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Personnel Protective Equipment

Using the appropriate protective equipment can reduce the possible consequences of the above described hazards. The concerned personnel should be protected against exposure to cryogenic temperatures, high temperatures, thermal radiation from a hydrogen flame, and oxygen-deficient atmospheres. Procedures that are established for operations involving hydrogen should describe the personal protective equipment (PPE) that is needed for the operations to be performed. Some general guidelines for PPE that should be considered beneficial in working with hydrogen are summarized below. These guidelines do not address PPE that should be considered when involved in other activities such as working on electrical circuits or performing a cleaning or decontamination operation. Some specific recommendations for PPE are:

  • eye protection or better complete face shield should be worn when liquid hydrogen is handled,
  • properly insulated gloves should be worn when handling anything that comes in contact with liquid hydrogen or cold gaseous hydrogen. The gloves should fit loosely, remove easily, and not have large cuffs.
  • Full-length trousers, preferably without cuffs, should be worn with the legs kept on the outside of boots or work shoes.
  • Closed-toe shoes should be worn (open or porous shoes should not be worn).
  • Clothing made of ordinary cotton or flame-retardant cotton should be worn. Avoid wearing clothing made of nylon or other synthetics, silk or wool because these materials can produce static electricity charges that can ignite flammable mixtures. Synthetics can melt and stick to the flesh, causing greater burn damage. Any clothing sprayed or splashed with hydrogen should be removed until they are completely free of hydrogen.
  • Self-contained breathing equipment should be worn when working in a confined space that may have an oxygen-deficient atmosphere.
  • Portable hydrogen- and fire-detection equipment should be used to warn of hydrogen leaks and fires.
  • Alternatively it is often recommended to wave with a broom in front of oneself or to pluck some grass and throw it in the direction of the intended movement. If the broom or the grass comes in contact with the barely visible flame the smoke indicates the flame position.
  • Personnel should ground themselves before touching or using a tool on a hydrogen system.
  • The use of spark-proof tools is often recommended; however, the energy required for ignition of a flammable hydrogen/air mixture is so small that even spark-proof tools can cause an ignition. Consequently, all tools should be used with caution to prevent slipping, glancing blows or dropping, all of which can cause sparks.
  • Water sprays and wet clothes may reduce the thermal effects induced by hydrogen flames considerably.

The immediate treatment of persons which came in contact with liquid hydrogen or have been exposed to the very cold gases is to loosen any clothing that may restrict blood circulation and seek immediate hospital attention for all but the most superficial injuries. Do not apply direct heat to the affected parts, but if possible place in lukewarm water. Sterile dry dressings should be used to protect damaged tissues from infection or further injury, but they should not be allowed to restrict the blood circulation. Alcohol and cigarettes should not be given.

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Page last modified on November 20, 2008, at 03:48 PM