HOW TO MAKE SURE YOUR RESPIRATORY PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT WORKS
As important as it is to have the appropriate work gear at your disposal to help you do your job safely, it’s just as important to know how to go about using it so you know you aren’t compromising your health and safety at work.
If you need to use respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to perform your duties, make sure that the first time you use a respirator that you conduct a face fit test so you know you’re going to be afforded the necessary protection.
An inadequate fit can lead to immediate or long-term ill health, even potentially putting your life at risk, so it’s essential that a test is done. Fit tests should also be repeated if the RPE type, model, size or material changes or if your personal circumstances change, such as weight loss or gain, facial changes around the seal area, substantial dental work and so on.
Whenever you come to put your respirator on, always carry out a pre-use seal check so you know you don’t have anything to worry about. Also conduct a check of the respirator itself to make sure it’s clean and undamaged.
To achieve an effective fit, make sure you’re clean shaven around the seal area, any stubble or beards will stop the mask from sealing and protecting you properly.
Once your mask is on, before you enter your workspace check that the seal is working properly by putting your hands over the filter material and breathing in. You should feel the mask suck down onto your face. Hold your breath for ten seconds to make sure the respirator doesn’t loosen.
RPE is designed to protect workers while they’re carrying out activities that could result in harmful substances contaminating the air, such as mist, dust, fumes or gas. Activities could include handling dusty powders, using liquids containing volatile solvents or cutting materials like wood, concrete or stone.
As such, RPE must be adequate and suitable to make sure you’re properly protected, with the equipment right for the hazard in question, reducing exposure so as to protect your health.
This means that you (or your employer) needs to have a good understanding of the hazardous substance, the form it takes in the air, the type of work being done and any specific worker requirements, such as additional PPE.
In construction, the most prevalent diseases are asbestos-related diseases, asthma, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and silicosis. As such, doing all you can to help control the risks, through the use of RPE, PPE and proper risk assessment, is a must for all those working in the industry.
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