Powered-Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) and Supplied-Air Respirators (SARs) are often thought of as heavy, bulky, expensive, and unnecessary. Unfortunately, this mindset often overlooks the positive aspects these products can bring to a company and its employees. The evolution in design of PAPR and SAR systems makes these respirators increasingly more valuable to employers who are looking for ways to improve worker safety while simultaneously increasing both comfort and productivity and reducing administrative costs.
Selecting the Proper Control Method
Use of engineering controls, such as local exhaust ventilation, is always the preferred method of controlling worker exposure to hazardous materials. When this is not feasible, respirators may be used to help protect the workers. All occupational respirator use must follow the OSHA respiratory protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134, which includes provisions for selection, training, medical clearance, breathable air, etc. Selection of respirators must be conducted carefully to ensure the respirator selected provides the requisite level of filtration.
The first step in proper respirator selection is knowing which chemicals the worker must be protected against and the airborne concentration of those chemicals. The selected respirator must be able to protect against those chemicals and have an adequate Assigned Protection Factor (APF) for the concentrations noted. Per 29 CFR 1910.134(b),
“APF means the workplace level of respiratory protection that a respirator or class of respirators is expected to provide to employees when the employer implements a continuing, effective respiratory protection program as specified by this section.”
The airborne concentration of the chemical divided by the APF must be lower than its OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL). Respirators always must be used within their APFs and the regulatory requirements of 1910.134. PAPRs and SARs with hoods, helmets, or full facepieces may have APFs up to 1,000. PAPRs and SARs utilizing loose-fitting facepieces or headcovers (where the respirator is loose and connects with the user’s face along the jaw line) have APRs of 25.
- Increased comfort. With a PAPR or a SAR, the worker is relieved of the burden of having to be the power source for the respirator. The respirator itself does the work of supplying clean, filtered air to the wearer. The movement of the air supplied by the respirator across the worker’s head and face also may provide a cooling feeling to the worker. SAR units can even be equipped with vortex cooling assemblies that can reduce the temperature of the air supplied to the respirator system by as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If a hood with an inner shroud is used, this air can be funneled into the worker’s clothing to provide additional cooling, which can be a significant advantage when impermeable worker protective clothing is worn. Similarly, air heating options are also available.
- Elimination of fit testing. Loose-fitting respirators do not require fit testing per the OSHA respiratory protection standard (134(f)). Dispensing with fit testing saves the money of conducting the actual fit test, as well as minimizing worker time away from the job. Note: PAPRs and SARs with tight-fitting face pieces still require annual fit testing. See Allegro Fit Testing Kits here
- Accommodating facial hair. Respirators utilizing tight-fitting facepieces have strict limitations on facial hair. With loose-fitting PAPR and SAR systems, provided the facial hair does not interfere with the headgear sealing area, a person can have limited facial hair, comply with OSHA regulations, and maintain the protection provided by the respirator.
- Reduced fogging. In some work areas where safety glasses and a faceshield are required, fogging can be both an annoyance and a potential safety issue. PAPR and SAR systems can generate a constant airflow across the headgear visor, which may reduce or eliminate fogging.
Improved Product Design
Allegro has recognized the need to incorporate design elements that help make systems easier to use and enhance the overall appeal of our products. Some of these enhancements include:
- Design, weight, and environmental considerations. A well-designed/-styled system can help promote worker acceptance, which is an important factor in increasing usage. Some recently introduced PAPRs incorporate a sleeker, lighter, more ergonomic design. Some current PAPR designs shield the air inlet, which allows the worker to sit in a chair without blocking off airflow, or allow the PAPR to be worn in a decontamination shower without exposing the filter to direct water spray. Changing to lithium-ion batteries from older nickel cadmium or nickel metal hydride batteries can significantly reduce both the size and weight of powered air respirators. In addition, replacement of nickel cadmium batteries also has the environmental advantage of eliminating a toxic, heavy metal (cadmium) from the waste stream.
- User interface systems. Some modern PAPRs can communicate to the worker to warn when the battery pack charge is running low, the particulate filter is clogging, or other malfunction is occurring that may cause the PAPR system to yield insufficient airflow. Some battery packs now come equipped with a charge indicator, where the worker presses a button on the battery to determine the current charge status of the battery pack. This helps ensure the battery pack has sufficient capacity for the duration of the task.
- Adjustable airflow distribution. Worker preference is always an important consideration. A PAPR or SAR system incorporating a hood or helmet that allows the worker to adjust where the air is being distributed within the headgear can help minimize complaints related to issues such as eye irritation, fogging, or a sense there is an insufficient supply of air.
Providing the best safety products for your industry is our priority at Allegro! Contact us to receive more information about our SARs, PAPRs, and similar products that will maximize your workplace safety!