|Survey Recommends New Coveralls for JP-8 ‘Wet Work’|
Survey Recommends New Coveralls for JP-8 ‘Wet Work’
By Tech. Sgt. Scott Elliott, Air Force Print News.
Washington D.C. -- (AFPN) April 24, 2002 -- Aircraft fuel systems workers will soon be wearing a new tri-layered coverall when engaging in JP-8 wet fuel operations.
The decision was based on results of a recently completed study that showed cotton coveralls provide sufficient protection for most jet fuel applications, but not for prolonged exposure to skin.
According to the "JP-8 Acute Exposure Epidemiology and Risk Assessment," exposure to JP-8 fuel had minimal impact on the overall health of aircraft fuels system maintenance workers; however, researchers did find a significant effect on the skin of workers with high exposure rates, such as fuel cell workers.
The most significant finding was skin irritation, and rarely, blisters.
The preliminary findings are based on health screenings of 340 Air Force people at seven bases, medical record reviews, studies of work processes and fuel cell worker surveys.
"The Air Force has studied the health effects of jet fuel for some time," said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Thomas Neal from the Air Force surgeon general’s office. "Because the newer, kerosene-based fuels like JP-8 are much more tenacious, our studies demonstrated that an upgraded dermal barrier would be the most effective in reducing exposure. Of course, the members must continue to observe the safety guidelines detailed in their technical orders."
Though the study compared the medical records with a matched group of nonfuel system people and found no more health problems than with the population as a whole, surveys indicated many JP-8 workers felt the fuel would adversely affect their health.
"Even though the health effect of acute exposure to JP-8 fuel is minimal, the perception that it may harm our people is important to us," said Maj. Brent Hoffman, of the base maintenance policy branch in the Pentagon. "Based on the study findings, we intend to focus on risk communication, proper procedures and improved personal protective equipment."
The result is a mandate for the wear of the new tri-layer coveralls for such wet fuel operations as entering fuel tanks or removing and installing fuel foam. The older cotton overalls are acceptable for most other tasks, provided they are cleaned properly after exposure to fuels.
The new coverall is a tri-layer, anti-static Gore-Tex laminate consisting of a nylon filament face, a Gore-Tex membrane and a nylon knit with anti-static filaments.
"Studies show the coverall offers a high degree of protection from liquid penetration without a significant increase in heat stress levels," Hoffman said. "It’s also anti-static, comfortable and highly durable."
The new coveralls cost about $150 more than the cotton version, but Hoffman said they are worth the price.
"They offer the superior protection needed by many of our fuels maintenance members," he said.
The new coveralls are not the ultimate solution to potential JP-8 skin irritation, he said.
"No policy or equipment can substitute for safety consciousness and supervisory involvement," said Hoffman, adding that the Air Force has recently implemented a special interest item for inspections, placing added emphasis on installation policies, procedures, facilities and equipment to protect people from adverse exposure to aircraft fuel.
"It’s crucial that people who work with JP-8 fuel closely follow Air Force guidance," he said. "If personal protective equipment is not used properly, it defeats the purpose -- to protect you."