Highway Care News

Why wearing respiratory protective equipment saves lives

Chris Harris, Highway Care's Health, Safety, Environment and Quality (HSEQ) Manager explains why PPE and in particular, respiratory protective equipment should be worn by operatives at all times.

Why is personal protective equipment so important?

'As the HSEQ Manager at Highway Care, the health of our operatives and all members of staff in fact, is of the upmost importance to me. We need them fit and healthy to carry out work and from a personal point of view, I care about their own personal health.

Protective masks are available to any operative where risk assessment has shown that this is the control measure required.'

How do we work out if PPE is required?

Personal Protective Equipment, of which face masks are classed, is always the last resort in the hierarchy of control measures.

When risk assessing tasks and identifying hazards that include potential risk of respiratory issues, in particular inhalation of silica dust, which can be completely damaging to an employee's health and can cause lung disease and even death.

If a risk assessment flags up the risk of silica dust, we take the following action steps by employing and rolling out:

  • Hazard elimination
  • Hazard substitution techniques
  • Engineering controls
  • Administrative controls
  • Personal protective equipment

So, where the hierarchy of controls have been exhausted and we decide that PPE is required, then we look at type of face mask that may be required.

What type of face masks are there?

Chris explains, Respiratory Protective Equipment is divided into two main types:

  • Respirator (filtering device) - this uses filters to remove contaminants in the workplace air, there are two main types:

​Non-powered respirators – these rely on the wearer’s breathing to draw air through the filter and powered respirators – which use a motor to pass air through the filter to give a supply of clean air to the wearer

  • Breathing apparatus (BA) - this requires a supply of breathing-quality air from an independent source, such as an air cylinder or air compressor

Both respirators and BA are available in a range of different styles, which can be put into two main groups:

  • Tight-fitting facepieces or commonly referred to as masks, rely on having a good seal with the wearer’s face. These are available as both non-powered and powered respirators and BA. Examples are filtering facepieces, half and full-face masks.
  • Loose-fitting facepieces, which rely on enough clean air being provided to the wearer to prevent contaminant leaking in. Only available as powered respirators or BA. Examples are hoods helmets, visors, blouses and suits.

How do you know if RPE is right for the wearer?

'For RPE to be suitable, it must be matched to the job, the environment, the anticipated airborne contaminant exposure level and the wearer. As people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes it is unlikely that one particular type, or size of RPE facepiece, will fit everyone. Fit testing will help ensure that the equipment selected is suitable for the wearer.

We have a range of operatives in Highway Care who at various points wear RPE. For example, some operatives just require basic ‘dust masks’ and some Drilling Team operatives require more sophisticated protection due to Silica Dust exposure risk. These masks are FFP3 rated.

RPE is graded and can be worn in the following situations:

FFP1 Dust Masks

FFP1 Dust Masks protect against low levels of dust, as well as solid and liquid aerosols. FFP1 Dust Masks are suitable for hand sanding, drilling, and cutting.

FFP2 Dust Masks

FFP2 Dust Masks protect against moderate levels of dust, as well as solid and liquid aerosols. FFP2 masks are ideal for plastering and sanding.

FFP3 Dust Masks

FFP3 Dust Masks protect against higher levels of dust. They also protect against solid and liquid aerosols. FFP3 masks are suitable for handling hazardous powders, such as those found in the pharmaceutical industry.

What next?

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