A Free Guide to the US EPA Levels of Protection in PPE - Level A through D

EPA Levels of Protection

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency levels of protection can be used as a starting point for assembly of protective clothing ensembles. However, each ensemble must be tailored to the specific situation to provide the most appropriate level of protection.

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EPA Levels of Protection

When response activities are conducted where atmospheric contamination is known or suspected to exist, personal protective equipment must be worn.

Personal protective equipment is designed to prevent/reduce skin and eye contact as well as inhalation or ingestion of the chemical substance.

Protective equipment to protect the body against contact with known or anticipated chemical hazards has been divided into four categories.

LEVEL A

Level A protection should be worn when the highest level of respiratory, skin, eye and mucous membrane protection is needed.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • Positive pressure (pressure demand), self contained breathing apparatus (NIOSH approved), or positive-pressure supplied air respirator with escape SCBA.
  • Fully encapsulating chemical protective suit.
  • Gloves, inner, chemical resistant.
  • Gloves, outer, chemical resistant.
  • Boots, chemical resistant, steel toe and shank; (depending on suit boot construction, worn over or under suit boot.)
  • Underwear, cotton, long-john type.*
  • Hard hat (under suit).*
  • Coveralls (under suit).*
  • Two-way radio communications (intrinsically safe/non-sparking).*

    * Optional

LEVEL B

Level B protection should be selected when the highest level of respiratory protection is needed, but a lesser level of skin and eye protection. Level B protection is the minimum level recommended on initial site entries until the hazards have been further identified and defined by monitoring, sampling, and other reliable methods of analysis, and equipment corresponding with those findings utilized.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • Positive-pressure (pressure-demand), self-contained breathing apparatus (NIOSH approved), or positive-pressure supplied air respirator with escape SCBA.
  • Chemical resistant clothing (overalls and long-sleeved jacket, coveralls, hooded two-piece chemical splash suit, disposable chemical resistant coveralls.)
  • Coveralls (under splash suit).*
  • Gloves, outer, chemical resistant.
  • Gloves, inner, chemical resistant.
  • Boots, outer, chemical resistant, steel toe and shank.
  • Boot-covers, chemical resistant (disposable).*
  • Two-way radio communications (intrinsically safe).*
  • Hard hat. *
  • Faceshield.*

* Optional

LEVEL C

Level C protection should be selected when the type of airborne substance is known, concentration measured, criteria for using air-purifying respirators met, and skin and eye exposure is unlikely. Periodic monitoring of the air must be performed.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • Full-face or half-mask, air-purifying respirator (NIOSH approved).
  • Chemical resistant clothing (one piece coverall, hooded two piece chemical splash suit, chemical resistant hood and apron, disposable chemical resistant coveralls.)
  • Gloves, outer, chemical resistant.
  • Gloves, inner, chemical resistant.
  • Boots, steel toe and shank, chemical resistant.
  • Boot-covers, chemical resistant.*
  • Cloth coveralls (inside chemical protective clothing).*
  • Two-way radio communications (intrinsically safe).*
  • Hard hat. *
  • Escape mask. *
  • Faceshield.*

* Optional

LEVEL D

Level D is primarily a work uniform and is used for nuisance contamination only. It requires only coveralls and safety shoes/boots. Other PPE is based upon the situation (types of gloves, etc.). It should not be worn on any site where respiratory or skin hazards exist. Refer to The Office of Emergency and Remedial Response. Environmental Response, Division. See "Interim Standard Operating Safety Procedures" for full details.

The type of environment and the overall level of protection should be reevaluated periodically as the amount of information about the site increases and as workers are required to perform different tasks.

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Reasons to upgrade to a higher level (D is lowest, A is highest)

  • Known or suspected presence of dermal hazards
  • Occurrence or likely occurrence of gas or vapor emission
  • Change in work task that will increase contact or potential contact with hazardous materials
  • Request of the individual performing the task

Reasons to downgrade:

  • New information indicating that the situation is less hazardous than was originally thought
  • Change in site conditions that decreases the hazard
  • Change in work task that will reduce contact with hazardous materials