HAZARDOUS MATERIAL EXPOSURE
h a z a rd o u s m a t e r i a l p e r s o n a l s a f e t y
g u i d e l i n e s a n d h a z a rd o u s m a t e r i a l
Hazardous materials are substances with the
potential of harming people or the environment.
Hazardous materials can be gaseous, liquid, or solid,
and can include chemical or radioactive materials.
(Radiological exposure will be covered in depth in
chapter 8 of this manual. Radioactive materials are
regulated by specific instructions/directives.)
most common substances involved in incidents of
hazardous material (HAZMAT) exposure are volatile
organic compounds, pesticides, ammonia, chlorine,
petroleum products, and acids.
Your initial action at the scene of a hazardous
materials incident must be to assess the situation, since
your safetyas well as that of the public and any
patientsis of primary concern.
You must first
determine the nature of the HAZMAT, then establish a
Only after these things have been
accomplished can a victim who has been exposed to
hazardous materials be rescued, transported to an
appropriate facility, and properly decontaminated.
The Department of Transportation (DOT)
publication, Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG
series, published every four years), RSPA P5800.8, is a
useful tool for first responders during the initial phase
of a hazardous materials/dangerous goods incident.
ERG series addresses labeling, identification, toxicity,
safety/contamination zones, and decontamination
IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT ALL
PERSONNEL INVOLVED WITH HAZMAT
INCIDENT RESPONSE BE FAMILIAR WITH
It is also available on the
Internet at http://hazmat.dot.gov/gydebook.htm.
DETERMINING THE NATURE OF THE
When an incident involving the exposure of
hazardous material occurs, it is of prime importance to
any rescue operation to determine the nature of the
All facilities that produce
HAZMAT are required by law to prominently display
this information, as is any vehicle transporting it. Any
carton or box containing such material must also be
properly labeled. The name of the substance may also
be displayed, along with a required four-digit
identification number (sometimes preceded by the
letters UN or NA).
The various kinds of hazardous materials usually
have different labels to assist in their identification.
These are generally diamond-shaped signs that have
specific colors to identify the type of HAZMAT
involved. Table 5-7 provides a list of the Department
of Transportation (DOT)-mandated classifications of
The ERG series provides a list of hazardous
materials and appropriate emergency response actions.
The Guidebook is primarily a tool to enable first
responders to quickly identify the specific or generic
classification of the material(s) involved in the
incident, and to protect themselves and the general
public during the initial phase of the incident.
Your first objective should be to try to read the
labels and identification numbers FROM A
DISTANCE. If necessary, use binoculars. DO NOT
go into the area unless you are absolutely certain that
has been no hazardous spill.
Relay any and all
information available to your dispatch center where it
can be used to identify the HAZMAT.
Once the HAZMAT has been identified, it can be
classified as to the danger it presents (i.e., toxicity
level). Based on this classification, the appropriate
specialized equipment (known as personal protective
equipment, or PPE) can be determined to provide
adequate protection (i.e., protection level) from
solid orange color
solid green color
solid red color
white and red stripes
Oxidizers & peroxides
solid yellow color
Poisons & biohazards
solid white color
half white/half yellow with black
half white/half black
Table 5-7.Hazardous Materials Warning Labels