The Keys to Implementing a PPE Decontamination Program

A roundtable discussion at AIHce 2014 covers how to implement a PPE decontamination program.

On the second day of the AIHA/ACGIH 2014 conference in San Antonio, a group of industry leaders covered the ins and outs of a Personal Protective Equipment decontamination program and how to implement one in a workplace. The roundtable covered decontamination objectives and methods, how to assess decontamination effectiveness, and the practical aspects of operating a decontamination facility.

To kick it off, Georgi Popov, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Central Missouri, covered the objectives and methods for decontamination. He spoke about the permeation and penetration of toxic substances; disposable, limited reusable, and reusable; the different types of contamination (surface and matrix); and the types of PPE that can be decontaminated -- respirators, encapsulating suits, and gloves. He also pointed out that more than $800 million is spent each year on protective gloves in the United States alone. In addition, $1 billion is spent each year treating illnesses as a result of skin exposure.

Next, Fred Bolton, PE, CIH, covered decontamination and doffing. He stressed the importance of not only decontamination, but getting the worker out of his or her PPE gear and safely home. He also gave tips, which included cleaning the suit opening, not just the suit; keeping the decon time brief; changing and washing gloves; and keeping decon team members in place. In addition, when dealing with liquid contamination, decon teams need to be sure to dry PPE openings before workers can exit their suits.

Don Linville, CIH, from the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, discussed the logistics of operating a decontamination facility. He pointed out that, in many facilities, decon people get ignored a lot. In addition, he stressed the importance of keeping decon simple -- choose the right PPE, wear it correctly, remove contamination, and doff the PPE.

Finally, Curtis Hintz, the industrial hygiene manager at Dow Chemical Company, spoke about the practical considerations of decontamination in industrial operations. He provided several photographs and case studies regarding specific applications in the field. He also discussed the importance of water as a primary decontaminant, properly examining PPE to determine whether or not it can be reused.

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