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Less Dust Does Not Mean Less PPE
When dry blasting first became popular, many operators employed just a face shield to keep the dust out of their eyes. With the amount of dust in the air, however, it quickly became clear that respiratory issues could become a concern, and standards were set to require respirators when dry blasting.
Compared to dry blasting, wet and vapor abrasive blasting reduces dust significantly, causing people to question whether or not a respirator is required. However, any blasting operation will create some dust, whether from the substrate being blasted or the media used for the blasting. Even if a small amount of media is being used, there could be kickback from the surface.
Less dust still requires protective gear, particularly if the dust might contain hazardous materials like asbestos or lead.
Face Shields And Eye Protection
Face shields are generally integrated into loose-fitting respirators, and thus operators using those respirators do not need a secondary face shield.
However, other individuals on the site should use alternative eye protection such as safety glasses or a face shield.
Hearing protection, which can be included in a loose-fitting respirator or as an addition to a tight-fitting respirator, is necessary when working around blasting equipment, which runs at a high frequency with high decibels, and compressors, which can be very loud as well.
Depending on the respirator in use, it may come equipped with a communication system in the helmet, making it easy for operators to communicate without removing the respirator and hearing protection. It’s important that everyone working nearby on the job site use ear plugs or other hearing protection.
Blast Suits, Gloves And Boots
Clothing, gloves and boots help further ensure the safety and comfort of the operator.
Nylon blast suits, such as the RPB® Blast Suit, are lightweight, durable and breathable, and designed to protect from any abrasive material kickback while helping keep the operator cool.
The suit can also get wet – an important consideration when wet or vapor abrasive blasting – and can be machine washed for easy re-use.
Wet And Vapor Blasting PPE Checklist
There are no dedicated products specifically designed for wet or abrasive blasting jobs. However, many distributors and manufacturers recommend respiratory protection, and typically use similar PPE as would be found on dry blasting jobs.
Respirators are an important piece of equipment for any blaster, as they help keep dust in the air from entering the lungs, which could lead to breathing problems. Tight-fitting respirators can be used and work well to prevent intake of dust if they are sealed properly. However, they frequently do not provide the same protection as loose-fitting respirators, as any facial hair – even stubble – can break the seal on the respirator and allow dust in. Beyond the need to be completely clean-shaven, tight-fitting respirators can be hot and uncomfortable, reducing the efficiency and effectiveness of the operator.
It is important to note that using just any respirator may not work for blasting. For example, paint respirators are commonly marked “not to be used in abrasive blasting.” According to rules set out by OSHA in standard 1910.134, abrasive blasting respirators must cover the head, neck and shoulders, and be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to protect from dust generated during blasting.
The Changing Safety Market
The blasting market is becoming much more conscious of operator safety and ensuring each operator has the appropriate equipment. PPE helps protect workers on the job so they can get home to enjoy a healthy life. By keeping operators safe and healthy on the job, they can be free to live without concerns of hearing loss, respiratory attacks or other health issues.
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