Abrasive blasting is the foundation for any good paint job. Without it, the finished product could deteriorate too fast or simply look unprofessional. Unfortunately, it can also be a messy proposition that comes with its fair share of hazards. Whether you're on a commercial site or working in a residential area, there are plenty of precautions that need to be taken during blast jobs. Here are some of the most common issues we see with respirators on blast jobs.
Different Types of Particulate Matter
Today, we see a wide range of different media used for blasting. This includes both dry, wet and vapor type blasting. Many people assume that because wet blasting does not produce as much visible dust, it does not pose the same risks as dry blasting. This is not necessarily true. Instead, it just means that the particulate matter may be suspended in liquid or vapor. This can be a real problem if you are not wearing a respirator that is made for catching this type of PM. The filter on your respirator needs to match the specifications for the size of PM that is flying through the room. In addition, it needs to be adequate for handling the particular chemical compounds that may be present in the matter as well. Failure to choose the right type of respirator or filter can have serious consequences for the operator. OSHA uses a simplified assigned protection factor, or APF, to indicate what level of protection a respirator offers.
Poorly Fitted Respirators
One of the most common issues we see with respirators in the field is a poor fit. Some people think that a tighter fitting respirator will provide more protection than a loose-fitting hood respirator. The problem is that the individual wearing a tight fitting sealed respirator must be completely clean shaven, and must be sure that a perfect seal is created every single time. Some operators choose these types of respirators because they are less bulky than loose-fitting respirators, but they can expose you to extra risk if you have facial hair or a wrong-sized system that does not seal.
By contrast, a loose-fitting respirator that fully covers the head and neck can offer superior protection by ensuring that all particulate matter is kept away from the face entirely. The hood offers a simpler means of keeping PM out of your respiratory system and is easier to fit on a wide range of users. Using a paint respirator for blasting is unacceptable per OSHA's standards.
Other Contamination Sources
Aside from using the respirator itself, it is important for workers to understand that they can introduce contaminants in other ways. Taking off a respirator should be done cautiously to avoid stirring up any PM off of the hood. Likewise, operators should be sure that they are wearing gloves and other protection so that they do not expose themselves to risk if they touch their face later in the day. If you find yourself adjusting your respirator with your hands often, you could be introducing contaminants without even thinking. This is usually a sign that you need a different type of respirator.
Abrasive blasting is an important part of the industrial painting process, and it remains one of the most effective cleaning methods we have available. Nevertheless, poor habits with respirators can lead to serious health issues in the long run. Performance Paint takes the issue of respirator safety very seriously, and always ensures that all operators are wearing proper respirators for both the type of blasting they are doing and OSHA standards. To learn more about protecting yourself on a blast site, visit us online today.