NFPA 1991 — Setting Standards for Emergency Response PPE

NFPA 1991 provides minimum levels of protection for emergency response PPE against vapor, liquid splash, and particulate materials in HAZMAT environments.

NFPA 1991 Overview

The purpose of NFPA 1991, Standard on Vapor-Protective Ensembles for Hazardous Materials Emergencies, 2005 Edition, is to “establish a minimum level of protection for emergency response personnel against adverse vapor, liquid-splash, and particulate environments during hazardous materials incidents, and from specified chemical and biological terrorism agents in vapor, liquid splash, and particulate environments during chemical and biological terrorism incidents.” [§ 1.2.1, NFPA 1991 (2005 Edition)] The emphasis in 1991 is on protection from vapors, but the garments are directly tested for total-body liquid protection, and, on the basis of gas inward leakage, whole-body particle protection.

NFPA 1991 Testing Requirement Details

NFPA 1991 deals with vapor, liquid-splash, and particulate protection during HAZMAT incidents. NFPA 1991 is an “ensemble” standard that addresses protection of the entire body from head to toe, except for the actual respiratory device. NFPA 1991 garments must meet the definition of Level A found in 29CFR1910.120 (HAZWOPER). Specific testing required by NFPA 1991 includes:

  • Inflation of ensembles to determine gas-tight integrity
  • "Shower" testing to demonstrate liquid-tight integrity
  • Permeation testing against a battery of 21-industrial chemicals, two chemical warfare agents, and four additional hazardous chemicals considered to represent potential terrorism weapons. The garment material, gloves, footwear, and visors are all subjected to chemical barrier testing
  • Burst strength, puncture resistance, cold-temperature performance, abrasion resistance, and flex fatigue testing of suit, glove, and footwear materials
  • Breaking-strength testing for seams and closures
  • Leakage and mounting-strength testing of exhaust valves
  • Testing to evaluate the functional use of the ensembles and dexterity of the gloves
  • Surface flame impingement

NFPA 1991 provides for two optional endorsements — for flash-fire escape and for liquefied gases. The flash-fire escape endorsement requires a higher level of surface flammability resistance and requires the garment to hold air after being subjected to a propane flash fire. The liquefied gas option tests the materials for flex damage after cold-temperature exposure, and for permeation by the more highly concentrated liquefied gases (ammonia, chlorine, and ethylene oxide).

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