Paint Safety Equipment
Painting your home may take a little bit of time and effort, but it shouldn’t leave you feeling ill. Utilizing a mask or respirator is a good way to keep your head and lungs clear while you sand and paint. These useful safety devices can protect you from harmful fumes, dust, pollen and other airborne particles. If you know for sure that your next project involves any harmful gases, vapors or particles, knowing what safety equipment is available to you is vital. As you prepare for your project, keep the following questions in mind and make sure you protect yourself from harm:
• What types of masks and respirators are available?
• What types of cartridges are available?
• What other projects are respirators used for?
• What steps should you take to ensure proper usage?
• What special features are important to you?
Masks, Respirators, Cartridges and Usage
The key to ensuring proper respiratory health when working with harmful substances is using the right type of protection. No respiratory apparatus protects against all dangerous and toxic chemicals. Before you begin any sort of painting project, find out what types of chemicals, fumes, gases and vapors you may encounter. If you have to do any sanding, you’ll need protection from dust, and if you’re working outside and are prone to allergies, having some pollen protection may make you more comfortable. Check on your respiratory equipment periodically to ensure that it is in proper working order. Also, look for features that enhance comfort and convenience.
Masks and Respirators: It’s easy to assume that because you have something covering your nose and mouth, you’re safe from harmful substances, especially if you can’t smell anything out of the ordinary. This is not always the case, however, as many microscopic and scent-free particles can prove harmful. While many people use different definitions, masks and respirators are generally differentiated by their ability to provide true respiratory protection. Masks guard against nuisance-level, nontoxic household dusts and pollen, making them ideal for use when cleaning up or working in the yard during hay fever season. Respirators, on the other hand, offer protection against chemicals, vapors and other harmful particles. They are available in a number of different configurations, from simple devices that cover your nose and mouth to complex full-head units. Particulate, or filtration, respirators, such as latex paint and odor respirators and sanding and fiberglass respirators, protect against solid particles while gas and vapor respirators offer protection against less solid substances.
• Masks are comfortable, lightweight, easy to adjust and often disposable
• Dust masks do not provide protection against chemicals or vapors
• Respirators may protect against dust and pollen in addition to chemicals and vapors
• Respirators may be particulate, gas and vapor or combination
• Respirators are available in both disposable and reusable formats
• Drop-down respirators allow you to lower them without removing a face shield or hardhat
Points to consider
|Combination Respirator||Protects against solid particles as well as gases and vapors||• Available in multiple configurations
• Ideal for use with no-oil spray paint and solvent
• Reduces exposure to fiberglass installation dust
• May be somewhat heavier
|Dust Mask||Protects against dust, pollen and other solid particles||• Does not protect against harmful chemicals
|Gas and Vapor Respirator||Protects against harmful gases and vapors||• Available in multiple configurations
• Does not filter out airborne particles
• Chemical filters or cartridges should be checked to
ensure they are in working order prior to use
|Latex Paint and Odor Mask||Particulate respirator that protects against nuisance-level paint odors, latex paint and pollen||• Blocks dust encountered during sanding, drywall
sanding, rust removal and installation of fiberglass
• Lightweight and comfortable
|Sanding and Fiberglass Respirator||Particulate respirator that minimizes exposure to pollen and dust encountered during sanding particle board and drywall||• Can be used for protection during the installation
• Can filter dust and debris while you sweep out the
garage or basement
• Lightweight and comfortable
Cartridges: Cartridges, or filters, are responsible for blocking harmful substances. If they are located within a metal shell, cartridges may be referred to as “canisters.” Many respirators feature a dual-cartridge system with one on each side of the mask. These units are also known as air-purifying respirators. Most cartridges are designed to filter out only one particular substance or chemical, which makes it imperative to know what you’ll be encountering before you begin work. OSHA has created a color-coding scheme manufacturers use to denote what a given cartridge protects against.
• Orange filters protect against dust, fumes and mist
• Black filters protect against organic vapors
• Blue filters protect against carbon monoxide
• Yellow filters protect against acid gas and organic vapor
• Olive filters protect against a range of different gases and vapors
• HEPA filters protect against particles as small as 0.3 microns
Usage, Effectiveness and Maintenance: One of the most important steps to ensure proper protection from a mask or respirator is achieving a proper fit. If a respirator is loose, harmful vapors will be able to get inside, rendering it useless. Make sure the unit is covering both your mouth and nose at all times. Respirators are often rated by APF, or assigned protection factor.
APF determines what proportion of contaminants a respirator will filter out. If, for example, a respirator had an APF of 50, users could expect to inhale approximately 1/50th of the total contaminant present. Remember that respirators only protect you while you’re wearing them. They don’t eliminate the hazard around you, and they don’t produce oxygen.
• Follow manufacturer’s instructions regarding when to replace cartridges
• If breathing becomes more difficult, the cartridge or mask may need to be replaced
• Replace a mask or respirator if it shows any sign of physical or structural damage
• In addition to painting, respirators can be used for protection in a number of commercial and industrial
Face Seal Design: A good respirator should balance comfort with effective filtration. The manner in which the mask seals to your face is a key factor in both elements. Respirators must provide a tight, effective seal to prevent harmful substances from getting in, but look for units that feature softer material and edges that are not located on uncomfortable pressure points.
Color Coding: Some manufacturers color code respirators by size, making it easy to tell at a glance which one is yours if more than one person in your house or workshop has the same kind.
Field of Vision: When purchasing a full-face respirator, make sure it has an adequate field of vision. Without one, you’ll find yourself turning your head constantly to survey your work space, slowing down progress.
Compatibility: If you plan to use your respirator for a number of different tasks, look for one that’s designed to accommodate goggles, hearing protection and other safety equipment you may need to use.
Comfort: Paint and sanding jobs can take a while to complete, so look for respirators and masks with easy-to-use adjustable straps that allow you to find the most comfortable fit. Respirators with M-shaped nose clips help reduce pressure on your nose to increase comfort as well.