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Trends in ... Respiratory protection

March 1, 2013

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‘A lot new going on’

By Tracy Haas, editorial assistant


Although powered air-purifying respirators are not new, “there is a lot new going on with this product category,” according to Grant Rowe, product line manager, respiratory protection, at Cynthiana, KY-based Bullard.

Rowe said PAPRs now feature technologically advanced alarms, flow controls and battery indicators. “The technology in some units has become sophisticated enough to maintain constant flow despite changing filter or battery conditions,” he noted.

Marty Lorkowski, global marketing manager, industrial, for Monroe, NC-based Scott Safety, emphasized cylinder sizing, saying 5,500-psi cylinders are now available for self-contained breathing apparatus. “The smaller, lighter size cylinders will help reduce fatigue … and also be less restrictive when worn in confined spaces,” he said.

Some SCBAs also now come equipped with tracking systems, which can help workers in dangerous situations, according to Mark Williamson, global product manager – supplied air products at Avon Protection Systems Inc., based in Lawrenceville, GA. “It’s important to be able to quickly locate and assist downed or trapped firefighters,” Williamson said.

Regarding disposable respirators, Lance Watkins, marketing director for Moldex-Metric Inc., in Culver City, CA, noted that filter media can now be pleated, allowing for double the surface area. He said this new technology can result in easier breathing in and out of the mask.

Avoiding misuse

OSHA estimates that 5 million workers are required to wear respirators in roughly 1.3 million workplaces in the United States. Rowe noted that respiratory protection has been one of OSHA’s top 5 most cited standards for several years. He gave a number of reasons for possible misuse of respiratory protection, including not having an OSHA-compliant written respiratory program, failure to fit-test and inappropriate respirator selection. Respirators have “very specific capabilities and limitations,” he said. “Proper selection is critical to ensuring proper protection and failure to consider this could lead to injury or even death.”

Lorkowski suggested recurrent training, saying, “The more frequent the training, the more likely the user will use the equipment properly, minimizing risk of misuse and ultimately improving safety.”

But the comfort factor cannot be overlooked. “Users need less stress on their bodies, meaning comfortable, well-fitted equipment,” Williamson said. He recommended researching the new technology for respiratory protection equipment. “[People] will discover many advancements in equipment,” he said.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Applicable voluntary standard

ANSI/ISEA 110-2009: Air-Purifying Respiratory Protective Smoke Escape Devices

ANSI/ISEA 110-2009 provides design guidance to Respiratory Protective Smoke Escape Device manufacturers in the form of a detailed set of performance requirements and testing procedures. The standard also represents a minimum requirement for purchase specifications. Key sections of the standard cover certification, labeling, design, performance, conditioning and testing requirements. RPEDs are intended for use by persons escaping from fire-generated products of combustion. They provide head, eye and respiratory protection from particulate matter, eye irritants, carbon monoxide and other toxic gases commonly produced by structural fire.

ANSI/ISEA 102-1990 (R2009): Gas Detector Tubes – Short Term Types for Toxic Gases and Vapors in Working Environments

This standard provides a means of continual testing of gas detector tube units and components for accurate performance in working environments, by determining the concentration of toxic gases and vapor. It was drafted by the ISEA Instruments Group to establish a voluntary standard for gas detector tube units, based on criteria that had been established by NIOSH in its now-discontinued certification program.

Coming next month ... Hearing protection

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