In 2018, I published an article on PPE development and needs in HMA in the James Madison University Journal of Coventional Weapons Destruction. Click here to open it as a PDF.
define the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) used in Humanitarian
Demining as "any equipment designed to reduce or prevent
injury in an explosive event".
this definition, gardening gloves - issued to prevent scratches
from stones and rough soil - are not demining PPE. They may provide some
small protection against blast damage, but that protection has
not been measured and the equipment was not designed with that
protection in mind. By the same token, most footwear worn in
HD is not PPE, and the work overalls commonly issued to deminers
are also not PPE.
feel obliged to stress what is not PPE because some 'experts'
in this field have listed such things as cotton/nylon overalls
and combat boots as PPE when claiming that their deminers are
issued with adequate protection.
normally comprises some kind of body protection - which may
extend to cover the back - and some kind of face or eye protection.
It may include a helmet. Frequently, the protection issued does
not meet the requirements outlined in the International Mine
Action standards (IMAS). This is often true, even when the demining
group claims to comply with IMAS.
may also include armoured trousers, leggings, and blast-resistant
a result of the accident record in the Database of Demining
Accidents, the IMAS recommends the use of blast resistant handtools
as PPE. This is because tools that have not been designed to
achieve blast resistance and stay in one piece during an unintended
initiation, frequently maim and kill deminers. A well designed tool helps
the deminer stay at a distance from a blast, makes it easiest
to work at the appropriate angle and does not add to the deminer's injuries
if an accident occurs.
a minimum, PPE in HD has to be capable of withstanding the detonation
of 240g TNT at 60cm while maintaining its integrity. In fragmentation
mine areas, the body armour must meet a NATO STANAG
fragmentation test standard that gives a V50 of 450 m/s. A V50
is the speed at which half of the fragments compromise the integrity
of the armour. Almost all fragmentation
mines are capable of spreading fragments that travel in excess
of 450 m/s. These fragments are not shaped like a STANAG fragment
and are not fired down a rifled barrel, so they are easier to
stop. Even so, fragments from the largest bounding fragmentation
mines have regularly killed deminers no matter what PPE they
were wearing. The fragmentation standard in the IMAS is
a compromise between what is desirable (probably 1200 m/s) and
what it wearable (450 m/s). My work on armour, including fragmentation resistant armour, is described here.
to avoid fragmentation mine injury rather than protect against
it have become popular, especially the use of machines to cut
undergrowth and break or initiate exposed fragmentation mine fuzes in advance of manual deminers.
few manufacturers offer equipment that is not needed and may
even be positively dangerous. Dangers arise when the equipment
promotes risk-taking or fails in a manner that makes injury
worse. Those offering thin Kevlar gloves appear to be offering false confidence because a thickness of Kevlar required to give 450 m/s protection is impossible to flex in a glove, and if the mine were in a gloved hand, the shock wave would pass through the Kevlar and pulversise the hand anyway. Blast boots that cannot protect against
the blast mine threat are another example of PPE that can offer false confidence and increase risk taking behaviour.