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Using Emergency Escape Breathing Devices (EEBD) in Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) Situations

Emergency escape breathing devices (EEBD) are a type of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) used for emergency escape in immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) situations. When properly used, an EEBD can provide emergency respiratory protection by allowing the wearer to escape from environments with atmospheres that are oxygen deficient or that contain toxic contaminants.

EEBD are typically compact and lightweight, supplying airflow from a compressed air cylinder to a loose-fitting hood that goes over the wearer’s head, sealing at the neck. This high coverage design also protects eyes from irritation and allows the wearer to see more easily when walking to safety.

Typical applications for EEBD

Many industries have EEBD strategically located in areas where hazardous conditions may suddenly occur and when breathing air is needed for immediate escape. Some common industries where EEBD are used include:

  • Chemical or petrochemical facilities
  • Pharmaceutical industries
  • Shipping
  • Food and beverage locations
  • Pulp and paper
  • Offshore and mainland oil drilling platforms
  • Confined spaces
  • Certain general industry environments


Advantages of the 3M™ Scott™ ELSA EEBD-N

3M™ Scott™ ELSA EEBD have many features that benefit the person wearing them, including:

  1. The ELSA EEBD does not require fit testing. Unlike many other types of respirators, this type of EEBD can be used when the wearer has a beard and/or moustache, as long as they do not interfere with the neck seal. Workers do not need to be clean shaven, a major convenience when an unexpected IDLH situation arises and workers need to get out of the area immediately.
  2.  The ELSA EEBD is relatively easy to implement. They can be placed in areas on a jobsite with convenient access and their distinct shape and bright orange covering makes them highly visible. A grab-handle and shoulder strap make them easy to carry and because they are so simple to operate, training for use is quick and easy.
  3. The ELSA hood fits over many head shapes and sizes, even when other PPE is being worn. Because air pressure holds the hood up (rather than a mechanical suspension) it can fit over various hair styles, safety glasses and small head coverings.
  4. The ELSA hood is transparent, enabling a clear field of view in any direction. This helps the wearer don the hood quickly and helps them easily see their escape path, including any stairs or hazards that may be present above or beside them. This can also help enhance worker communication with one another, allowing workers to see what others around them are paying attention to, making for a quicker and safer escape.
  5. The ELSA EEBD does not require cartridges or filters to capture contaminants.  They provide clean breathing air to the wearer without worrying about using compatible cartridges and filters.

Using EEBD to escape from IDLH situations

The ELSA EEBD can be used to escape from IDLH atmospheres because it provides the wearer with breathing air instead of relying on filters or cartridges. Atmospheres are considered IDLH when the environment is oxygen deficient; the airborne contaminant is highly toxic; and/or concentrations are unknown. Spills, sudden gas releases, as well as uncontained or upset process emissions can all result in an unknown or unquantified exposure scenario.

Why selecting cylinder duration is important

An ELSA EEBD should always be chosen that has enough rated duration to enable the wearer to reach safety. When choosing an EEBD model, consideration should be based on an estimate of how much time the worker may need to escape.  Other things to consider are the hazard that would require an EEBD and how much effort it would take to traverse that route. Some routes might be more complicated than others.  For example, they might include things like access control ladders, elevators, evacuation choke points or confined spaces.

A best practice to determine the cylinder duration needed is to walk the escape path a few times and measure the time it takes to reach safety – then choose an EEBD model that will operate longer than the time required to reach safety. It is important to allow for extra time if the escape route involves more than a flat walking surface. Stair and hills may reduce the speed that the worker walks. It might also be necessary to adjust the walking speed according to workers’ physical abilities and fitness levels.

Need guidance on choosing an emergency escape breathing device for your application? Reach out to us via the form below and we’ll get in contact with you.

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