Hazmat suits are garments that effectively block dangerous chemicals and particles from harming the body. But are they actually waterproof? Find out below.
Are Hazmat Suits Waterproof?
The answer to this question is not so clear upon first inspection. It would seem to most people that hazmat suits are fully water-proof, considering how they look and their unique nature as a specialized form of PPE.
There are five things that determine whether a hazmat suit is waterproof:
- The hazmat suit level (A,B,C,D)
- The materials it is made of
- The components included (boots, gloves, hood, etc.)
- How it is worn
- Any acquired wear and tear
However, it may not be possible to declare any hazmat suit fully and completely waterproof. Hazmat suits can be considered extremely water-resistant if they pass certain tests.
Looking for great deals on HAZMAT suits and accessories? We have a large selection of hazmat PPE gear in our online store. Check out our HAZMAT suits & accessories here >
Hazmat Suit Material Fluid Penetration Tests
To be considered fully water-resistant, a hazmat suit’s fabric and critical zones have to pass the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) Level 4 protection test. This includes tests provided by the following agencies:
- American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC)
- ASTM International
- ASTM International – ASTM F1671-07 – Standard Test Method for Resistance of Materials Used in Protective Clothing to Penetration by Blood-Borne Pathogens Using Phi-X174 Bacteriophage Penetration as a Test System
- ASTM F1670-08 – Standard Test Method for Resistance of Materials Used in Protective Clothing to Penetration by Synthetic Blood
Hazmat suits also have critical areas that must pass fluid testing:
- Front chest area
AAMI Level 4 hazmat suits are the closest to being waterproof. They should create a barrier that prevent splashes of fluid, including water, from getting through and onto the skin. However, this also requires them to be worn correctly in order to be effective.
An example of a hazmat suit that fits level 4 protection is the Medtecs Disposable Hazmat Suit with Sealed Tape and Hood. This meets the AAMI Level 4 for Biohazard Chemical Protection.
AAMI Level 3 hazmat suits will not be waterproof, but will be water-resistant. Level 3 hazmat suits must pass both the AATC 42 and 127 tests to be labeled AAMI level 3.
AAMI Level 2 hazmat suits may only be water-resistant, and Level 1 hazmat suits are not waterproof or even effectively water-resistant.
Before purchasing a hazmat suit to wear in environments where you will be exposed to splashes, sprays, and droplet of water or other fluids, make sure to check the package or labeling to make sure it passes the AAMI level 3 or above fabric tests.
If you’re in the market to buy a hazmat suit check out our Essential Hazmat Suit Buying Guide here >
Hazmat Suit Levels and Fluid-Resistance
Hazmat suit levels (A,B,C,D) also play a role in determining how resistant to fluids they are. This is because each level has a range of additional components to be worn.
Level A hazmat suits provide the fullest protection and completely encloses the wearer from the outside environment. A level A hazmat suit that passes the level 4 fluid penetration tests as outlined above will be the most water-resistant and closest to fully waterproof a hazmat suit can get. They include inner fluid-resistant gloves, and fluid-resistant safety boots.
Level B can be considered waterproof, as it can protect from splashes and sprays. Level B’s weakness is due to its limited ability to protect the wearer from gaseous vapors.
Level D has limited or no additional components, such as facemask, respirator, boots, etc, and will not fully protect the wearer from splashes or sprays.
For more information, see our post Guide to Hazmat Suit Levels.
Are Hazmat Suits Water-Resistant?
As outlined above, certain hazmat suits levels are water-resistant to varying degrees. Hazmat suits will provide atleast a minimum level of protection from water sprays, splashes, and droplets from penetrating through the suit and onto the skin. Make sure to determine which level of water-resistance you are seeking before purchasing a specific hazmat suit.
Are Hazmat Suits Sealed?
Hazmat suits are worn by hazmat technicians during their work in chemical laboratories or in dirty industrial facilities, among other places. They are one-size-fits-all suits that come equipped with hoods to protect against chemical splashes and goggles for protection against dust particles. Not all hazmat suits are sealed. The only level of hazmat suit that is fully sealed is level A.
How To Make a Hazmat Suit Waterproof
There is no way to make a hazmat suit completely waterproof. If it is a level A and AAMI level 4 rated hazmat suit, it can still not be waterproof. Wear and tear can also occur if it is reused which can make it susceptible to water penetration. Always visually inspect hazmat suits before wearing and disgard them if you notice any damage.
UP NEXT: What To Wear Under a HAZMAT Suit
Hazmat suits are a specialized form of PPE that are worn over the entire body to protect from the wearer from dangerous debris, fluids, and gases. Make sure to check the hazmat suit’s packaging, label or advertisement before purchasing to make sure it meets the level of protection you are seeking.