Personal Protective Equipment for First Responders and First Receivers

This Knowledge Base topic provides first responders and hospital-based patient decontamination workers a comprehensive review of the technical information which will allow them to make informed decisions regarding the acquisition and appropriate use of certain types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The information presented is based on various federal and manufacturer guidance documents, including the U.S. Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA).

OSHA defines PPE as: “Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as ‘PPE’, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits.”1

The following guidance is primarily intended for incidents involving chemical hazards. Contamination resulting from the release of airborne radionuclides or biologic agents often requires specialized personal protective equipment, response techniques, and training. In fact, the majority of commercially available PPE is only tested against specific toxic industrial chemicals and chemical warfare agents. While it is common practice to use this type of PPE in biological or radiological events, organizations should understand that PPE isn’t specifically tested to protect workers from anything but known chemical threats.

The various PPE ensembles utilized within health care facilities varies greatly. The content in this knowledge base will focus on specific PPE worn by first receivers of hospital-based patient decontamination events, however, N95 respirators and bio-specific PPE will also be discussed, but not as extensively. Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, often referred to as simply SCBA, will also be discussed at length. For more information on the various other types of PPE used in industry, visit OSHA’s website here or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).


1. PPE OverviewA first responder conducting a thorough PAPR inspection
2. Selecting the Proper Chemical Protective Ensemble and Respirator
3. PPE for First Receivers at Hospital-Based Patient Decontamination Events
4. PPE for First Responders
5. General PPE Safety Considerations
6. Additional Safety Considerations for PPE Operations
7. Physical Considerations for PPE Operations
8. Acronyms
9. PPE References