don’t address all potential hazards that might be encountered at a hazmat or CBRN incident such as respiratory protection, fire suppression, cryogenics, elevated oxygen levels, flammable and explosive environments, ionizing radiation, EMS, static electricity, explosions and shrapnel, hot and cold temperature, falling objects, and extremely abrasive or cut-hazard situations.
These NFPA standards apply to new garments. There are no provisions in these standards for garments that are contaminated and re-used. The standards do not allow the use of tape.