The 4 PPE Levels and When They Are Needed

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is an essential part of our work as professional crime scene cleaners. Our technicians go to great lengths to ensure each site is restored to its former state, with no grisly reminders or odors of the traumatic event that occurred. But doing so exposes them to a myriad of potential diseases, bloodborne pathogens, and other biohazards. That’s why any professional biohazard remediation company worth its salt adheres to strict OSHA-compliant cleaning methods, including donning the necessary PPE. Each situation is different and therefore can have varying protection requirements, which is why the US Department of Health & Human Services developed a 4-level system of PPE.

infographic of PPE types with a diagram

Basic Elements of PPE


Respirators help filter out harmful airborne particles to allow breathing without damaging the lungs, esophagus and other parts of the respiratory system.

  • Surgical mask – mainly used to protect against splashing; protects a person/subject from the wearer’s mouth and does not generally filter air effectively.
  • N-95 respirator – protects against dust, mites and other small airborne particles. Often used in labs while working with infected biological materials.
  • Half-mask respirator – actively filters air and protects against transmittable diseases, fumes and toxic chemicals.
  • Full-face respirator – used in similar situations as the half-mask, but with added protection for the eyes and face.

Hand protection:

Since remediating a biohazard scene is a hands-on job, it comes naturally that gloves and would be essential.

  • Disposable latex gloves – used while handling blood & tissue samples and protects against bloodborne pathogens.
  • Disposable nitrile gloves – these are more resistant to puncture/abrasion than normal latex gloves and are used when handling biological and chemical materials.
  • Rubber latex gloves – mainly used when handling small volumes of corrosive chemicals & flammable solvents.

Skin protection:

Protecting the extremities and torso is also crucial when handling biohazards. Skin protection can come in various forms including overalls, lab coats and full-body suits. To ensure total safety, our biohazard cleanup technicians wear full-body suits for every job.

  • Cotton/polyester blend – general chemical/biological and physical hazards.
  • Flame-resistant – used while working with explosive or corrosive chemicals.
  • Polyester – provides protection from splashing while working with infectious material.

Eye protection:

Any part of the body with a mucus membrane is extremely sensitive, especially the eyes.

  • Basic safety goggles – protect from projectiles but not effective against splashing.
  • Chemical splash goggles – these goggles have suction that fit around the eyes to protect from debris and chemical splashes.
  • Face shield – face shields protect the entire face from debris, projectiles, and splashes of any kind. They’re normally worn over chemical splash goggles for extra protection and are used when handling highly toxic materials.

The 4 PPE Levels

Level A PPE: Highest level of protection


  •  Positive-pressure supplied air respirator or 
  • Full-face, self-contained breathing apparatus


  • Totally encapsulating vapor and liquid chemical-resistant suit. Imagine the classic hazmat suit.
  • Chemical-resistant gloves
  • Hard hat under suit


  • Chemical-resistant, steel-toed boots

Level B PPE: High level of protection


  • Positive-pressure supplied air respirator or 
  • Full-face, self-contained breathing apparatus


  • Full-body, chemical resistant suit with hood
  • Coveralls
  • Splash suit
  • Hard hat under suit
  • Full face shield w/ goggles underneath
  • Chemical-resistant gloves


  • Chemical-resistant, steel-toed boots
  • Chemical-resistant outer-boot cover

Level C PPE: Mid-level protection


  • Half-mask or air purifying respirator


  • Chemical-resistant overalls
  • Chemical-resistant splash suit
  • Face shield w/ goggles underneath
  • Optional hard hat
  • Chemical-resistant gloves


  • Disposable boot covers
  • Steel-toed boots

Level D PPE: Minimal protection, dependent on situation


  • Optional mask, largely dependent on the situation


  • Safety glasses or goggles
  • Splash-resistant gown or overalls
  • Optional hard hat
  • 2-layers of latex gloves


  • Safety boots w/ steel toe
  • Optional splash resistant shoe covers

These are the 4 basic PPE levels as outlined by OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Crime Scene Clean-Up treats every trauma scene respectfully and approaches the solemn work of biohazard cleanup with utmost safety. This is to protect not only our technicians, but also the surrounding environment and the inhabitants of the home or business.

For more information about what we do, visit our blog. From Des Moines to Tallahassee, we provide 24/7 compassionate and discreet biohazard cleanup services near you, call (800) 991-3645.

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