When it comes to chemical protective garments, there have been a number of significant advancements over the last several decades. There are, according to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 20 million workers who wear some kind of personal protective clothing on a regular basis so that they can be protected from hazards on the job and feel secure in a safe workplace.
Protective apparel has come a long way over the years, saving lives and limbs and even eyesight when worn properly. There is no garment out there that can guarantee 100% safety, but technological advances have made the function of many garments far superior models from the past. For example, flame resistant fabric will ignite and burn at the point of ignition, but they will prevent the flames from spreading away from the ignition point, keeping flames contained in order to minimize the damage.
Chemical garments began to change significantly as the result of an accident in Benicia, California in 1983. Responding to a rail tank car that was leaking chemicals, a local hazmat team was making assessments of the damage when a team member noticed that his protective visor was beginning to crack. The team member lived, but not without suffering severe dermatitis as a result of the exposure.
One of the results from this terrible accident is that, in 1990, the National Fire Protection Association introduced the very first comprehensive standards to address chemical protective garments used by first responders.
Chemical protective garments are not limited to the clothing being worn. They also extend to eyewear and headgear, as well. Every year, as a result of work-related injuries, thousands of workers are blinded because they did not use the proper protection. Today, many eye and face injuries could be prevented if workers would only wear the tested and verified equipment furnished to them on the job.
Since the early 1990s, the chemical protective garments industry has evolved to provide improved first responder protection against on the job incidents and accidents involving hazardous materials. As the industry continues to move forward, protecting us all from the after-effects of various incidents, it is continuing to strive to keep those who work with hazardous materials as safe as they possibly can be.