If you are exposed to potentially hazardous chemicals in your workplace, chemical protective clothing (CPC) can serve as your Rlast line of defense.' But simply identifying a chemical hazard and selecting proper chemical protective clothing isn't enough to ensure your safety.

Whether it's bib overalls or fully encapsulated suits for Level A emergencies, proper donning (putting on) and doffing (taking off) procedures play an important role in making chemical protective clothing more effective and more protective.

Perform a thorough inspection

Before donning any chemical protective garment, always read the technical data package for information about inspecting, storing, maintaining, repairing, donning and doffing, decontaminating and replacing that particular garment. In fact, a thorough inspection is essential, not just on receiving the garment but also after each usage.

Follow the garment manufacturer's and/or your workplace's inspection procedures before donning a garment. The following steps apply to inspecting many types of chemical protective clothing:

1) Select a location with good lighting and a clean, flat surface. Open the garment and lay it out as flat as possible.

2) Make sure it has been cleaned and decontaminated since it was last used.

3) Check the labeling to confirm whether it is the correct size and appropriate for the task to be performed.

4) Carefully inspect the outside and inside surfaces of the garment for cuts, tears, worn spots and cracks in the material.

Look for any signs of degradation. If this is the initial inspection, check for abrasions or damage during shipping. If possible, pass a portable fluorescent lighting unit around the interior side of the garment while looking from the exterior side to detect any holes or tears.

5) Remember to check all straps and buckles to make sure they're attached properly and are in working order.

6) Mark any damage found on the garment immediately and clearly.

7) Evaluate whether on-site repair is possible. If not, return the garment to the manufacturer for evaluation. In case of extensive damage, the manufacturer may recommend the garment be taken out of service.

8) Perform a pressure test to confirm that the suit is gas-tight. What goes on must come off - safely

Of course, you must always follow your worksite's established chemical protective clothing protocol. But there are some general guidelines for donning and doffing protective garments that can be helpful.

When donning Level A suits . . .

  • Unfold suit and confirm that it has been certified gas-tight.
  • Perform a visual inspection. Make sure to check the face shield window for a proper seal.
  • Check gloves to ensure proper seals with suit sleeves.
  • Limited-use Level A suits usually come with two sets of gloves attached. The inside chemical-resistant glove affords the most chemical protection. Users often wear an additional cotton or latex glove over it to make it easier for the hand to slide in and out of the suit gloves.
  • Check suit exhalation valves, which keep the suit from filling with air.
  • Open the suit. Place foot into it, pointing it into the sock bootie with the storm flaps turned up.
  • Don your self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), putting the tank on your back and tightening the straps.
  • Wear chemical protective boots. Once boots are on securely, pull boot flaps over the boots as far down as possible.
  • While an assistant adjusts the boot flaps, put on cotton or latex gloves if you plan to use them. Then, stand up and bring the suit up and around. Reach back to put your arms in, adjusting your hands as you move them into the suit gloves.
  • Make sure the air pack is in the air pouch of the suit. Then turn on and connect your SCBA, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Close the pressure-sealing zipper, leaning back to make sure it's secure at the top.
  • Make sure you can move your hands from the inside of the suit to the air regulator. Wipe the window, using anti-fogging wipes.

Check your radio. Make sure everything works. Then put your arm back into the suit. You are now ready to work.

When doffing Level A suits . . .

In general, doffing Level A suits requires the wearer to sit down and take off the chemical boots, point toes forward, lift storm flaps, pull boots from the heels and remove the outer boots.

  • Stand up and unzip the zipper from head to toe, literally peeling off the suit.
  • Ask your partner to grab the arms as you lean forward. Then sit down again, and take off the sock booties. Again, point the toes.

The suit should be pulled away from the wearer.

When donning . . . Bib Overalls

  • After inspection and decontamination, insert the tongue into the buckle and make necessary adjustments for length.
  • Work with a partner. Check on each other to make certain no one has missed a step.
  • Wear chemical protective boots.
  • Pull the legs of the suit over the outside of the chemical boots. Now, you're ready to don a jacket.


  • After inspection and decontamination, don the jacket and follow specific instructions pertaining to gloves, snaps, storm flaps, etc.
  • Inspect the collar to make sure all the seams are properly sealed. Check the jacket's storm flap to make sure it's still intact. Make sure all snaps are there and check for holes and scrapes.
  • Don glove assemblies per manufacturer instructions. Gloves should always form a tight seal with the jacket.
  • Snap the jacket shut, making sure the storm flap is laid flat to keep out incidental chemical splashes.
  • Respiratory equipment may or may not be required. Certain plants do recommend some type of respiratory protection underneath hoods. Check your company's respirator specifications for the task at hand.


  • Some hoods come equipped with adjustable ratchet headgear and air line. This is for Rcomfort air' and anti-fogging only.
  • Inspect the hood, making sure the air line is intact, the ratchet headgear is in place and that the valve belt hose assembly is on and attached to the bottom of the hose.
  • Make sure that the window is intact. Once confirmed, snap the cover window into place and don the hood. In general, hoods are available in chest or waist length, with ratchet headgear, hard hat or zip- clip systems.
  • Adjust the hood so that it stays securely on your head - typically, this can be accomplished by buckling the underarm straps. This will also keep out any liquid splashes that could otherwise roll up under the flap.
  • Attach valve belts. To keep them from moving around, there is usually a waist belt that comes with the valve belt hose assembly. There's also a belt loop for the hose to distribute the weight of the air line and keep it from dragging. Check the valve to make sure that it is adjustable. You can control the amount of comfort air that comes into the hood.

When doffing bib overalls, jackets and hoods . . .

  • After decontamination, disconnect from the air supply. For any chest-length hood, disconnect the valve belt hose assembly at the waist belt. Next, take off the underarm straps. Remember, any residual liquid on the surface should be clean water. Remove your respiratory protection.
  • Remove the jacket and then sit down to take off the bib overalls. An assistant can help you take off the boots. Once you've removed bib overalls, take apart the glove assemblies.
  • The best way to remove any glove system that uses beaded gloves and inserts is to lay the gloves on a hard surface, press down on the plastic insert - working your thumb between the insert and the beading - then take the insert away from the inside.
  • Now, all of the clothing is ready to be laundered - on-site or at a commercial laundry.

Field decontamination

CPC must be decontaminated after use and before workers remove it. The process may be as simple as a safety shower or a bucket of water to clean boots and gloves or as involved as a multi-station decontamination line. But remember, field decontamination does not recondition the suit for reuse.

Reusable Clothing

After each use, whether there has been a known contamination or not, all reusable chemical protective garments should be properly cleaned and stored.

Generally, cleaning procedures should conform to the specific hazards of each situation. In case of an acidic exposure, for example:

  • Immerse each garment piece in a room-temperature water bath until the majority of the contaminants are washed off.
  • Soak each piece in a neutralizing inorganic solution, such as 5% sodium bicarbonate, and agitate thoroughly until the remaining acid is neutralized.
  • Re-rinse each piece in clean, room-temperature water.

Proper donning and doffing procedures ensure the ultimate effectiveness and protective ability of chemical protective clothing. CPC is designed to keep you safe. But, ultimately, it is your responsibility to follow the proper donning and doffing procedures.

Wayne Beaumier is protective apparel regional manager with Dupont Tyvekg in Houston, Texas. He can be reached at (281) 858-0223.