Chapter 32: Hazardous Materials - Fundamentals of Fire Fighter

Fundamentals of Fire Fighter Skills, Third Edition
Chapter 32: Hazardous Materials: Personal Protective Equipment, Scene Safety and Scene
Chief Concepts
The proper use of PPE and scene control are critical to ensuring the safety of fire fighters,
victims, and bystanders.
The levels of TLVs are the following:
• Threshold limit value/short-term exposure limit (TLV/STEL): The maximum
concentration of material to which a person can be exposed for 15-minute
intervals, up to four times a day, without experiencing irritation or chronic or
irreversible tissue damage.
• Threshold limit value/ceiling (TLV/C): The maximum concentration of material
to which a worker should not be exposed, even for an instant.
• Threshold limit value/skin: The concentration at which direct or airborne contact
with a material could result in possible and significant exposure from absorption
through the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes.
OSHA’ s regulatory measures that are comparable to the TLV/TWA are as follows:
• The permissible exposure limit (PEL): Measures the maximum, time-weighted
concentration of material to which 95 percent of healthy adults can be exposed
without suffering any adverse effects over a 40-hour workweek.
• Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH): An atmospheric
concentration of a toxic, corrosive, or asphyxiant substance poses an immediate
threat to life or could cause irreversible or delayed adverse health effects.
Exposure guidelines are intended to minimize the possibility that either responders or the
public will be exposed to hazardous materials or atmospheres that will lead to harm.
Exposure guidelines can be used to define the three basic atmospheres at a hazardous
materials emergency:
• Safe atmosphere: No harmful hazardous materials effects exist, so personnel can
handle routine emergencies without donning specialized PPE.
• Unsafe atmosphere: A hazardous material that is no longer contained has created
an unsafe condition or atmosphere. A person who is exposed to the material for
long enough will probably experience some form of acute or chronic injury.
• Dangerous atmosphere: Serious, irreversible injury or death can occur in the
Selecting the appropriate PPE for a hazardous materials
incident is a potentially life-saving decision. Adequate PPE should protect the fire
fighter’s respiratory system, as well as the skin, eyes, face, hands, feet, head, body, and
Which type of PPE is required for the incident depends on the activities that the fire
fighter is expected to perform.
The categories of hazardous materials–specific PPE include the following:
• Street clothing and work uniforms: Offer the least amount of protection
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Structural firefighting protective clothing: Offers no chemical protection but
protects against abrasion and direct skin contact
• High temperature–protective equipment: Protects the wearer during short-term
exposures to high temperatures
• Chemical-protective clothing and equipment: Includes liquid splash–protective
clothing and vapor-protective clothing
Respiratory protection includes the following:
• Supplied-air respirators (SARs): Have an external air source such as a compressor
or storage cylinder
• Air-purifying respirators (APRs): Filtering devices
• Powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs): Filtering devices
The chemical-protective clothing ratings are as follows:
• Level A protection: Provides the highest level of protection for skin, eyes, and
• Level B protection: Used when the type and atmospheric concentration of
identified substances require a high level of respiratory protection but less skin
• Level C protection: Used when the type of airborne substance is known, its
concentration is measured, the criteria for using APRs are met, and skin and eye
exposure is unlikely
• Level D protection: Used when the atmosphere contains no known hazard, and
when work functions preclude splashes, immersion, or the potential for
unexpected inhalation of or contact with hazardous levels of chemicals
Temperature-related conditions and stress pose dangers. If the body cannot disperse heat
because it is covered by a closed, impermeable garment, serious short- and long-term
medical situations could result. These medical conditions include the following:
• Heat rash: Can lead to skin infections.
• Heat cramps: Painful muscle spasms caused by electrolyte imbalance.
• Heat exhaustion: Mild form of shock that occurs when the body overheats.
• Heat stroke: Potentially fatal condition. Reduction or cessation of sweating is the
first symptom. Immediate medical attention is required.
To avoid cold-related injuries such as frostbite, fire fighters should dress in layers and try
to keep dry.
The control zones at a hazardous materials incident are as follows:
• Hot zone: Area immediately around the incident. Only properly trained and
equipped personnel should enter this zone.
• Warm zone: Contains the decontamination corridor.
• Cold zone: No special PPE is required. This zone contains the incident command
post, personnel staging area, and rehabilitation area.
Team members should always remain within sight, sound, or touch of each other.
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