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A number of chemical protective suits have been developed to provide a wide range of chemical resistance, durability relative to physical hazards, and limited resistance to ignition. Vapor-protective and liquid splash-protective suits compliant with NFPA 1991 and 1992, respectively, require primary materials (garment, visor, gloves, and boots) to resist ignition and provide self-extinguishing properties. While this requirement is designed to limit the use of inherently flammable materials in the construction of chemical protective suits, it does little to address a major concern to emergency responders - the rapid combustion or flash of a flammable chemical atmosphere. The ability of the chemical suit ensemble to protect under these circumstances remains uncertain without tests to demonstrate suit performance in a simulated chemical flashover.
This study involved development and selection of test methods to measure chemical protective suit performance in chemical flash environments. This work supports the development of the new NFPA Standards for flash protective clothing. A two part approach was followed. This first involved selecting a test for materials which simulates the relatively short, but high temperature exposure of a chemical flash. This phase involved comparing material performance in flame resistance, thermal protective performance (TPP), radiant reflective, and small scale flash environment tests. The second part was aimed at conducting a whole ensemble test where the chemical protective suit was placed on a mannequin within an enclosed area which was then filled with propane and ignited. This test was developed such that temperatures measured inside the suit can determine the extent of protection offered by the ensemble.
The resulting overall condition of the suit is also a recommended means for assessing performance.
Test methods, chemical protective clothing, chemical flashover, flame resistance, thermal protective performance, radiant reflectivity, flammable atmosphere
Division Manager, TRI Environtrental, Inc., Austin, TX
President, Biotherm, Inc., Beaver Creek, OH
Mechanical Engineer, Kappler Safety Group, Guntersville, AL
Deputy Chief, Phoenix, AZ