Protective Equipment (PPE)
investigation and assessment of human health hazards and nuisances that
may be done by public health workers and Environmental Health (EH)
practitioners will sometimes require the use of Personal Protective
Equipment (PPE) to protect against potential exposures to
environmental health hazards. While
not all local health departments conduct environmental health hazard
investigations, all public health workers and EH should be aware of the
PPE requirements for these possible exposures, because ultimately, the
local health officer is responsible for human health hazard abatement in
his or her jurisdiction (DHS 140.04) as well as assuring the National
Public Health Essential Services are implemented as described in
Wisconsin Statute 250.03(10)(L).
All PPE used by EH and public health workers
should be in accordance with the agency’s PPE Program (OSHA Standard
29 CFF 1910.32). Elements of
the PPE Program include hazard assessment, appropriate PPE selection and
assure its use, training, and monitoring of the program to ensure its
ongoing effectiveness. (See PPE Program development page)
During human health
hazard and environmental hazard investigations, a hazard assessment
should also be done by conducting a walk-through survey of the areas in
question. The purpose is to
identify sources of hazards to workers and co-workers. The type of hazards EH staff may encounter include:
dust or particles
- Liquid chemicals
- Other chemicals
liquids, powders or substances
that can strike, pierce, crush or puncture
that might scrape, bruise or cut
or unstable materials overhead
or falling objects
mists, vapors, splashes
heat or cold
Health (EH) practitioners should become familiar with the types of PPE
that may be required to protect against potential hazards encountered
during human health hazard investigations, and should be aware of
situations when the use of PPE is necessary.
EH practitioners must also be able to determine when the PPE that
they have available is inappropriate and may not provide sufficient
protection. There are OSHA
Standards on the specific types of PPE commonly used by EH and public
and Face Protection (29CFR 1910.133)
Protection (29CFR 1910.134)
Protection (29CFR 1910.135)
Protection (29CFR 1910.136)
At a minimum, the investigation of human health hazards often
requires the wearing of common PPE and protective clothing to protect
your feet (boots or heavy shoes), eyes (safety glasses), hands (safety
gloves, disposable nitrile or latex-free gloves), body (Tyvek® suits or
gowns), and head (hard hat). This
gear may not be appropriate for all situations, but having access to
this equipment will assure that it is available when needed.
For situations involving chemical spills, hazardous
materials, confined spaces, or criminal activity, EH practitioners and
public health workers, unless specifically trained to respond to the
type of incident observed, should refer the situation to a local fire
department Hazardous Materials (Haz Mat) team, law enforcement
officials, or the regional Wisconsin
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Chemical Spill Coordinator. (exit
OSHA General PPE Requirements Standard
29CFR1910 Subpart I (exit
Wisconsin COMM Chapter 32
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For environmental health exposures the use of standard
precautions refers to general contact control practices that prevent
contamination of the skin, eyes, mucous membranes, and clothing.
These precautions should be observed when contact with
potentially hazardous materials, body fluids, fecal material, and other
environmental contaminants are a possibility.
The following standard precautions should be used during
possible, the EH practitioner should try to avoid contact with a
potential contaminant. This
may require observance from a distance, or referral of the situation to
a trained response professional.
hands with soap and water and dry with disposable towels after any
potential contamination may have occurred.
washing must also be done prior to putting on (donning) PPE and
immediately after removing (doffing) PPE.
washing should be followed with the application of hand sanitizer, if
of PPE Use for Environmental Health Investigations
situations, the EH practitioner should wear work boots or heavy shoes,
protective gloves (to protect against sharp objects or debris), and
protective headgear, depending on the observed hazards.
nitrile or latex-free exam gloves should be worn when there is a
possibility of skin contact.
masks or dust masks should be worn when there is a possibility of splash
or dust entering the mouth or nose.
a face shield, or safety glasses should be worn when there is a
possibility of splash, dust, or debris entering the eyes.
suit, disposable gown, and
shoe coverings should be worn when there is a possibility of debris,
dirt, or other hazardous substance causing contamination of clothing and
respirator (N95 or higher) may be worn for situations involving airborne
particles, infectious disease organisms or mold
spores. The use of
respirators is regulated by OSHA Respiratory Standards (CFR
1910.134, Respiratory Protection) (exit
DHS). Prior to using a respirator for protection, the user must be
properly trained, medically evaluated, and fit-tested.
For lead or asbestos contamination it is recommended to use the
reusable half-mask respirator with P100 filters per the OSHA Respiratory
1910.1025, Lead, and
1910.1001, Asbestos). (exit
after use, PPE must be removed and discarded in a leak-proof plastic
bag. For most environmental
investigations, PPE disposal in a biohazard container is not necessary.
protection, waders or rubber boots, a change of clothes, cell phone or
portable radio, camera, ID with photo, and conducting the inspection
with another “team” member or law enforcement personnel.
Department of Health Services (DHS) Infection Control PPE webpage
DHS Public Health Nurse Consultant public health nurse
web delivered courses: Human Health Hazards and Environmental Health
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Frequently Asked Questions
When should I wear a respirator for a human health
hazard exposure investigation, and what type do I need?
When conducting investigations where there is a lot of dust
and debris present, such as in home renovations, construction sites, and
disaster clean-up sites, use of dust masks or surgical-type masks may
provide adequate protection. If
the hazard assessment involves potential lead or asbestos contamination,
if there is fecal material from birds or bats present, or if mold spores
are a potential hazard, a N95 respirator is necessary to provide
protection. When the
investigation involves hazardous chemicals, gasses and/or vapors, the EH
practitioner should not enter the site until it has been cleared by a
hazardous materials team, unless the EH practitioner is specifically
trained in these types of investigations.
In most situations, the respiratory equipment required is beyond
the scope of most local health departments.
Confined spaces and other oxygen-deficient environments require
the use of self-contained breathing apparatus, and should only be
entered by professionals. If
the site is an asbestos or lead abatement project, the site should only
be entered by a certified person.
Lead and asbestos inspections require the use of a half-mask
respirator with replacement P100 filters specifically designed for
either lead or asbestos (CFR
1910.1025, Lead, and
1910.1001, Asbestos) (exit
I have to investigate an odor complaint at a large
farm, and will be using a meter to check gas levels.
What PPE do I need?
Most farm odor problems involve the release of gases, so use
of an N95 particulate respirator will not protect you from any gases
present. A N95
respirator may be helpful if the farm is extremely dusty, especially if
the dusts are from agricultural products that may cause allergic
reactions (hay, grains, feed). Care
must be exercised to keep from entering an area with unsafe levels of
gases, and you should try to remain in well-ventilated areas during the
investigation. Other PPE
that should be worn would include: boots/shoes with shoe covers; Tyvek®
suit to protect from manure
and/or agricultural chemicals; and eye protection (if very dusty).
I have to
investigate a house that is in poor condition.
What do I need?
Prior to entry be sure that the house is structurally sound
enough to allow safe entry. Contact
a building inspector and the building owner to be sure entry can be done
safely. A N95 respirator is
probably appropriate, as lead dust and asbestos fibers may be present.
Additional PPE would include a Tyvek® suit, shoe covers, nitrile
gloves, and a hard hat. If
you determine that lead paint or asbestos is present, refer the
situation to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Asbestos
and Lead Section or to a local lead/asbestos risk assessor.
I need to determine if a home is habitable after a
flood. What PPE is needed?
After a disaster, the first step is to assure that the
structure is sound. Contact
a building inspector if there is a question.
In addition check with Emergency Management officials to be sure
the utilities have been disconnected and that you have authorization to
be in the home. After being
cleared to enter, you should wear a Tyvek® suit with shoe covers,
nitrile or disposable gloves, eye protection, and work boots or rubber
boots. Post-disaster sites
often contain debris, sharp objects, and chemical residues, so be
careful to keep from getting scratched or injured.
If mold is obvious or musty odors are present a N95 respirator
should also be worn to protect against mold spores.
I have been asked by law enforcement to assess an
illegal methamphetamine laboratory (meth lab).
What do I need for PPE?
Prior to entering, be sure that the local fire department’s
Hazardous Materials (Haz Mat) team or a hazardous waste contractor has
cleared the site. Meth labs
often have residues of hazardous and toxic materials, so you must be
certain that chemical fumes have been reduced to below safety standards.
Contact the Haz Mat team or contractor to determine if additional
air monitoring is necessary. In
addition, check with the law enforcement agency in charge to be sure
that all evidence needed by the law enforcement agency has been
collected and that they have authorized your entry into the Meth lab.
Wear a Tyvek® suit with shoe covers, nitrile or disposable
gloves, and eye protection. Use
of a dust mask, surgical-type mask, or N95 respirator will not be
helpful in protecting you from chemical fumes and will not be necessary,
unless particulate hazards (dust, mold, insulation, etc) are a
I have been asked to help assess the risk of a mercury
spill. Can I do that?
you have been trained in the use of the Lumex Mercury Analyzer®, you
can investigate as long as the air concentration stays below the
Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) that does not require a respirator.
If the air quality is unknown or if the mercury vapor level
exceeds standards, a half-face respirator with a mercury vapor chemical
cartridge is necessary
DHS) The N95
or P100 respirators do not provide adequate protection to mercury
vapors. Use a Tyvek® suit,
shoe covers, and nitrile gloves for PPE.
Consult with Wisconsin
Division of Public Health Environmental Health staff prior to beginning the investigation.
I am investigating a hoarding/dirty house complaint
and animal waste is everywhere. What
PPE should I use?
In a hoarding situation, especially with large amounts of
fecal material present, wear a Tyvek® suit, disposable gloves, eye
protection, and shoe covers. If
the house is dusty or mold may be present use a N95 respirator.
If the house strongly smells of ammonia/urine, especially if the
odor begins to irritate your eyes and mucous membranes, you should leave
the house and obtain equipment or personnel to sample the ammonia
prior to entry is preferable as ammonia will lead to desensitized
olfactory detection over time.
If you have any questions, e-mail Ryan Wozniak at
July 21, 2014