HAZMAT Suit Levels (Plus 9 Jobs That Require Them)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 9, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Various jobs in fields like manufacturing, engineering, petroleum, and mining present different levels of physical, biological, and chemical hazards. Having the right kind of protection can help keep you safe as you interact with the responsibilities and hazards of your role. Understanding the protection HAZMAT suits offer can help you determine the right kind of suit and level to use in your role. In this article, we examine various HAZMAT suit levels, discuss the level of protection they offer, and outline nine jobs that require HAZMAT suits.

What are HAZMAT suit levels?

The HAZMAT suit levels indicate the level of protection that HAZMAT suits offer within hazardous environments. Certain suit levels are more suitable for more severe biological, chemical, or physical hazards, while others combine basic personal protective equipment to protect the user. HAZMAT is a term coined from the combination of hazard (HAZ) and material (MAT), and the suit levels incorporate a wide range of potential hazards into four levels that you can use in hazardous work environments. Some of the hazardous materials the suits can protect you from include explosives, poisons, flammable liquids, and radioactive materials.

Related: How to Conduct a Risk Assessment (Tips and Definition)

Different HAZMAT suit levels

Here's a list of the different suit levels you can consider for your work environments depending on the level of potential hazards:

HAZMAT level A

This level is the most sophisticated and protective suit level, with designs protecting the user from the most hazardous work environments and toxic materials. Some of the work environments suited to this suit level pose radioactive and biological hazards in the form of infectious diseases. Such hazards put skin, eyes, and respiratory systems at risk. This suit level uses protective layers of cloth, Teflon, or polythene to protect the user from liquid and gases.

This suit level incorporates various personal protective equipment (PPE) to help ensure the user's safety. It includes a self-contained breathing apparatus with positive pressure, chemical resistant boots, two-way radios or another communication device, a chemically encapsulated protective suit, and coated inner and outer gloves. The level of protection this suit offers through the PPEs makes it suitable for work environments with potential air-borne and chemical hazards. Some of the work environments this suit is optimal for include medical work environments, nuclear work environments, confined work environments, environments with radioactivity, and work environments that involve combustible materials.

HAZMAT level B

While the suit levels A and B appear similar, there's more PPE in level B to protect the user from respiratory hazards. The emphasis level A places on protecting the user's skin from vapours and other hazards is lower in Level B as it only provides equipment to protect the skin from liquid splashes. This suit level allows gases and vapour to find their way into the user's suit, making it applicable to work environments where the vapours and gases aren't hazardous to the user's skin.

This suit level also requires a self-contained breathing apparatus with positive pressure to protect the user from respiratory hazards. Other PPEs include chemical-resistant boots, two-way radio or other communication devices, chemically encapsulated protective suits with hoods, and coated inner and outer gloves. This suit level is suitable for work environments that have medical applications, confined work environments, work environments involving light chemical cleanups, and environments that contain hazardous materials.

HAZMAT level C

Level C is appropriate for work environments that pose low hazards to professionals, as it provides relatively basic hazard protection. This suit level replaces PPEs with designs to protect professionals from severe respiratory hazards and skin exposure to toxic vapours. This level replaces the self-contained breathing apparatus with air-purifying respirators, such as face masks, or canister respirators that protect the lungs from harmful particles and elements. Other PPEs include safety boots, overalls, and protective gloves. This suit level is suitable for work environments with low oxygen levels and very light medical, biohazardous, or chemical cleanups.

HAZMAT level D

This level provides the most basic hazard protection within work environments. It's applicable to work environments with no respiratory or skin hazards. PPEs at this level include overalls, safety goggles, protective gloves, and safety boots. This suit level uses an overall that provides basic protection from splashes and hand immersion. The level applies to basic medical environments, construction environments, confined workspaces, and very light cleanup tasks with no vapour and respiratory hazards.

Related: 13 Highest Paying Jobs in the Medical Field (With Salaries)

9 jobs that require HAZMAT suits

Here's a list of nine jobs that apply various HAZMAT suits within their work environments:

1. Infectious disease physician

National average salary: $33.05 per hour

Primary duties: HAZMAT suits play a significant role in protecting infectious disease physicians as they interact with patients who carry viral or highly infectious diseases. Through their interactions, they study the symptoms of diseases, test medication, and develop studies that can improve the development of cures for highly infectious diseases. These physicians usually use the HAZMAT level A and B suits when carrying out their duties because of the high risk of respiratory and skin hazards.

Related: What Is a Physician?

2. Nuclear engineer

National average salary: $84,853 per year

Primary duties: Nuclear engineers interact primarily with radioactive material when studying elements and determining how they can contribute to the development of nuclear devices such as nuclear reactors, nuclear fusions, and energy sources. Nuclear engineers also work alongside research teams to develop nuclear models and other engineers to maintain, design, and build nuclear systems. Professionals in this role require HAZMAT suits to protect themselves from the severe hazards that nuclear materials pose to their health.

3. Chemist

National average salary: $58,608 per year

Primary duties: Chemists study, design, and test various chemicals that are instrumental in creating industrial chemicals, solvents, cleaners, waxes, and other substances. Most of these substances pose respiratory and skin hazards to the professionals in this career path. HAZMAT suits are instrumental to chemists maintaining a safe work environment by protecting them from irritants and hazardous materials in liquid, solid, or gaseous forms.

4. Crime scene technician

National average salary: $29.26 per hour

Primary duties: Crime scene technicians examine, transport, and collect physical evidence from crime scenes. Their role is important in preserving the quality of evidence and maintaining its chain of custody. Most professionals in this career path undergo police academy training to improve their interaction and familiarity with crime scenes. The delicate nature of physical evidence, such as fingerprints or clothing, and crime scenes involving drug enforcement, makes HAZMAT suits important for these professionals to avoid tampering with physical evidence and protecting themselves from hazards.

5. Asbestos manager

National average salary: $28.66 per hour

Primary duties: Asbestos managers are responsible for inspecting buildings for traces of asbestos. They also ensure buildings and renovated structures comply with health and safety standards. Asbestos was popular in the 60s and 70s as a fire-resistant material for constructing buildings but was later determined to possess carcinogenic properties. This makes it important for asbestos managers to protect themselves from the hazard of inhalation when removing this material from old buildings. They usually use level B and C HAZMAT suits in their work environments to protect them from respiratory hazards.

6. Paramedic

National average salary: $27.13 per hour

Primary duties: Paramedics are responsible for the care of injured individuals. They're usually members of emergency response crews and offer health care services to patients at the scene of an accident or natural disaster. Their application of first aid, administration of medication, conducting diagnoses, transporting patients, and dressing wounds expose them to varying hazard levels. They usually use HAZMAT level C and D suits to protect themselves from the hazards of their role.

7. Biologist

National average salary: $77,447 per year

Primary duties: Biologists study plants and organisms within and outside their natural habitats. They collect samples and conduct experiments that highlight organisms' unique behaviours, classifications, and stimulus-response. Their work environments vary from the habitat of organisms they observe to laboratories. Their duties usually involve prolonged exposure to chemicals and potentially toxic samples. The specialized instruments they use in their research also put them at risk of radiation and other hazards. HAZMAT suits of various levels are vital to keeping them safe in their work environments.

Related: The 3 Branches of Science and Available Career Options

8. Firefighter

National average salary: $25.68 per hour

Primary duties: Firefighters are professionals who provide emergency response and care to accidents or natural disasters that result in fires. Their emergency response usually involves containing fires, studying and eliminating the root causes of fires, and evacuating individuals trapped within burning buildings, vehicles, and other structures. In some medical emergencies, firefighters can also provide first aid or basic paramedical care to victims of fire incidents. HAZMAT suits are essential to protect their skin from heat and the respiratory system from smoke inhalation. The appropriate suit or combination of personal protective equipment depends on the nature of the emergency.

9. Pest control technician

National average salary: $48,913 per year

Primary duties: Pest control technicians are experts at determining the best combination of biological and chemical controls to eradicate pests such as mice, cockroaches, and bedbugs. Their duties involve mixing chemical substances and testing traps within confined work environments. HAZMAT suits play an essential role for pest control technicians in protecting their skin from irritable substances and their respiratory systems from toxic chemicals.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location.

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