Are you wondering about level D PPE? What is it used for, and who should use it?
Welcome back to our series of articles that include everything you want to know about the levels of PPE.
Level D is the final level; it’s the most visible and recognizable level of PPE we all encounter daily, and we will get to know why.
Unlike the higher levels, it does not require extensive training; it has increased mobility, reduced physical stresses, and a longer operating time.
However, the more we advance with the alphabet, the less protective the level becomes.
To understand more, we will take you on one final journey to the world of PPE to learn about level D PPE.
What is Level D PPE?
PPE is classified according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
OSHA and EPA levels are mentioned in the 1910.120 Regulation and are categorized into 4 levels (A is the most protective, while D is the least protective).
Moreover, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), protective clothing is classified into 4 categories (1, 2, 3, and 4), equivalent to the OSHA and EPA levels.
Level A PPE is the highest respiratory, skin, and eye protection level.
It’s used when hazards are unknown, and the concentration of the substance is suspected to be immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) to both the skin and lungs.
Level B PPE provides the same respiratory protection as Level A but less skin protection.
It is used when the concentration of the substance in the air is suspected or known to be a hazard for the lungs but not absorbed through the skin.
Levels A and B are used when the oxygen level in the atmosphere is less than 19.5%.
On the other hand, Level C PPE has the same level of skin protection as Level B but a lower level of respiratory protection.
It is used when the type and concentration of the substance are known and are less than OSHA permissible exposure levels (PEL) and IDHL levels.
Moreover, it’s used when the possibility of eye and skin exposure is unlikely and when contact with chemicals, liquid splashes, or environmental factors will not affect the skin adversely.
What about Level D PPE?
Level D PPE is the last and lowest level of personal protective equipment.
It offers less protection to the skin than level C and minor to no respiratory protection.
Furthermore, it offers no chemical protection and shouldn’t be used in situations with respiratory hazards or chemical hazards.
However, both levels can be used when the oxygen levels are sufficient (more than 19.5%)
What does Level D PPE consist of?
You can think of the level D ensemble as the work uniform.
It is mainly used when there are no hazards or risks but more nuisances.
Level D PPE ensemble consists mainly of the following:
- Chemical-resistant boots and shoes with steel toes and shanks
- Safety glasses or chemical splash goggles
Meanwhile, other items can be optional according to the situation or different working environments.
- Hard Hat
- Escape mask
- Face shield
- Disposable, chemical-resistant outer boots
Now let’s see when Level D is needed.
When should you use Level D PPE?
As Level D PPE is the minimum level of protection, it should be solely considered work clothing that offers minimal skin protection and no respiratory protection.
Level D PPE should never be worn in any workplace with respiratory or skin hazards.
Regardless, it should only be worn when:
- The atmosphere contains no known hazards.
- There is no probability of splashes, immersion, or unexpected inhalation of or contact with hazardous chemicals.
- The concentrations of the substances are below the IDLH levels.
- No filtering of the air surrounding you is required, and the place is so safe that even the use of air-purifying respirators (APRs) is unnecessary.
Let’s see the level D ensemble PPE in detail.
Skin protection in level D PPE
While the higher levels of PPE require head-to-toe protection, level D doesn’t require you to be 100% covered.
Level D PPE for skin protection is usually available in various designs, sizes, and colors.
They provide varying levels of protection and other properties required to deal with various work environments’ annoyances.
They’re used by engineers, factory workers, firefighters, medical professionals, mechanics, and farmers.
Therefore, they have different types, such as
- Sleeve protectors (disposable sleeves)
- Disposable gowns and coveralls
- Scrubs and surgical scrubs
- Safety and visibility vests
- Cooling vests
- Reflective Clothing
- Leather clothing
One of the most popular types of Level D PPE is lab coats, which protect clothing from dirt,and biohazards without aerosol exposure.
They are treated as a removable barrier in incidental contact and small splashes.
Additionally, they prevent the spread of contamination outside the labs.
They can be either the traditional laboratory white coat or a knit-wrist lab coat with knitted cuffs instead of the open sleeves that may interfere with your work.
The flame-resistant type is also used when working with water- or air-reactive chemicals, flammable solvents, potentially explosive chemicals, and high fire hazards.
Aprons are a garment tied at the waist to protect your clothing; they’re comfortable and easy to use.
They are used widely in many industries; therefore, they are made of cotton, linen, leather, or even rubber.
Aprons can be sterile when used for aseptic procedures in medicine, such as central line insertion or in the operating room.
They can also be flame-resistant for working with flammable solvents, welding, or electrical systems.
What about Level D PPE’s certification and regulation?
Level D PPE is not tested for protection against chemical vapors, liquid permeability, gas tightness, or liquid integrity.
Nevertheless, Class 4 PPE ensemble can be found in the NFPA 1994 (2007 ed.), and they should comply with OSHA’s 1915.157 regulation for hand and body protection.
Level D PPE is roughly equivalent to Type 6 suits in the EU regulation in the standard of protective clothing general requirements EN-ISO-13688.
They are also referred to as “reduced spray tight suits,” as they offer limited protection against light liquid chemical splashes and spray as tested in EN-13034 standard and EN-14126 standard for protection against infectious diseases.
Moreover, they are tested for their physical properties and construction according to EN-14325.
Finally, some types can be tested for specific requirements, such as:
- ISO-11612 for heat and flame resistance
- EN-ISO-20471 for High-Visibility Clothing
- EN-ISO-13982 for protection against bloodborne pathogen
- EN-1486 and EN-469 for firefighters’ clothing.
Foot protection in level D PPE
Level D PPE for feet protection mainly includes boots with steel toes and shanks, usually made of butyl rubber, nitrile, or PVC.
They protect your foot against injuries resulting from chemical exposures to corrosive chemicals.
Disposable boot covers (Shoe Gloves) can be worn in certain situations, such as contact with a patient’s body fluids, and others.
They provide fluid and particulate protection and are used once over regular footwear or rubber boots.
However, these disposable overshoes have limited chemical splash protection, so they shouldn’t be used around chemicals.
In addition, they can create slipping or falling hazards.
Whereas EU standards can be found in the following:
- EN ISO-20345, and EN ISO-20347 for Safety Footwear
- EN 13832-2 Chemical-Protective Footwear
- EN 50321 for insulated footwear and over boots for electrical protection
Eye and face protection in Level D PPE
It is necessary for many industries because there are several ways in which the eye can be irritated, inflamed, infected, or injured temporarily or permanently, such as:
- Contact with dust, powders, cement, or harmful particulates
- Penetration by sharp objects
- Chemical and thermal burns from chemical or cleaning with detergent, etc.
- Irritation from gases and vapors
- Infectious pathogens such as bacteria or viruses
Eye and face protection includes:
- Safety glasses and goggles: for chemical, biological, radiation, and physical hazards
- Safety goggles: for particulates, mists, vapors, chemicals, and liquid splashes
- Laser eyewear: for Class 3 or 4 laser applications following the EN207 and EN208 standard
- Face shields: to protect against impacts, chemical splashes, blood droplets, biological hazards, projectiles, and cryogenic handling.
Additionally, there is a special with optical density (OD) for working with ultraviolet (UV) or infrared (IR) equipment.
- Welders’ goggles and helmets: made of impact-resistant, durable materials to protect against heat and potential sparking, flash, and harmful rays in welding
- Surgical masks protect nose and mouth from direct contact with biological and chemical fluids.
Surgical masks are mistaken for respiratory protection.
Nonetheless, they do not protect against airborne particles inhaled into the lungs.
On the other hand, they are part of droplet protection that prevents the spread of infectious biological agents transmitted through large droplets.
Respiratory protection in Level D PPE
Level D PPE does not protect your lungs.
However, based on hazard exposure, level D PPE may include some respiratory precautions, such as N95 and N99 masks.
N95 and N99 are the most common types of particulate respirators; they are referred to as “surgical respirators” in the healthcare industry, where they are most commonly used.
Although they look like surgical masks, they are not the same.
Because, unlike surgical masks, they can filter out 95% and 99% of airborne pathogens, respectively.
Different respirators protect against liquid or oil-based particles from sprays but not vapors, such as the R95, R99, and R100.
On the other hand, P95, P99, and P100 respirators protect against certain oil and non-oil-based aerosol particles for working with petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and dusty or oily environments.
What about escape masks?
Level D PPE includes an optional escape mask used only in emergencies.
Because they protect only for a limited time to allow the person to escape unexpectedly dangerous situations.
These escape masks can be either air-purifying (APRs) or atmosphere-supplying (ASRs) respirators.
Level D PPE for hand protection
Gloves protect our hands against various risks, such as physical, chemical, and biological ones.
Level D PPE for hand protection differs according to situations and hazard assessment.
In other words, the type of gloves you choose highly depends on the type of risk you are likely to face at work.
Do you need gloves with anti-microbial properties to protect against biohazards?
Or will you need a chemically resistant glove, a cut-resistant glove, a heat-resistant glove, an electrical glove, an anti-vibration glove, a Farming glove, or an all-purpose glove to combine multiple protective properties to handle multiple risks?
Accordingly, there are different materials for gloves as follow:
They have protective properties and are most likely seen in the food industry, salons, and beauty shops.
They are the most cost-effective and widely used in the automotive industry; they are loose-fitting gloves that are easy to put on and take off.
It offer perfect tactile sensitivity with high protective properties; however, they are not used as much as they used to because of latex allergies.
The go-to choice for inner chemical-resistant gloves at higher PPE levels.
Further, they are considered the standard in many industries, from healthcare and food to automotive and chemicals.
The most resistant gloves to environmental factors, with high resistance to many chemicals. However, it is more expensive than other types that are more commonly used in industrial applications.
Butyl rubber gloves
The most durable gloves, with exceptional resistance to a wide range of chemicals and highly corrosive acids and bases.
used more for heavy-duty tasks to protect against cuts, tears, and abrasions.
For hand protection, Level D gloves should adhere to 29 CFR 1910.138, and each glove type has its certifications and testing against different risks.
Level D PPE for head and neck protection
Level D PPE ensembles include an optional hard hat to protect the head from dangers such as impacts, the falling of heavy objects, dripping or splashing chemicals and heat exposures.
Now that we know all about the optional and necessary items in level D PPE and their certifications let’s find out who should wear this level.
Who should use level D PPE?
As we mentioned above, level D PPE is considered a work uniform.
Let’s look at some occupations where level D is required.
EMS includes medical responders (EMRs), medical technicians (EMTs), advanced medical technicians (AEMTs), and paramedics.
These people are the first ones arriving on the scene of incidents, medical emergencies, catastrophes, etc., to provide patients and victims with proper, life-saving medical care immediately.
Their jobs include delivering oxygen, controlling bleeding, stabilizing, and transferring patients to hospitals.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 265,000 EMTs and paramedics in the U.S. are responding to emergencies and saving people’s lives. (2)
Their job is full of risks that include injuries from lifting patients or handling some tools and equipment, infectious diseases, and exposure to chemicals, body fluids, and blood.
With all of this in mind, EMS responders must be protected against the hazards they might face. Therefore, they should be wearing the proper PPE.
EMS responders usually wear level D PPE, including disposable gloves, chemical-resistant gloves, EMS garments (uniforms), disposable ones for single use, safety goggles, and a face shield when needed.
In addition to hooded, chemical-resistant clothing for tasks such as decontaminating equipment and materials used to clean, remove, or transport chemical, biological, or radiological contamination.
High-visibility clothing is of high importance, especially for EMS workers who care on busy roads and highways, and insulated high-vis clothing is needed for different weather conditions.
For respiratory protection, the minimum level for EMS personnel is level D, with an escape hood or mask immediately available.
Nevertheless, some environments have whole level C protection available too.
Cold zone workers
The cold zone is also called the “green zone,” which is the area that is free of contaminatio.
In this case, the contamination and concentration of these agents are known and below the acute exposure guideline level 1 (AEGL-1).
In this zone, the minimum level of protection is needed, such as coveralls, work clothes, boots, and gloves.
First receivers are the first healthcare members that care for and receive contaminated victims in mass casualties from an accidental release or CBRN attack.
They can be injured by secondary exposure when they treat contaminated patients.
That’s why they must protect themselves by wearing the right PPE before delivering medical care.
Moreover, Level D is recommended in the following situations for first receivers in post-contamination areas:
Handling patients exposed to a known chemical agent with gas or vapor hazard because victims cannot breathe out hazardous gas and harm others.
Moreover, handling patients who are contaminated with radioactive material externally or body fluids.
Electronic waste workers
Working in electronic waste and recycling includes many risks to your health, such as illness from toxic metal dust.
In addition to, injuries from lifting and moving heavy objects, cuts or eye injuries from sharp objects, and hearing loss from noise exposure.
Wearing level D PPE, including cut-resistant gloves and eye protection, is essential to protecting yourself against these risks.
Construction site inspectors
Level D PPE is used by workers involved in support activities such as inspection, supply operations, or management.
Even though these jobs involve inspection for hazards, that doesn’t mean they are safe themselves.
Inspectors should wear coveralls, hard hats, and safety boots in addition to gloves for electrical inspections and chemical splashes.
Therefore, selecting Level D PPE for these situations would only be reasonable.
Process operators supervise and monitor the equipment used in different facilities, such as manufacturing plants and plants that produce electricity, gasoline, diesel fuel, and others.
Process operators use level D in different industries to protect against hot surfaces, chemicals, and splashes.
Veterinary professionals wear Level D PPE while performing simple routine tasks that don’t involve respiratory hazards, such as handling animals or specimens and conducting herd health program tasks.
Moreover, when responding to a known non-zoonotic, vector-borne animal disease, level D PPE is recommended.
Pesticide workers and operators
Pesticides pose many risks to human health because they can enter the body through the skin, eyes, mouth, or lungs.
Pesticide workers can be exposed during mixing, loading, applying pesticides, or even cleaning the equipment used to apply them or disposing of the waste.
Therefore, wearing PPE is essential for their protection as it reduces exposure to pesticide powders, dust, and aerosols.
Pesticide workers use Level D PPE in low-risk situations, such as when handling Category III (slightly toxic) and IV (relatively non-toxic) pesticides.
Laboratory workers handle chemicals, solvents, powders, human blood, and bodily fluids.
Moreover, they can work with radioactive materials, open flames, UV, and laser radiation.
They are exposed to eye and skin irritation, small splashes and spills, infectious disease, and potential tissue damage.
Level D PPE is usually worn in laboratories.
However, the higher the risks involving corrosive chemicals with toxic fumes or chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin, the higher the PPE required.
Shop and Maintenance workers
Automobile and heavy equipment mechanics, locksmiths, woodworkers, and metalworkers handle heavy equipment, oils, and grim, sharp, and vibrating tools.
Moreover, they can be exposed to flying particles, noise, and electric shocks.
Level D PPE for shop maintenance workers can involve safety glasses, chemical-resistant gloves.
In addition to boots and hearing protection, they use face shields when working with high-speed tools.
The food industry involves many tasks, such as handling, preparing, processing, and transporting food.
All of these processes require complete safety, cleanliness, and quality assurance.
Therefore, workers must be fully aware of proper infection control measures, including hygiene techniques and proper PPE.
The food industry uses level D PPE, which includes gloves, overheads, aprons, and overshoes.
Level D PPE prevents the contamination of food with bacteria and other pathogens.
Moreover, it protects the worker’s health against food-borne illnesses, possible cut injuries when using tools, and burns from working with heat and flames.
How to select the right PPE level?
One thing you must have already realized by now is that the selection of appropriate PPE is not simple math.
Because there’s no combination of PPE pieces that protects against all possible hazards.
It isn’t if you’re in it to do that.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s more of a complex process involving many factors.
There are factors related to the hazard, such as its nature and concentration levels, how you will be exposed to it, and for how long.
Meanwhile, there are factors related to the PPE itself, such as its performance and material, how much it can protect you against certain risks.
Other factors may come to mind, such as cost, training programs, fitting tests, and the possible stress of using PPE on your health.
Of course, the more apparent these things are, the easier it is for you to select the proper PPE for the right situation.
That’s why the selection should be based on a site-based hazard assessment or analysis to obtain information about the expected hazards.
At the end of our series,
we would like to mention that PPE levels are a highly important and vast topic, so broad that it can take many articles to comprehend the size of its certifications and regulations fully.
However, we have attempted to provide a comprehensive overview of everything here.
We hope we were able to help you understand more about it.
It’s been a pleasant journey, and we hope you enjoy it.
Please message us if you have any further questions about PPE levels.