2005 and 2006 will culminate five-year review and publication cycles for several existing standards on hazardous materials response protective clothing. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Technical Committee (TC) on Hazardous Materials Protective Clothing and Equipment has sifted through hundreds of public proposals and comments to make the criteria in its standards practical. Here are changes to three standards you need to know:

NFPA 1991 Standard: Vapor-Protective Ensembles for Hazardous Materials Emergencies

NFPA 1991 defines an ensemble consisting of a suit with attached gloves that totally encapsulates the wearer and their breathing apparatus. The ensemble may also be worn with an over-cover, outer gloves and outer boots. NFPA 1991 ensembles must be provided in a minimum of four sizes and must have protective, inverted pockets over exhaust valves.

Performance requirements include:

  • Inflation of ensembles to determine integrity against gas penetration and a “shower-like” test for demonstrating integrity of clothing against liquid penetration.

  • Permeation testing of suit, visor, glove, and footwear materials and their seams against a 21-chemical battery to demonstrate resistance against a range of industrial chemicals; the chemical battery contains gases and liquids representing different classes of chemicals.

  • Burst strength, puncture/tear resistance, low temperature performance, abrasion resistance, and flex fatigue testing of suit, glove, and footwear materials.

    The 2005 edition of NFPA 1991 provides requirements for the highest level of protection for emergency responders to hazardous materials incidents where an unknown threat, a vapor threat, or a chemical or biological terrorism WMD threat is present or expected. Criteria address design, performance, certification, and documentation requirements.

    Latest changes: This latest standard edition contains the following changes to optimize protection for emergency responders:

  • Former optional requirements for chemical and biological agent threats are now included in the base requirements as mandatory for all vapor-protective ensembles compliant with NFPA 1991.

  • Optional requirements for limited protection for escape only in the event of chemical flash fire, and optional requirements for protection from liquefied gas are also provided.

  • While the test methods have been refined to improve clarity, consistency, and repeatability, the improvements of the text from the prior edition provide clearer criteria.

  • Product labels must clearly indicate which options apply to the specific ensemble.

    The 2005 edition will be available to the public on April 1, 2005.

    NFPA 1992 Standard: Liquid Splash-Protective Clothing for Hazardous Materials Emergencies

    NFPA 1992 protects emergency responders in hazardous materials incidents where liquid or liquid splash threats are present or expected. This standard addresses the second tier of hazardous materials response protection — establishing requirements for chemical liquid splash protection where the chemical vapors are not a hazard.

    The liquid splash-protective ensembles are intended for situations where the primary form of chemical exposure is short-term intermittent contact with liquid chemicals, which do not produce skin-toxic or carcinogenic vapors. Only one option is provided — for flash fire escape protection.

    This standard specifies the minimum design, performance, certification, and documentation requirements and specifies the test methods for liquid splash-protective ensembles and liquid splash-protective clothing. NFPA 1992 permits the individual certification of garments, gloves and footwear, as well as a complete ensemble certification.

    The 2005 edition will be available to the public on April 1, 2005.

    Table 1

    NFPA 1994 Standard: Protective Ensembles for Chemical/Biological Terrorism Incidents

    The 2001 edition of NFPA 1994 sets performance requirements for protective clothing used at chemical and biological terrorism incidents. It defines three classes of ensembles based on the perceived threat.

    NFPA 1994 ensembles are designed for single exposure (use), and consist of garments, gloves, and footwear. Table 1 summarizes the use of these ensembles.

    Class 1 Ensembles

    These ensembles are intended for worst-case circumstances, where there is still an ongoing release with likely gas/vapor exposure, the responder is close to the point of release, and most victims in the area appear to be unconscious or dead. Stay times in the hazard zone are likely to be short and limited to breathing air available from the SCBA.

    Class 2 Ensembles

    These ensembles are intended for circumstances where exposures include possible contact with residual vapor or gas and highly contaminated surfaces. Most victims in the response area are alive and show signs of movement, but are non-ambulatory. For Class 2 ensembles, breathing air from the SCBA may still limit wearing time. But Class 2 ensembles may also be configured with powered air-purifying respirators that provide longer duration response time.

    Class 3 Ensembles

    These ensembles are intended for decontamination, patient care, crowd control, perimeter control, traffic control and cleanup. Class 3 ensembles should only be used when there is little potential for vapor or gas exposure.

    2006 Edition of NFPA 1994

    NFPA 1994 Standard on Protective Ensembles for First Responders to Radiological Particulate, Chemical or Biological Terrorism Agents is on course for 2006. Major modifications currently being considered include moving the current Class 1 from NFPA 1994 into NFPA 1991, as chemical agent testing is now mandatory in NFPA 1991.

    Current Class 2 and Class 3 testing would be aligned with the challenge levels established by NIOSH for CBRN Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) and CBRN Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR) and Air Purifying Respirators (APR).

    A new Class 4 has been proposed to address biological and particulate hazards only, where no chemical hazards exist.

    To participate in the review process and provide comments on the NFPA 1994 Report on Proposals, go to NFPA’s web site, www.NFPA.org for more information.

    For a list of products certified to the above standards, visit the Safety Equipment Institute home page at www.SEInet.org.