The Effects of Chemical Protective Suits on Human Performance


Workers in the chemical industry are often required to wear protective suits while performing tasks. While these suits can be life saving, they increase the difficulty and discomfort faced by the wearer. This research explores the performance of individuals wearing the highly cumbersome Level a suit. The suits are heat-retentive and can cause fatigue that affects performance by increasing response time and decreasing accuracy. Members of Missouri's Civil Support Team (CST) served as subjects for this research. They conducted fine and gross motor tests. Their completion time and accuracy were evaluated both out-of-suit and in-suit for the Level a chemical protective suits. A t-test was conducted to evaluate the effect of the Level a suits on performance. Results showed a significant increase in completion time and errors for gross motor tasks. This type of task had up to a 103% increase in time required and up to a 34% decrease in accuracy. The suit's impact on fine motor skill was also significant, but to a lesser extent. Repeated measures test was performed to evaluate any potential time-in-suit effect. A decrease in mean task completion time was observed for some of the tasks. There was a corresponding decrease in accuracy but no consistent time-in-suit effect was identified. The results indicate the need for care when designing procedures and equipement to be used by humans wearing restrictive PPE. It is important to take human limitations into consideration in the design phase in order to decrease the need for human adaptation and increase system safety. To achieve this, understanding human factors is imperative when designing equipment, tasks, or procedures for workers wearing PPE.


Engineering Management and Systems Engineering

Second Department

Business and Information Technology

Keywords and Phrases

PPE; Human Performance; Level a Chemical Suit; Protective clothing

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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