Personal Protective Equipment: Garments
Personal protective equipment garments are divided into full-body protective gear and partial-body protective gear. A protective suit is an umbrella term for any item of clothing or suit which protects the wearer against a variety of different harmful agents. The full body garment may or may not include protection to the wearer's hands feet and head. Many items of PPE do not protect the body similarly in all places. Full body suits protect against the following physical hazards:

  • Physical hazards

  • Environmental hazards

  • Chemical hazards

  • Biological hazards

  • Thermal injury

  • Radiation injury
    Full body suits come in:
    · Full body suits
    · Jacket and trouser combinations
    · Jacket and overall combinations · Coveralls

Complete suits include the "chemsuit" or the NBC suit, which stands for "Nuclear, Biological and Chemical suit) that protects the wearer from radioactive contamination, biological or chemical substances, depending on the design of the suit. It is the military equivalent of the Hazmat Suit. It is used in the armed services and in the health and safety industry as a defense against weapons of mass destruction, including the cleanup after a terrorist attack. It is also used in some industrial industries to clean up after industrial accidents. Such NBC suits are intended to be worn over a military uniform and are made from impermeable rubber, although some also use a filter that allows air and sweat to slowly pass out of the suit. The British equivalent of the NBC suit is called a "Noddy suit". The Soviet equivalent is known as the "Womble Suit" and consists of a suit with an attached respirator and visor glasses. In Canada, such suites are known as "Bunnysuits".

A Hazmat Suit is defined and used by the US Department of Homeland Security. It protects the individual against chemicals, biological hazards and radioactivity. Protection against chemical agents occurs through the use of Teflon, heavy PVC, Tyvek or rubber. There is radiation shielding through the lining of the material and a respirator protects against inhaling radioactive particles or gaseous agents. The Hazmat suit is fully sealed so as to protect the individual from biological substances. It uses insulating and reflecting material to protect the wearer from fire or high temperature exposure.

Hazmat suits used in the laboratory have extended-use air hoses so that the wearer doesn't have to wear a tank. The air is pumped using positive pressure to prevent agents from entering the suit if it should leak or become ruptured. Hazmat suits are difficult to work in as they are not very flexible and are somewhat heavy. Use is generally limited to 2 hours of time, depending on the level of work required. Hazmat suits have three different rating levels:

· Level A suits are completely vapor-tight and provide total encapsulation of the wearer against any direct or airborne chemical contact. They often have a self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) enclosed within the suit.

· Level B suits are not vapor-tight and are worn with SCBA gear inside or outside of the suit. It offers a less level of protection.

· Level C suits include the use of coveralls or splash suits that provide the least level of protection. They are worn with a gas mask or a respirator.

· Level D suits are technically not Hazmat suits but require only specific protective garments and eye splash protection.

Hazmat suits come in two variants: splash protection and gastight suits. Splash protection suits primarily prevent the individual from coming in contact with a dangerous liquid but do not protect against dusts and gases.

Gastight suits protect the wearer from any kind of outside influence except heat and radiation. Level A suits are gas tight and protect against airborne and direct chemical contact. They are made from several layers and there is a release valve which keeps the suit from overinflating due to the SCBA gear. The valve does retain some air to keep a positive pressure of air inside the suit and the individual needs to switch to an external airline after about 15-20 minutes.
Splash protection suits are generally considered level B and are not completely vapor tight. They can be worn with SCBA gear, which can be inside or outside of the suit. Such suits resemble Tyvek coveralls used in the construction industry but may also be fully encapsulating.

Materials used in Garments
Full-body garments are typically made from the following materials:

· Woven or unwoven knit textiles

· Leather materials

· Rubber materials

· Rubber fabric

· Plastic materials

· Plastic fabrics

· Aluminized fabrics

They are often lined by fabric that wicks away body perspiration as well as barrier materials to prevent the penetration of liquids or batting materials that protect against severe heat or cold.

The design of the personal protective garments makes a difference in the protective capabilities of the garment. Such garments can be sewn, sewn and bound with a separate material piece, heat sealed, glued and taped and sewn or heat sealed and glued.
They can be:

· Snapped

· Hook and eyed

· Zippered

· Two-track closed

· Hooked and loop taped

· Adhesive taped
The garments interface with gloves and are attached to them. They are also attached by means of the cuff to footwear, and connected by the collar to the hood.

Partial Body Garments
Partial body garments provide protection to only a portion of the wearer's body, including the upper torso, lower torso, arms, legs, neck or head. They prevent injury due to the following exposures:

· Physical exposure

· Environmental exposure

· Chemical exposure

· Biological exposure

· Thermal hazards

· Electrical exposure

· Radiation exposure
Such partial garments include:

· Hoods, head covers or bouffants

· Aprons, gowns, smocks, lab coats and vests

· Sleeve protectors

· Chaps, leggings or spats for leg protection
Hood material can be made of knit material or woven textiles, coated fabrics, rubber or plastic materials and are generally loosely fitting. Hoods often pull over the head or close together in the front. They can offer head but not face enclosures or can have eye slits only, which protect the face as well. Eye holes are also possible.
Aprons, gowns, smocks, lab coats and vests protect the trunk and occasionally the top portion of the legs and the arms. Such garments are often used in the healthcare industry and in certain other industries. Gowns typically have a partially open back and are attached by Velcro or snap enclosures. They protect the trunk, arms and the upper portion of the legs. Smocks provide protection for the torso, arms and upper legs.
Sleeve protectors attach through the use of elastic bands or hook and loop enclosures that keep the arms protected in certain industries. They are either open ended, have a thumb-hook or are bar-tacked for all fingers and the thumb.
Chaps generally protect the sides or legs from hazards, although some protect the backs of the legs as well. Some fit onto the belt of the wearer and are snapped at the bottom. Alternatively, Velcro or elastic is used to secure the base of the chap. Leggings protect only the lower leg and have an elastic band around the top to keep the leggings in place. Some have adjustable instep straps that secure the legging to the footwear.
Ballistics Protection

Ballistic or "bullet proof vests" are items of personal protective equipment used in the military, security industry and in law enforcement which prevent impact from firearm-fired bullets and sharp shrapnel used in explosives. The protection is primarily for the torso of the wearer. There are today soft vests created from many layers of laminated or woven fibers that protect the wearer from small hand grenades, handgun bullets and shotgun bullets. In some cases, there are metal and ceramic plates embedded inside the soft vest which protect the wearer from rifle fire. Soft armor can also protect the wearer from slashing or stabbing by a knife or other sharp object. Soft vests are normally worn by private citizens and security guards, while hard-plate reinforced ballistic vests are worn by combat soldiers and the police force, especially SWAT teams.

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Ballistic vests utilize layers of very strong fibers that catch and deform a bullet, spreading its force across larger areas of the vest. The vest absorbs the energy of the bullet, bringing it to a stop before it can penetrate the complete matrix. Some fibers may be penetrated but they deform the bullet, absorbing the energy of the bullet. The wearer may still experience a sort of blunt force trauma but don't have the penetration of the bullet.

Vests have specifications that include both the penetration resistance and limits on the amount of impact energy that can be safely delivered to the body. Vests designed for impact resistance against bullets are poorly protective against sharp objects, like knives or from bullets with a non-deformable core, such as steel. Textile vests are therefore augmented with steel, ceramic, titanium or polyethylene plates that provide extra protection to the body's vital areas. They have been proven to be protective against a range of handgun and rifle bullets. Such vests are of particular use in the military, while vests signed to protect against slashing injuries are popular in the corrections industry.


Bullet-proof vests existed as early as 1538, when Francesco Maria della Movere had a bullet-proof vest commissioned. A similar vest was used in the Holy Roman Empire, also in the 16th century. These were hard, forged vests that dented when a bullet struck it.

In the 1800's, a bullet-proof vest was used shortly after the French fought the Koreans in the 1860's. It was discovered that a bullet-proof vest could be made from cotton, if enough layers were used to create the vest. Ballistic armor using scrap metal was used by a gang of Australian outlaws led by Ned Kelly which covered their torsos, upper arms, and upper legs, and was used with a metal helmet. The suits weighed 96 pounds and made the gang too clumsy during a police raid and were found to be useless as lower leg protection.

Silk vests were invented in the US in the early 1800's, using 18-30 layers of silk cloth, resembling the medieval variety of ballistic vest. Dr. George Emery Goodfellow got the idea after learning about several cases of individuals who survived bullet impacts after wearing silk. An actual silk bullet-proof vest was manufactured at the end of the 1800's, which had the ability to stop rounds of bullets from a handgun. A silk vest was worn by Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria n 1914; however, the bullet shot him in the neck and was not protected from the vest.

In WWI, chrome nickel steel Brewster Body Shields were worn by solders but was clumsy and weighed up to 40 pounds. It consisted of a breast plate and a head piece and was much heavier than a similar waistcoat that had overlapping steel scales and a fixed leather lining, which weighed 11 pounds.

In WWII, the US designed infantry body armor that was, for the most part, too heavy and clumsy to wear. Flak jackets were developed for airmen that were designed to stop the damage from shrapnel, made of nylon fabric. They were not designed to stop bullets. Later in WWII, the US developed more practical vests of several different kinds and styles.

Newer vests were designed for the Korean War, including those made of fiber-reinforced plastic or aluminum segments woven together into a nylon vests. While they were lightweight, they did not stop bullets or shrapnel very effectively. The first ceramic plate vests were introduced in 1967 and were capable of stopping 7 mm rifle rounds. They were made of boron carbide, silicon carbide, or aluminum oxide and were used by pilots and crew of low-lying aircraft in the Vietnam War. By 1969, the American Body Armor Company produced vests which were a combination of quilted nylon aced with several steel plates. Such vests were marketed under the name of "Barrier Vests". It was also used widely in police operations.

By the mid 1970's, Kevlar was developed and was woven and layered inside body armor. It was determined that such Kevlar vests could be comfortably and safely worn by the police. In 1975, an all-Kevlar vest consisting of fifteen layers of Kevlar and a ballistic steel "Shok plate" was placed over the heart. Such vests were easily concealable. Used by the police, over 2,000 police vest "saves" had been documented by 2006. While Kevlar was lightweight and concealable, it did have its flaws. It didn't work if large fragments or high velocity bullets hit the vest and it could cause blunt force trauma when the victim as hit.

Ranger Body Armor was used in the military in 1991 and was able to stop rifle caliber rounds while still being lightweight enough to be comfortable. It was a bit heavier than the PASGT (personal armor system for ground troops) that was concurrently issued to troops and did not have the neck or shoulder protection that the PASGT device was able to accomplish.

The newest armor includes the Interceptor Body Armor, The Outer Tactical Vest and the more advanced Marine Corp Modular Tactical Vest. They all consist of hard ceramic plates such as the small arms protective insert that protect the vital organs.

Since the advent of new fibers, ballistics vests have been made from Kevlar, Dyneema, Gold Flex and Spectra. Such new fibers are lighter weight, thinner and more resistant than the original Kevlar but are much more expensive.


Bullet-proof vests vary in the degree to which they protect against various types and weights of bullets and whether or not they protect against slashing injuries. This means there must be body armor standards, which, as of this time, are regional standards. There are a few standards that are widely used throughout the world. The US National Institute of Justice have accepted standards as does the UK's Home Office Scientific Development Branch. These model standards are used by other countries as well. The following is an example of a ratings scale that can protect a wearer from danger:

Textile armor is tested against penetration resistance and for the impact energy the wearer suffers. Transmitted energy is measured by shooting the armor in front of a oil-based modeling clay, which is then tested for the depth of the indentation the projectile makes. Measuring the ballistic performance of body armor is based on determining the kinetic energy of a bullet upon impact. A concept has been developed in ballistic testing called V50. This is the velocity at which 50 percent of the shots go through and 50 are stopped by the armor.