It is common to have work activities that may have to deal with harmful substances that can pollute the air by emitting toxic fumes, gas, or mist. For instance, this is evident while using a liquid containing unstable solvents or handling paint ingredients. At times, it may be so that the oxygen levels are below their normality, such as in confined spaces like an underground chamber. Such incidents can result in difficulty in breathing, which can be prevented with the help of Respiratory Protective Equipment or RPE.
Designed to shield the wearer from the probable hazards, an RPE is certainly the essence of any safety procedure in a confined space where breathing problems have high probability to occur. The RPE needs to be capable of reducing the exposure to the level needed to safeguard the wearer’s health as well as suitable for the wearer, environment, and task, which means the wearer can move as well as work freely around the space without any extra risk.
Situations in Which RPE is Essential
There are a few critical situations in which using RPE becomes indispensable. They include breathing contaminated air although there are other means to control, infrequent or little exposure to pollutants but using other protective means is unfeasible, safe exit during emergency, placing other controls, emergency work, short-term failure of controls, and emergency rescues.
The key to successful use of RPE lies in selecting the most suitable one for protecting the wearer. Well, this needs a basic understanding of the type of work to be performed, hazardous substance and the amount exposed, substance form such as vapor or particle, and specific wearer needs such as spectacles.
Types of RPEs
Breathing Apparatus (BA) and respirators are the two chief types of RPEs. Also known as filtering devices, respirators take help of filters to discard pollutants from the air. They can be non-powered relying on breathing to pull air via filter or powered utilizing a motor to passing air via filter for a clean supply.
On the other hand, breathing apparatus requires supply of good quality air from an autonomous source such as air compressor. Both BA and respirators are available in different styles that are split into two categories:
• Loose Fitting: Provides sufficient clean air to the wearer for avoiding contaminant leaking and is powered, for instance, helmets and hoods
• Tight Fitting: Offers good seal between the RPE and the wearer’s face. Commonly known as masks, they can be either powered or non-powered respirators or BA. For ensuring a perfect seal as well as fit for protection, a face fit test from breathesafety.com
Regardless of which RPE is in use, its proper functioning is essential. Therefore, one must ensure the following things.
• Fits for the wearer as well as task
• Fit test grants the permission of usage for the wearer
• Smoothly works with other controls or protective equipment used by the wearer
• Training is given to the wearer
• Usage happens only according to the manufacturers’ instructions