Wednesday, 11 April 2012

So what is the point in half face respirators?

Disposable half face respirators do have their place in the workshop, but only where the task to be completed is of a minor nature and where the task is short of duration and does not create any appreciable level of dust.
Where operatives are forced to wear face protection for several hours each day then a disposable respirator is almost certainly a complete waste of money. The employer should first of all assess whether face protection necessary? Assuming that it is, then he or she could do worse than consult the local HSE Inspectorate.
Keeping dust out is obviously the best bet but this is not always possible. It very much depends on the nature of the task and of the equipment or tools to be used. Indeed, even though dust collection may be provided, often the performance of such equipment falls well below the required standard. On the assumption that dust collection at source isn’t practical then another means of operator protection is necessary. This second line of defence is described by HSE as being a last resort, in other words, if you have taken all of the other steps and yet operators are still in an exposed position, if all else fails then supply PPE/RPE.
Having personally tried virtually every type of dust collection system on offer over the last ten years or so, I can state with a fair degree of fairly certainty that few if any match up to the needs of operators. I can hear screams of protest from the various manufacturers of dust collection system as I write this, but in truth because the systems themselves rely on operatives, management and local conditions, every system will operate below par most of the time. Some are difficult to use (those that are often connected to hand held power tools), some rely on the common sense of operators, others do not work well if the material being cut or sanded is changed to something else. It is a lottery, and the odds of overcoming the problem can be quite frightening, and consequently an operator’s well-being can be put at risk through no fault of his or her own.

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