When choosing the right disposable protective clothing, business owners and safety managers must consider many factors. First there is the level of employee exposure to a hazardous chemical or work task, along with the type hazard. Some aggressive chemicals, caustics and acids require a high level of protection and demand a disposable suit that is impervious to chemical penetration. Other environments may call for only splash protection against light-duty chemicals, where a breathable fabric is a better choice to keep workers protective and protected.
There are also specialty disposable protective clothing products that are needed for extreme workplace conditions. Pharmaceutical manufacturing and other controlled process environments may require disposable products that are manufactured and handled for meticulous cleanliness and sterility. These protective garments include cleanroom coveralls, cleanroom frocks, and cleanroom lab coats. Work environments where flames or an ignitable atmosphere is possible will demand very expensive fire resistant (FR) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Often, employers will supply disposable FR coveralls to protect their investment in FR clothing from oil, dust, and other contaminants which will limit how long they can provide useful service.
6 Things You May Not Know About Disposable Protective Clothing
1. Many Jobs Require Protection From Hazards
For certain work and many industries, disposable protective clothing in not always optional. If there is any likelihood that your employees will be exposed to toxic, airborne dust, liquid chemicals, fire or other fire-igniting sparks, biological contaminants, infectious disease, or hot surfaces from process equipment - there should be a Safety and Health Program in place that includes the use of personal protective equipment or PPE.
- Healthcare workers, infectious disease control
- Chemical plants employees
- Spraying and Laying Insulation
- Food and beverage processing
- Metals and petrochemical refineries
- Sterile manufacturing and testing labs
- Construction Sites - renovations and remediation
- Automotive paint and body shops
- Hazardous waste clean-up and disposal
- Pesticides and fertilizer applications
- Emergency response and rescue teams
- Asbestos and mold remediation services
- Chemical spills and site decontamination
2. Disposable PPE Clothing is Intended for Single Use
For almost all applications, disposable PPE is designed to be used one time only and by only one employee before the garment is disposed of. Some PPE such as googles and some respirator masks can be reused if properly cleaned or decontaminated, but this only applies if the product labeling permits. Anytime protective clothing is exposed to infectious substances such as blood or touching an infected patient - that garment is to be immediately considered contaminated and the proper removal procedures must be followed to prevent the wearer from being exposed to someone else's infectious agents.
The average commercial user could use 8-12 disposable suits per day since this PPE cannot be washed. Doing so will ruin the protective barrier that the material provides, making it less effective against hazards. It is not advised for employees to share PPE, as the protective qualities are only assured during one cycle of use by one person. Sharing of PPE also exposes another worker to the contaminants of the original wearer. Workers should be trained to recognize damaged PPE that may have a rip or hole in the material, and PPE that doesn't fit properly will likely not protect properly.
3. There is a Disposable Garment to Meet Every Level of Exposure
When you partner with a quality manufacturer of disposable garments you don't have to overpay for PPE that is too aggressive for the environment and your employee's safety. There are levels of chemical suit protection and other protective clothing that are economical to fit your budget. while still protecting workers. First, companies must evaluate their workplace hazards and their levels of concentration or risk from liquid chemicals, toxic dust, particulate contamination, or ignitable sparks and flammable materials. Then you can choose the right disposable protective clothing to fit your exact needs - airborne toxic vapors, particulate protection, liquid-splash, or fire resistant coveralls or uniforms.
Only the most hazardous environments require full body protection including full body suits, boots, hoods, face shields, gloves, and sometimes a breathing apparatus. Always follow OSHA Protective Clothing Guidelines for workplace PPE when in doubt.
4. The Manufacturer Supplies Important Performance Data
If your employees require chemical resistant coveralls, look to a manufacture that supplies critical performance data to prove the disposable protective outfit has been tested and passes for the type of chemicals found in your process plant. Here is a list of the type specifications and other pertinent information that should be easily found on the website of a reputable, disposable PPE manufacturer:
- Product Sizing Charts
- Comparison Chart - Good, Better, Best
- Product Data Sheets
- Fabric Physical Properties
You should always examine the data provided by the manufacturer for industrial chemical suit coveralls, medical and laboratory coveralls/aprons/lab coats, and fire resistant FR coveralls. The manufacturers' details should explain the type of fabric used and its benefits, the design features that increase protection, the service life of the protective clothing, along with how to handle and dispose of PPE clothing.
5. Choosing the Right PPE Style is Critical
Different jobs will expose workers to different levels of hazard. The right PPE style will have built-in features that are perfect for the task at hand. When choosing the right PPE style for coverage, you will have many choices including a full PPE suit, coveralls, lab coats, aprons, shoe covers, arm covers, and hair bonnets. But, within each of these design styles there will critical features that can enhance performance or comfort. Here are a list of features to look for when choosing the right PPE for your employees:
- Elastic, knit, or open wrists and ankles
- Thumb and/or Finger Loops at Cuff
- Zipper, snap, or tie closure
- Attached hood or boot
- Serged seams or taped seams
- Type of fabric
International Enviroguard provides a "Suit Yourself" easy-to-use selection guide for picking the right PPE for general protection or advanced chemical exposure that gives you confidence when choosing the right PPE. Simply select the type of agent your workers need protection from - and will be presented with a range of options from economical, lightweight protection to high-performing protective clothing. Here is a list of the selection options available for different environments:
- Dry particulate, dirt, and grime
- Liquid and particle over-spray
- Liquids under pressure
- Blood and blood-borne pathogens
- Chemical Splash
- Sparks and flames
6. Different PPE Manufacturers Use Different Fabrics
PPE manufacturers will use different fabrics for each level of strength and protection that the protective garment needs to withstand. Most situations do not demand the costly PPE garments such as Tyvek®. This synthetic material is made from flashspun, high-density polyethylene fibers. Tyvek® is a permanent product that is washable and is commonly used by oil industry workers. Other fabrics that work well for industrial applications and are much more economical include fabrics made from the following materials:
- SMS fabrics are a combination of spunbond and meltblown material layers that results in excellent strength and abrasion properties along with being an excellent barrier against light liquids, dust, dirt and grime.
- Polypropylene fabrics are a cost-effective, thermoplastic alternative is an economical solution designed for non-hazardous environments – and protection from dust, dirt and grime.
- Proprietary fabrics that are specially designed by manufacturers to fit an exact need such as protection from hazardous and noxious particulates while still being breathable to keep workers cool and avoid heat stress. These specialty materials are used for mold remediation, manufacturing, handling dangerous chemicals, and other industrial applications.
When choosing the right PPE for your industrial or medical application, partner with International Enviroguard to gain access to a huge inventory of disposal protective clothing that fits the hazard and your employee's comfort.