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Chemical suits - part 1

SATRA can test and certify chemical suits to meet the PPE Directive. David McKeown reports.

Disposable chemical suits are widely used in many industries. They are light in weight, pose little ergonomic burden and can be disposed of if contaminated, but will protect against a light chemical mist or spray, or ingress of solid particulates.

Disposable chemical suits are commonly referred to as type 5 or 6 suits: a type 5 suit meets EN ISO 13982-1 – protective clothing against solid particulates; a type 6 suit meets EN 13034 – protective clothing against chemical mists/sprays. Often the same suit will protect against both hazards.

EN ISO 13982-1:2004+A1:2010 and EN 13034:2005+A1:2009 were published as European standards and it is expected that manufacturers and suppliers will want to have their products tested and CE marked using these standards for the European market. Materials from both suit types must be subjected to a range of physical and chemical tests. There are also specified whole suit tests.

As a Notified Body and test house, SATRA is able to coordinate the testing and certification of these products against the European Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Directive. Manufacturers and suppliers should be aware that these products are categorised as Complex PPE by the directive. It is essential, therefore, that the suits are subject to a type examination before being placed on the market. In addition, following certification, the production of these products must be subject to ongoing conformity checks by a Notified Body under article 11 of the PPE Directive.

To qualify as type 5, suits must pass a whole suit inward leakage test specified in EN ISO 13982-2. This assesses the ability of the suit and its closure systems to prevent particulates reaching the face, especially nose and mouth of a wearer. The test takes place in an enclosed atmosphere into which a non-toxic particulate simulant is released. It is essential to meet the requirements, that the suit manufacturer or supplier provides clear instructions how to avoid the ingress of particulates in interface areas such as the areas of overlap between the suit and the facemask/gloves/boots.

Type 6 suits must also pass a whole suit test, but this time the suit is tested against a mist or fine spray of water. The water is dosed with a surfactant (mild detergent) to produce a specified surface tension and a dye to aid assessment of leakage. The test subject wears an absorbent suit underneath the one to be tested, which absorbs any leaks and is stained by the dye. Success or failure is determined by measuring the total area of any stains on three suits and comparing this with the requirement. Leaks will typically occur at closures and interface areas, but the liquid can also seep through the material itself.

A range of other tests is specified, including resistance to abrasion, resistance to flexing (type 5 only), tear strength, tensile strength (type 6 only), resistance to puncture, resistance to penetration by liquid chemicals (type 6 only) and seam strength. In the test for liquid chemical repellency and resistance to penetration by liquid chemicals, a bank of four test chemicals is given in the standard although the requirement is that the suit material demonstrates adequate repellency and resistance to penetration against just one chemical from this list. The user instructions must display the results of these tests.

Further information on SATRA's PPE certification and testing services is available at www.satra.com/ppe

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Please email ppe@satra.com for further information on how to get your suits tested and certified against CE type-approval.