Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Stick to it!

Having trained the operator, it is then essential of course to supply the correct type of RPE. I have previously mentioned the benefits (or not) of using a disposable half face respirator, and advised never to use a Nuisance Dust Mask for anything other than when you are in a workplace where dust is not actually being generated. Nuisance dust masks are not intended to protect operators who are generating dust!
Whilst it is relatively easy to find disposable half face respirators which cost only a couple of pounds, the fact that they are a one-time use respirator can make them a very expensive product or worse, if used improperly, a useless item of RPE. There are very few, if any, operators who use disposables half face respirators on only one occasion! Having seen, over the years, operators wearing disposable respirators, or rather not wearing them, the word disposable has been ignored or misinterpreted, in which case a ‘disposable’ respirator has often become a potentially dangerous item, with operators blithely unaware of the dangers to which they have become exposed.
So then, where does that leave us? Nuisance dust masks must not be thought of as genuine RPE, and disposable half face masks are not entirely without their problems (all man-made of course), the only true method of face protection is to use a non-disposable half face system, have your operatives properly face fit tested on that system and stick to it! Do not change the system, brand or type of respirators in mid-stream, and if you have operatives who have facial hair (a beard or a moustache or both) find another type of RPE suitable for him, her or them.
This does place a major responsibility on the purchasing manager or director and entails working closely with your supplier. No urgent orders of similar products are acceptable just to get out of trouble, no cheap deals of alternative makes of mask, no incorrect picking at the supplier’s premises. Decide on which respirator suits the majority of your workers and stick to it!

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