Using Emergency Escape Breathing Devices (EEBD) in Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) Situations

Emergency escape breathing devices (EEBD) are a type of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) used for emergency escape in immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) situations. When properly used, an EEBD can provide emergency respiratory protection by allowing the wearer to escape from environments with atmospheres that are oxygen deficient or that contain toxic contaminants.

Typical Applications for EEBD

Many industries have EEBD strategically located in areas where hazardous conditions may suddenly occur and when breathing air is needed for immediate escape. Some common industries where EEBD are used include:

  • Chemical or petrochemical facilities
  • Pharmaceutical industries
  • Shipping
  • Food and beverage locations
  • Pulp and paper
  • Offshore and mainland oil drilling platforms
  • Confined spaces
  • Certain general industry environments

Advantages of Using an EEBD

EEBDs have many features that benefit the person wearing them. EEBD are typically compact and lightweight, supplying airflow from a compressed air cylinder to a loose-fitting hood that goes over the wearer’s head, sealing at the neck. This high coverage design also protects eyes from irritation and allows the wearer to see more easily when walking to safety.

An EEBD does not require fit testing. Unlike many other types of respirators, this type of EEBD can be used when the wearer has a beard and/or mustache, as long as they do not interfere with the neck seal. Workers do not need to be clean-shaven, a major convenience when an unexpected IDLH situation arises and workers need to get out of the area immediately.

EEBD are relatively easy to implement. They can be placed in areas on a job site with convenient access and their distinct shape and bright orange covering makes them highly visible. A grab handle and shoulder strap make them easy to carry and because they are so simple to operate, training for use is quick and easy. You should always review all User Instructions when training workers on how to use an EEBD properly.

Using EEBD to Escape from IDLH situations

An EEBD can be used to escape from IDLH atmospheres because it provides the wearer with breathing air instead of relying on filters or cartridges. Atmospheres are considered IDLH when the environment is oxygen-deficient; the airborne contaminant is highly toxic; and/or concentrations are unknown. Spills, sudden gas releases, as well as uncontained or upset process emissions can all result in an unknown or unquantified exposure scenario.

What to Look for When Selecting a New EEBD

  1. Look for an EEBD hood that fits over many head shapes and sizes, even when other personal protective equipment is being worn. Because air pressure holds the hood up (rather than a mechanical suspension) it can fit over various hairstyles, safety glasses, and small head coverings.
  2. Furthermore, make sure you select an EEBD hood that is transparent, enabling a clear field of view in any direction. This helps the wearer don the hood quickly and helps them easily see their escape path, including any stairs or hazards that may be present above or beside them. This can also help enhance worker communication with one another, allowing workers to see what others around them are paying attention to, making for a quicker and safer escape.
  3. There are EEBD that do not require cartridges or filters to capture contaminants. This respiratory protection provides clean breathing air to the wearer without worrying about using compatible cartridges and filters.

Why Selecting Cylinder Duration is Important

An EEBD should always be chosen that has enough rated duration to enable the wearer to reach safety. When choosing an EEBD model, consideration should be based on an estimate of how much time the worker may need to escape. Other things to consider are the hazard that would require an EEBD and how much effort it would take to traverse that route. Some routes might be more complicated than others. For example, they might include things like access control ladders, elevators, evacuation choke points, or confined spaces.

A best practice to determine the cylinder duration needed is to walk the escape path a few times and measure the time it takes to reach safety – then choose an EEBD model that will operate longer than the time required to reach safety. It is important to allow for extra time if the escape route involves more than a flat walking surface. Stair and hills may reduce the speed that the worker walks. It might also be necessary to adjust the walking speed according to workers’ physical abilities and fitness levels.

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