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A Breath of Fresh Air: the OSHA Respiratory Standard and Equipment

Spraying The Deck

When you work on a construction site, you expect there to be something in the air. Sawdust, drywall dust, paint fumes: all these things can add up to a huge impact on your respiratory system. How do you take care of your lungs and respiratory system while getting the job done effectively? At Wallboard Supply Company, we're all about supplying what you need, including this brief overview of the OSHA respiratory standard and the related personal protective equipment (PPE) used to protect your lungs and respiratory tract.

The OSHA Respiratory Standard

Safety Mask

This part of the OSHA standard covers many different area. It includes a requirement that in areas where there is an expectation of dust, fumes, gases, smoke, spraying or vapors that the area be sealed off if possible. This is commonly achieved using plastic film and tape to secure it. Some construction products are available that make it easier to enter and exit the work area by having a pair of zippers or hook and loop fasteners that can be opened for passage. Ventilation and filtration should be provided to ensure that workers in the area are not being subjected to hazardous conditions.

But above and beyond limiting the spread of the pollutants, OSHA also requires PPE for the workers in those environments, to ensure that they are limiting their exposure to any of the above materials to the respiratory tract. The type of PPE used depends on the hazards present. If it is simple dust or cellulose, a simple mask may be sufficient. If there are fumes from painting or spraying, a respirator or powered air-purifying respirator may be required. In extreme situations where sufficient oxygen is not present to be purified or there are other extremely harmful circumstances, a self-contained breathing apparatus potentially including an environmental suit may be required.

Common Personal Protective Equipment

Construction Worker Wearing Safety MAsk
  • N- versus R- versus P-: So what's the difference between these masks, beyond the letters? An N-95 mask is not resistant to oil aerosols. This is important because these masks trap particulates through an electrostatic charge, which is broken down with the addition of oil, allowing contaminants in. An R-95 mask is somewhat resistant to oils, while a P-95 mask is virtually oil-proof. If you're using oil-based substances, you'll want to upgrade to a P- grade filter.
  • P-95 versus P-99 versus P-100: This number refers to the percentage of particulates that are removed from the air. A P-95 mask removes 95% of the particulates, a P-99 removes 99% of particulates and a P-100 removes 99.97% of particulates as the air travels through the mask.
  • Valve or no valve: Many people choose valveless masks because they are more affordable and don't have a chance of letting any air back through the valve. That being said, valve masks are often much more comfortable because condensation doesn't build up, fogging safety glasses and in general are more comfortable to work in.
  • Mask versus respirator: A mask filters air on the way in, but it doesn't typically give you an air-tight seal. When you're working with many chemicals, you'll want an air-tight seal to ensure you're not breathing in a lot of vapors. Though respirators are more expensive, they're also reusable for many years and full-face masks offer eye protection as well.
  • Powered air-purifying respirators versus self-contained breathing apparatus: When you're in a serious air-quality situation, you may run into these type of PPE devices. A powered air-purifying respirator uses a fan to push air in the environment through filters and into your mask, reducing the amount of work you have to do to pull the air through the filters. A self-contained breathing apparatus, on the other hand, provides tanked air exactly as a scuba tank would, ensuring high quality air.

Your lungs and respiratory system are a good part of what keep you going on a daily basis, so make sure you're respecting that capability by using appropriate respiratory protection on the job. Do you need to get new equipment or check out the features in the latest trends? At Wallboard Supply Company, we have everything you need to get the job done. Contact us today for more information or come in to one of our seven convenient locations to see what's available.

OSHA Personal Protective Equipment Quick Card

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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.