ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (June 5, 2013) -- Phil Rice tests and replaces critical filter systems at chemical laboratories at the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's chemical and biological center.

Edgewood Chemical Biological Center has adopted new protective equipment for onsite filter maintenance: cut-resistant safety gloves, which dramatically decrease the number of hand injuries.

Rice, a chemical engineering technician, dresses in personnel protective equipment, or PPE, to carry out his important mission. The impermeable Tyvek coveralls, nitrile and butyl glove, tap boots, and the M40 masks are common items to protect against highly toxic chemical contamination threats; however, this type of PPE does not protect against physical hazards, such as the sharp metal edges around the filter units.

"The sharp edges of the stainless steel filters would cut right through a brand new pair of standard butyl gloves that we were using," Rice said. "The Applications Integration Branch was looking for ways to avoid hand-cutting accidents and decided to have a trial run with the Kevlar gloves."

Rice is a team lead for ECBC's Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction Business Unit. The organization began using cut-resistant Kevlar gloves in 2011.

"We've been using them ever since and have had no more cuts," he said.

ECBC conducted an industrial incident evaluation of hand injuries that occurred across the Center in 2009. The type of gloves used and the severity of resulting injuries were evaluated to identify specific hand and arm hazards, and determined an appropriate PPE solution.

A number of gloves, including cotton, insulated, Kevlar, leather, cuffed leather, shock absorbing and padded, were all rated on performance when handling a variety of material. Kevlar provided the highest rated hand protection for 12 of the 17 materials, including sharps, sheet metal, rough edges, glass and metal, and performed well in heavy cutting and heavy clean-up situations.

There were 12 hand injuries in 2009, eight of which were lacerations. The Kevlar gloves that Rice and his team have been using onsite have improved safety since then. Hand injuries, which comprised 42 percent of all recordable injuries across the Center in 2009, only resulted in one of the 20 recordable injuries in 2012. The Industrial Incident Evaluation report also obtained feedback from employees regarding the gloves' comfort, dexterity, worker confidence, durability and productivity.

"The downside to any glove is the dexterity. You just don't have it," Rice said. "Again, that's with any glove. You lose your dexterity when trying to pick things up, but the Kevlar gloves are tight fitting and provide a better grip than most."

Rice leads a six-person filter media crew that changes all of the filter systems of APG Edgewood Area buildings that work with chemical agents. A typical filter system uses negative pressure to pull air through fume hoods located in rooms inside a given building before it is exhausted outside. When air travels through the units, a pre-filter catches all of the large particulates and then moves through HEPA, or high-efficiency particular air, filter.

Phil Santee, of the ECBC Safety and Health Office, said that the HEPA filter removes particulates at an efficiency of 99.97 percent.

"Anything larger than three microns is trapped in the filter through several different methods: impaction, interception and diffusion," he said.

As a result, all particulates, such as biological agents and radiological particles are captured by the HEPA filters. The air is then passed through a charcoal filter that catches all of the toxic chemical vapors and gases before it is finally filtered through a second set of pre- and HEPA filters prior to being released to the outside atmosphere.

"The pre-filters and the HEPAs get changed once a year and the HEPAs are tested afterward to ensure their integrity. We don't change out the carbon filters, but we do test those every two years. If they pass our tests then they are good for another two years. If not, we change them out on a failure basis only," Rice said.

"Testing consists of introducing a known gas on the front side of the filter, running a machine on the backside and looking for any breakthrough to ensure the seal of the filter is working properly."

The number of filter systems a building has depends on the number of hoods inside the building. Rice works closely with building supervisors to ensure minimal disturbance of laboratory testing schedules.

The cut-resistant Kevlar gloves equip employees with the proper protection needed to sustain onsite operations. Due to the threat and use of chemical and biological agents, testing the integrity of filter systems is one of ECBC's primary missions to ensure the safety and environmentally-sound work of the organization.

ECBC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness--technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment--to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.