Interim Guidance for Protecting Deepwater Horizon Response Workers and Volunteers

B. Reuse of Personal Protective Equipment

Consult the manufacturer’s instructions on whether personal protective equipment should be disposed of or cleaned after use. If it can be cleaned, consider whether any special procedures are required for disposing the decontaminated waste. Tears, rips, pinholes, and other damage can result in penetration of the crude oil or other contaminants through the PPE. When damage is present, the PPE generally will need to be replaced since repair is often impractical.

1. Protective Clothing and Gloves

All chemicals including crude oil can be expected to permeate through protective barriers sooner or later. Permeation can take place without visible evidence in the protective materials. Many manufacturers of PPE, in particular manufacturers of gloves, will provide information on breakthrough times from various chemicals (time it takes for the chemical to pass through the protective material). The PPE will need to be removed and discarded prior to the stated breakthrough time. Users should consult with the specific manufacturer to confirm the performance of their product.

2. Respirators

Given the warm and humid conditions existing during the Deepwater Horizon Response, disposable filtering facepiece respirators will likely need to be discarded after several hours of use, in part because they will become moist with perspiration. These respirators should be discarded and replaced if they are soaked, contaminated, damaged, or hard to breathe through. For intermittent use of disposable filtering facepiece respirators, they may be stored in a clean, breathable container, such as a paper bag between uses. Disposable filtering facepiece respirators must be used only by a single wearer. Elastomeric respirators can be cleaned, disinfected and reused. Specific information on cleaning re-usable respirators can be found in the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard.26

Page last reviewed: June 25, 2010