Respirators 101: What Paint Distributors and their Customers Need to Know
Respirators are devices worn by employees to protect them from exposure to harmful chemicals and prevent inhalation of toxic substances. For the end users in the paint industry, employees can be exposed to chemicals that can impact their health and safety. This is why it’s crucial to understand the basics and importance of respirators to safeguard their well-being.
Respirators are essential personal protective equipment (PPE) for the end-user in the paint industry. Choosing the appropriate respirator based on the type of work will protect against hazardous dust, fumes, and vapors that can pose harm to the body.
Having a basic understanding of respiratory devices and how to use them correctly enables workers to protect themselves when needed. Workers who could benefit from basic knowledge include:
- Sales representatives doing product demonstrations that involve potential respiratory hazards.
- Technical representatives doing training sessions or troubleshooting that requires working with harmful fumes.
- Counter workers mixing paints without adequate ventilation.
- Employees mixing large batches of paint at one time.
- Any employees choosing to wear respiratory protection for precaution
Let’s look at the basics of respirators, examine the various types, as well as how to use and maintain them properly, and lastly, discuss training requirements to ensure workers and customers are well-informed and adequately protected.
Selecting the Right Respirator
There are different types of respirators used in the paint industry specifically for painting and coating applications.
- Disposable N95 Respirators: These are lightweight facial fit masks designed to protect you against filtering airborne particles. However, they should only be used for small, short, and outdoor spray-painting jobs. Note: They do not provide protection against gases and vapors.
- Elastomeric Half Facepiece Respirator: These respirators cover the nose and mouth, providing protection against gases, vapors, and particles. They are reusable and have replaceable cartridges and filters.
- Elastomeric Full Facepiece Respirators: These are similar to the half face with the exception that they cover the entire face and eyes, providing another layer of protection.
- Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs): These respirators have a battery-powered blower to pull contaminated air through filters, canisters, or cartridges and provide clean airflow into the hood or facepiece. PAPRs are the highest level of protection for filtering air. They help against gases, vapors, or particles and are comfortable to wear. Note: PAPRs do not require fit testing and can be used with facial hair.
- Supplied-Air Respirators: These respirators are connected to a hose that supplies clean compressed air. While they are lightweight, they are used in extremely hazardous or airborne situations and are generally used for longer working hours.
Additionally, a combination respirator is another type that provides versatile protection and can supply both air and air purifying options.
Selecting the right respirator will depend on the type of work and exposure to airborne contaminants, paint mist, and solvents. Staying safe requires selecting the proper respiratory protection on the job.
Proper Use and Storage
To effectively use and store a respirator, you’ll need to consider the type of respirator and read the manufacturer’s instructions for each model.
Here are some general tips to consider when using a respirator:
- Inspect the respirator before each use, checking for damages to the straps, filters, valves, etc.
- Complete a fit check before usage, ensuring there are no leaks around the face piece and it’s tightly sealed.
- Follow specific instructions. Things such as time limits, maintaining the correct positions when using a respirator, and having a clean-shaven face (if required).
When properly storing respirators ensure to:
- Clean and disinfect regularly- follow the manual’s procedures.
- Keep a record of usage – document fit testing (if required), maintenance, training, etc.
- Replace filters and cartridges as scheduled. Review the manual to note scheduled replacements. Failing to replace these may allow contaminants to enter.
Additionally, make sure to store them in their designated location and keep them away from direct sunlight. These guidelines will ensure that the respirators function effectively and provide optimal respiratory protection.
Remember maintenance procedures may vary based on the type of respirator, and certain models may not require full maintenance, always read your instructions, and refer to the manual for proper storage and maintenance.
Any job that requires employees to wear a respirator must provide training on how to use, inspect, and properly store them while on the job. In other words, if you are dealing with hazardous materials like paint coating or paint stripping, it’s important to know about the right respirator and how to use it properly for the best protection.
Keep in mind that OSHA requires anyone wearing a respirator to undergo a medical evaluation to ensure they are physically fit and able to perform their duties while using a respirator. Respirator Fit Testing— What it is and why you need it.
Proper training, testing, and understanding of respirators ensure maximum protection from hazardous containments.
At GMG EnviroSafe, we work with many different types of businesses providing a comprehensive respiratory protection approach that includes medical evaluations, fit testing, exposure monitoring, and training. Visit our website to learn more about our respiratory solutions.