Trends in respiratory protection

Compliance is paramount

By Tracy Haas, editorial assistant

For many workers, breathing clean air is so natural that it barely requires a second thought. But when safe, hazard-free air is not readily available, respiratory protection comes into play. From nurses, manufacturers, firefighters and farmers to countless others, respiratory products not only are sometimes necessary – they also can be vital in preventing serious injuries, diseases and even death.

Extra care needs to be taken to ensure the correct respiratory protection device is used, according to Tami Wenzel, category manager for respiratory protection for Roswell, GA-based Kimberly-Clark Professional. Wenzel advises looking for respirators with color-coded straps that correspond to specific needs and protection levels. “This feature makes it easier for employees to quickly select the proper respirator and allows safety managers to determine from a distance if employees are using the correct respirator for a given task,” Wenzel said.

However, even the correct personal protective equipment will not help unless used correctly, Wenzel cautioned. “In search of better fit and greater comfort, workers may alter respirators or other PPE, compromising their safety and risking exposure to hazardous elements and conditions,” Wenzel said.

“With disposable particulate respirators, for example, if respirator straps are uncomfortable, workers may move them around, wear just one strap or put both straps in one place, as opposed to wearing one strap across the crown of the head and one strap on the back of the neck to hold the respirator in its proper place on the face. To provide the highest level of protection and a proper seal, respirators must be worn correctly,” Wenzel said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “training is extremely important in regard to the storage, maintenance, use, and discarding of the respirator.” Wenzel added: “Employers should educate employees about potential respiratory risks in the work environment so employees are aware of and appreciate the need for respiratory protection.”

With new technology, comfort remains an important goal. Wenzel pointed out that respirators now are being made with soft, elastic straps. “These wide, adjustable head straps hold the mask in place without digging into the skin or getting tangled in workers’ hair, as thinner rubber respirator straps are apt to do,” Wenzel said.
Coming next month…
Hand protection
High-visibility products

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