EPA Guidelines

Article | March 16, 2016
EPA Guidelines
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Following is a brief summary of the US EPA's (Environmental Protection Agency) "Level's of Protection (LOP)" as applicable to those individuals involved in handling hazardous materials. LOP's are based on the type of respiratory protection required to ensure the safety of the user under the specified conditions of use.

Along with respiratory protection, EPA's LOP's recommend the protective ensemble that the user should wear to ensure adequate protection. Also LOP's describe what this recommended protective ensemble should consist of and look like, but not necessarily how the various components should perform. NFPA standards specify actual performance criteria for the protective clothing that might be recommended under a LOP.

LEVEL A (Vapor or Gas Protection)

  • The highest available level of respiratory protection.
  • Fully encapsulated chemical suit with breathing apparatus.
  • Chemical hazard will typically have a high vapor pressure and toxicity through skin absorption or carcinogenic (cancer causing).
  • Work conditions that have a high potential (probability) for exposure to very high concentrations of chemical splash, immersion, or exposure to chemical vapors.
  • Situations that may involve unknown chemicals or chemical combinations (HAZMAT).

The employer shall verify that the required workplace hazard assessment has been performed through a written certification that identifies the workplace evaluated; the person certifying that the evaluation has been performed; the date(s) of the hazard assessment; and, which identifies the document as a certification of hazard assessment.

LEVEL B (Liquid Splash Protection)

  • The same level of respiratory protection is required as in Level A. However, a lesser degree of skin protection is needed than for Level A.
  • Level B protection allows for certain areas of exposed skin on the wearer. In the past, Level B protective clothing would include either a one piece or two-piece ensemble with the SCBA worn outside the garment. Separate gloves and boots would be "taped" or "sealed" at the interfaces to minimize chemical penetration. The trend now is to use encapsulating garments that are not "vapor tight" as Level B garments.
  • Chemicals that are known NOT to be vapors or gases that are toxic by skin absorption, or are carcinogenic (cancer causing).

Exposure situations will typically be at lower chemical concentrations (below established exposure limits).

LEVEL C (Particle or Liquid Splash Protection)

  • The same level of skin protection as Level B, but a lower level of respiratory protection is needed (i.e. air purifying respirators).
  • One or two piece splash suits are worn with a cartridge respirator.

Chemicals are not hazardous via skin absorption and are typically well below established exposure limits.

LEVEL D (No Hazard Protection)

  • No respiratory protection and very little skin protection is needed.
  • Coveralls and general safety gear (ie. shoes, gloves, eye, head wear) are worn.
  • The work environment has no possibility for contact with hazardous chemicals. (The workers do not expect to come in contact with chemicals.)

NOTE: PEL's, REL's, etc. all are Recommended or Permissible Exposure Limits and are set by organizations such as NIOSH and OSHA.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. published a listing of guidelines for these different levels of protection. These guidelines are listed on the following pages.

The type of equipment used and the level of protection should be reviewed from time to time. As the amount of information increases about the chemicals being used, the work environment, and the work being done, ----the level of protection required should be evaluated in order to know that it is still correct.

  1. The equipment recommended for each protection level
  2. The type of protection that is provided
  3. When a certain level of protection should be used
  4. Limiting criteria - facts that need to be considered


Level A

(1) Respirator (supplied air)

  • Positive Pressure / Pressure Demand
  • SCBA
  • Supplied Air (with emergency egress unit)

(2) Fully encapsulating chemical resistant suit.

(3) Gloves, chemical resistant

(4) Boots, chemical resistant, steel toe and shank

Level B

(1) Respirator (supplied air)

  • Positive Pressure / Pressure Demand
  • SCBA (may be external back pack)
  • Supplied air line

(2) Chemical resistant clothing

  • Coverall, splash suits, one or two piece

(3) Gloves, chemical resistant

(4) Boots (outer) chemical resistant, steel toe and shank

Level C

(1) Air purifying respirator (NIOSH approved)

(2) Chemical resistant clothing, splash suit, one or two piece.

(3) Gloves, outer, chemical resistant.

(4) Boots, outer, chemical resistant, steel toe & shank

Level D

(1) Coveralls

(2) Boots/shoes, leather or chemical resistant

(3) Misc. (i.e. head, eyewear, hearing protection, etc.)

There are several different companies that provide information and sell copies of standards and test methods. One of these companies is ILI Infodisk Inc. ILI can be reached in the United States at:

ILI Infodisk Inc.
610 Winters Avenue
Paramus , NJ 07652

Tel: 888 454 2688
Fax: 201 986 7886
Web:  www.ili-info.com

ILI can be reached in the United Kingdom at:

Index House
Berks SL5 7EU

Tel: 44 1344 636 300
Fax: 44 1344 291 194
Web:  www.ili.co.uk