Font Size
A
A
A

Personal Protective Equipment (cont.)

Limitations of Protective Equipment

The use of any type of personal protection equipment requires adequate training. The overall goals of training are to protect the wearer from physical hazards (biological, chemical, radioactive) and to prevent injury from improper use or equipment malfunction.

  • Personal protection equipment has its limitations:
    • Takes time to put on: Level A PPE takes the longest time to put on.
    • Difficult to perform tasks while wearing the equipment: Some first responders or emergency care personnel may experience difficulty in performing some life-saving interventions.
    • Hard to move around while wearing the equipment: Mobility decreases with weight. Mobility also is limited by using a SAR, because the wearer must retrace his or her steps along the supplied air line to exit the hot zone.
    • Difficult to communicate: Someone wearing a face piece or mask is difficult to understand.
    • Hard to see: Face pieces also may limit the wearer's visual field.
    • Full protection suits become hot inside: Encapsulation and moisture-impermeable CPC material lead to heat stress.
    • Increased weight: Level A with SCBA is the heaviest PPE.
    • Psychological stress: Encapsulation increases the psychological stress to wearers and victims.
    • Can’t wear suits for long periods of time: Wearing level A PPE for longer than 30 minutes is difficult.
    • Limited oxygen availability: SCBAs only can be used for the period of time allowed by the air in the tank. APRs only can be used in environments in which the outside air provides sufficient oxygen.
  • PPE also is associated with potential hazards or risks to wearers, as follows:
    • Improper use: Protective respiratory devices and CPC must be properly fitted, tested, and periodically checked before use.
    • Penetration: If the equipment does not fit properly, the hazardous agents may penetrate the equipment, and the wearer may become contaminated. Also, certain chemicals may break down the equipment, which would have to be replaced.
    • Recontamination: Wearers may become contaminated as they remove their equipment unless decontamination and removal protocols are followed carefully.

Pictures of Personal Protective Equipment

Rescuer wearing level A protection. Note that he is encapsulated completely with a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). This type of suit provides the highest degree of both skin and breathing protection and is appropriate for wear in a hot zone that presents an immediate danger to life and health. The garment severely limits communication and provides a great deal of heat stress. Photo credit: Tom Blackwell, MD.
Rescuer wearing level A protection. Note that he is encapsulated completely with a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). This type of suit provides the highest degree of both skin and breathing protection and is appropriate for wear in a hot zone that presents an immediate danger to life and health. The garment severely limits communication and provides a great deal of heat stress. Photo credit: Tom Blackwell, MD. Click to view larger image.

Rescuer wearing level A protection, rear view. By definition, level A protection incorporates either a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA, shown here) or a supplied-air respirator (SAR). The wearer is encapsulated completely. Photo credit: Tom Blackwell, MD.
Rescuer wearing level A protection, rear view. By definition, level A protection incorporates either a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA, shown here) or a supplied-air respirator (SAR). The wearer is encapsulated completely. Photo credit: Tom Blackwell, MD. Click to view larger image.

Rescuer wearing level A protection, rear view. By definition, level A protection incorporates either a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA, shown here) or a supplied-air respirator (SAR). The wearer is encapsulated completely. Photo credit: Tom Blackwell, MD.
Rescuer wearing level A protection, rear view. By definition, level A protection incorporates either a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA, shown here) or a supplied-air respirator (SAR). The wearer is encapsulated completely. Photo credit: Tom Blackwell, MD. Click to view larger image.

Rescuer wearing level C protection. The skin is protected the same as with level B, but the rescuer now is breathing filtered air from a powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) rather than supplied air from a tank. Because it avoids the weight and complexity of a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) system, Level C protection is much easier to wear and causes less heat stress. Level C protection is appropriate for most activities in the warm zone, unless droplet and/or vapor levels are very high. Photo credit: Tom Blackwell, MD.
Rescuer wearing level C protection. The skin is protected the same as with level B, but the rescuer now is breathing filtered air from a powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) rather than supplied air from a tank. Because it avoids the weight and complexity of a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) system, Level C protection is much easier to wear and causes less heat stress. Level C protection is appropriate for most activities in the warm zone, unless droplet and/or vapor levels are very high. Photo credit: Tom Blackwell, MD. Click to view larger image.

Medically reviwed by a John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care

REFERENCE:

"General principles of infection control"
UpToDate.com


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/27/2016
Medical Author:
Medical Editor:
Medical Editor:
Medical Editor:

Must Read Articles Related to Personal Protective Equipment

Biological Warfare
Biological Warfare Biological weapons include any organism (such as bacteria, learn more >>
Chemical Warfare
Chemical Warfare Injury from chemical weapon agents, known as CWAs, may result from:
  • industrial accidents,
  • military stockpiling,
  • war, or
  • ...
learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

Personal Protective Equipment - Experience

Tell us how you have used personal protective equipment.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

CBRNE - Personal Protective Equipment »

Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to the respiratory equipment, garments, and barrier materials used to protect rescuers and medical personnel from exposure to biological, chemical, and radioactive hazards.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary