Home Podcasts THMG024 – Decontamination, Part I

THMG024 – Decontamination, Part I


In this episode, Bob and Mike begin a multi-episode series on decontamination.

Complete Show Notes

4:55 What is Decontamination?

  • The process of removing things we don’t want on us – in theory, it’s no different than taking a shower or washing every day
  • We decontaminate because we’re trying to keep the bad stuff that got out of the container from coming in contact with us, the public, our equipment, or our surroundings
  • It’s a safe bet to assume that if you were trying to pick it up, shut it off, slow it down, or suck it up, it probably got on you or your equipment
  • Your goal is always to go home at the end of the day, which is ultimately why we decon
  • Anyone or anything that comes out of the hot zone needs to be contaminated (from OSHA 1910.120) – doesn’t matter who you are or what your position is
  • OSHA doesn’t comment on the level of training required to perform decon

10:45 NFPA Rules and Regulations

  • NFPA 472 (3.4.8) – operations-level personnel can perform mass decon and by proxy emergency decon (mass decon on a small scale)
  • NFPA 472 (3.4.10) – allows operations-level responders to perform technical decon
  • This doesn’t necessarily mean that certain operations-level personnel can’t perform technical decon – NFPA 472 (3.4.3) allows the AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) to determine if operations-level responders are allowed to perform this operations
  • If it falls under Chapter 6 of NFPA, the AHJ may allow specially trained operations-level personnel to perform functions – however, they must be supervised under a technician, Allied Professional (industry tech) or operating under SOPs (standard operation procedure)

15:05 Operations-Level Responders and Decon

  • NFPA 472 (5.3.4) – “In given scenarios involving hazardous materials or WMD incidents, the operations-level responder shall identify when decontamination is needed by completing the following:”
  • When you break it down, this just means, “I tell you what happened and you should be able to tell me the following:”
    • 1. Identify the ways that people, personal protective equipment, apparatus, tools, and equipment become contaminated (“How is this shit getting dirty?)”
    • 2. Describe how the potential for secondary contamination determines the need for decontamination (“How dirty shit can make other shit dirty”)
    • 3. Explain the importance and limitations of decontamination procedures at the hazardous materials incident (“Why this shit needs to come off and can it come off with what we have?”)
    • 4. Identify the purpose of emergency decontamination procedures at hazardous materials incidents (“Why this shit needs to come off now!)
    • 5. Identify the methods, advantages, and limitations of emergency decontamination procedures (“How can I clean this shit?”)

17:40 Operations-Level Responders and Mass Decon

  • NFPA 472 ( – “When responding to hazardous material or WMD incident, the operations-level responder assigned to perform mass decontamination shall be able to perform the following:”
  • When you break it down, this just means they’ll be able to plan a response within the capabilities of available personnel, personal protective equipment, and control equipment by selecting a mass decontamination process to minimize the hazard
  • Or, in more simpler terms, “How to get this shit off a lot of people fast”
  • Steps for mass decontamination:
    • 1. Implement the planned response to favorable change the outcomes consistent with SOPs and the site safety and control plan by performing the decontamination duties as assigned and performing the mass decontamination functions identified in the incident action plan (“Get the shit off the way Mommy or Daddy says”)
    • 2. Evaluate the progress of the planned response by evaluating the effectiveness of the mass decontamination process (“Is the crap coming off?”)
    • 3. Terminate the incident by providing reports and documentation of decontamination operations (“Tell Mommy and Daddy what happened”)

19:45 There’s No One Way to Decon

  • There is no right way to perform a decon – however, there needs to be SOP within your AHJ (area of jurisdiction) for decon procedures
  • Everyone needs to be on the same page regarding the instruction from your AHJ
  • But who chooses which method is appropriate? Who chooses which decon method is best for the chemical being used?
  • NFPA 3.3.34 – the hazardous materials technician is the person who selects the applicable decontamination procedures
  • Where do we perform decontamination?
    • OSHA 1910 – all employees leaving a contaminated area shall be appropriately decontaminated; all contaminated clothing and equipment leaving a contaminated area shall be appropriately decontaminated or disposed of
    • NFPA 472 – there should be a decontamination corridor established in an area located within the warm zone
  • Most people still think of a hazmat zone as three circles inside of themselves with the hot zone in the center surrounded by a warm zone that’s engulfed by a cold zone – this isn’t true, though
  • NFPA 472 – a warm zone is a control zone at a hazardous materials or WMD incident where personnel and equipment decontamination and hot zone support take place
  • The warm zone is a decontamination zone – the area from which you walk from the hot zone to the cold zone (and get decontaminated in the process) is the warm zone

23:30 Decontamination Regulation

  • Decontamination is regulated at the OSHA level
  • CRF 1910.120(b)(4)(ii)(g) (Site Safety and Health Plan), Paragraph K – “A decontamination procedure shall be developed, communicated to employees, and implemented before any employee or equipment may enter areas on site where there is potential for exposure to a hazardous substance”
  • This is why we can’t enter a hot zone without decon in place (it would violate OSHA) – however, it doesn’t say what kind of decon needs to be in place
  • So, we may not have to wait to set up a technical decon – a simple hose line would be sufficient to satisfy this requirement
  • Your gear must be cleaned or replaced before it’s given back to you – it doesn’t say how or give guidelines of what is considered clean – just says it needs to be done

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