From the sealing tape and gloves to masks, breathing devices and boots, Shawn Burress knows his way around Hazmat gear. And, thanks to his expertise, so does the team at CTEH.

Burress is president and senior instructor at Burress Advisory Group, a professional training and consulting organization that provides specialized emergency response and regulatory compliance training. At least once a year, Burress visits CTEH to deliver an eight-hour refresher course and new employee training on personal protective equipment (or PPE), how to properly use it and which situations require it. The training is required by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but everyone on hand realizes it’s an extremely important exercise.

“The training is important because knowledge goes hand-in-hand with preventing injuries and accidents,” says Burress. “Choosing the right type of PPE for each unique situation is critical.”

Incident command leaders during any sort of chemical release or accident typically make the decision about what PPE are required for responders, Burress explains. He believes that responders and others who suit up need to understand and feel comfortable with the command’s decision, and they should know the advantages and disadvantages of various protection levels.

As an example, Burress says that a knee-jerk decision to use maximum – or “Level A” – protective Hazmat gear can be the wrong move. In fact, maximum protection can actually injure person if it’s not right for the environment. “If it’s too hot, heat stroke could become an issue.”

“The primary reason for providing PPE training and instruction is so that the team members will have a better understanding of the process involved in selecting the suits for each incident,” Burress says. “Any first responder should understand the choices and know what PPE are right and acceptable for different situations. This will allow them to question a decision if they feel it’s not correct.”