Andy Smith
MIne-action specialist
 
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
 

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 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. Examples are shown under "Types of PPE in use".

PPE may also include trousers, leggings, a helmet 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. See Blast resistant handtools. 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 his 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 has to be uprated to 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 (by penetrating it). 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 have been 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).

Measures to avoid fragmentation mine injury rather than protect against it have become popular, especially the use of machines to cut undergrowth 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 an example of this - given that the thickness of Kevlar required by the IMAS would be impossible to flex in a glove, and would not provide reliable hand protection anyway (because the hand may be very close to an initiation). Blast boots that cannot protect against the blast mine threat (which is usually over 100g of High Explosive) may be another example.




Why wear blast goggles
instead of blast visors?

Protection needs in HD

Types of PPE in use

My designs of protective
equipment

IMAS on PPE

Blast visor maintenance and UV

Blast resistant handtools

Mine boots - blast-boots

Hi-tech, Low-tech

Design criteria for tools

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