Andy Smith
Mine action specialist
 
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
 


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.

I define the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) used in Humanitarian Demining as "any equipment designed to reduce or prevent injury in an explosive event".

By 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.

I 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.

PPE 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.

PPE may also include armoured trousers, leggings, and blast-resistant boots.

As 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.

As 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.

Measures 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.

A 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.

 




Developing safer
hand tools

 


Developing body armour
for demining

 

Developing face and eye
protection for demining

 

Protection needs in HD

 

IMAS on PPE

 

Blast visor maintenance
and UV light

 

Blast resistant handtools

 

Mine boots - blast-boots

 

Comment on Kevlar body armour

 

Protecting the face with
a ventilated mask?

 

Blast goggles or
blast visors?

 

Design criteria for
hand-tools

 

Hand-tools as PPE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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