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Positive Pressure Suit Systems

Submitted by on May 17, 2011 – 9:02 pmNo Comment

The Total System Concept

By Gary Zimmerman


Positive Pressure Suit Systems

Positive Pressure Suit Systems


Encapsulating suits, or “bubble suits,” marry the “quadrants of performance” in offering a single product that acts as a respirator, offers whole-body protection, and comes in lightweight packages that offer exceptional mobility and heat stress-reducing properties.


The engineering of positive pressure one-piece suit systems does not stop there. Supplied air suits and self-fed air suits, which utilize blowing units, generate variable flow and pressure from the end-user, maximizing respiratory protection and full-body cooling. Controlled exhaust valve technology ensures that the suits are in “Positive Pressure Mode” at all times, independent of the process evolution. Personnel have the ability to crawl, reach and bend, because the suit’s overpressure remains in effect, eliminating the chance of airborne contamination in a high alpha environment from gaining entrance. Ideally, in a high-risk environment, the challenge is to engineer products that offer positive pressure. While simply engineering a suit with positive pressure may be simple, it comes with its own series of responsibilities, such as:

• The overpressure must be controlled in order to reduce the so-called “Michelin-Man” effect.

• The suit must be over-pressurized and offer high airflow; this must be managed so that the suit is close to the body, maximizing mobility and safety.

• The suit should be tested under rigorous standards that ensure that CO2 concentrations at the breathing zone are kept to a minimum, even under severe work conditions.

• Products must ensure that high visibility is accomplished.

• Suit designs must address the ergonomics afforded by the human anatomy. One–size-fits-all will not work in these environments.

In addition, advanced safety features are built-in, enabling the user to self-escape in the event of supplied air loss.

Critical path concerns are addressed by enabling the job function to be performed quickly, with minimum chance of personal contamination. Interface concerns between products such as gloves to coveralls, and coveralls to respirators must be eliminated. This can only be accomplished through total encapsulation. Gowning and de-gowning processes must be fast, resulting in no time lost, and literally eliminating the chance for contamination.

There are many products that are available to the industry involving personal protective equipment. To the naked eye, what we see may not be what exists. Although there are many applications where the use of conventional respirators, coveralls and other protective gear are necessary as standard equipment, there are also applications requiring whole body protection. In addition, there are countless applications that require the need for efficient heat stress reduction. When all of the risk factors are assessed, and time is of the essence, a well-engineered positive pressure one-piece suit system offers you the peace of mind you seek to get the job done safely, efficiently and most importantly, without incident.


About the Author:
Gary Zimmermann is business development manager at Sperian Protection Clothing, now a part of Honeywell. He has a bachelor’s degree in Commerce, and presently lives in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He has worked in many industrial businesses including 10 years with ABB, as well as 17 years in the development, marketing and sales of lightweight, heat stress-reducing protective clothing systems and respiratory equipment for the fire service industry and general process industries. For the past 10 years, Mr. Zimmerman has been directly involved in the development of suit systems for the nuclear industry.


Learn More About PPE

Below is a short listing of some of the sites available that offer more information on personal protective equipment and respiratory protective equipment. Follow the links to learn about rules, regulations, good practices and more.

OSHA Fact Sheet on PPE (USA):


Health & Safety Executive (UK); “A Short Guide to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992”:


Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety: “Designing an Effective PPE Program”:


The National Archives, “The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992”:


U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
10CFR20.1703 Sub-Part H – “Standards for Protection Against Radiation – Respiratory Protection and Controls to Restrict Internal Exposure in Restricted Areas – Use of Individual Respiratory Protective Equipment”

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