In a previous study of selected companies, the Health and Safety Executive found that only around half were protecting employees effectively when it came to their supply and use of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE).
By relying on workers to manage their own use of RPE, employers leave both themselves and their workers at risk, raising a need for thorough training and understanding.
Spraying, grinding, welding and cleaning are duties which are performed every day, yet unbeknown to workers, these are also main causes of exposure. Types of hazard then may take the form of gases and airborne particles, fumes, liquid, vapour, dust - all of which either inhalable or irritable.
Breathable substances in the workplace have the potential to cause a plethora of respiratory diseases such as asthma and lung cancers. Prolonged exposure and little protection can also cause airway obstruction and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which leads to health deterioration and life-threatening problems.
Awareness of the hazards is just one of thing employers can interrogate, but understanding the solutions is just as important, hence the availability of multiple forms of RPE.
There are two predominant types of equipment to consider:
Within these types, facepieces are either tight or loose-fitting. Tight-fitting equipment such as full and half-face masks, and FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 filtering facepieces are designed to provide a good seal between the mask and wearer’s face.
Loose-fitting masks work differently, relying on clean air being provided to the wearer which then prevents contaminant from leaking in. Visors and helmets are examples of this.
Employers should be vigilant in their risk assessments and purpose evaluations, bearing in mind wearer comfort, field of vision, locking systems as well as spark, splash and contaminant guards among other essential qualities.
There are several positive steps which employers can take, and among these is employee involvement and training.
Total Protection (UK), part of the BACA group specialises in safety training courses for workers operating in confined spaces and hazardous areas. Employees can either book courses in either Gravesend or Wellingborough, or even be trained at your site.
Management of worker knowledge, the gathering of feedback and the ongoing monitoring of equipment are all easy stages to successful implementation of RPE. If used safely and appropriately for purpose, employers can then breathe a sigh of relief.