User Friendly Supplied-Air Respirators: Options for Automotive Refinishers
To stay healthy, painters should wear a supplied-air respirator when spraying paints containing highly toxic chemicals such as isocyanates. In fact, some paint manufacturers say painters must wear supplied-air respirators when spraying isocyanate-containing paints. Although painters have complained that conventional supplied-air respirators lack comfort, visibility, and convenience, the newer designs and models, like the ones presented in this bulletin, are changing many painters' attitudes and behaviors. Painters who have tried the new models want supplied-air systems. They find these respirators very comfortablesome are even air conditioned!and, most importantly, they consider supplied-air the best way to protect their health from the toxic chemicals in paint coatings. DfE hopes that this bulletin helps you find a supplied-air respirator that is right for you. NOTE: This guide provides insights into some of the respiratory protection equipment presently available that may be used by auto refinishers. It is not intended to be used as a respirator selection guide.
Loose-fitting hoods are light-weight, low-maintenance (most are equipped with disposable visor covers), and offer a wide field-of-vision. As with all loose-fitting respirators, painters do not need a fit test to use the hood modeland can even have a beard and wear eyeglasses. In addition, loose-fitting hoods often provide the greatest cooling effect. (Prices range from $200 to $400.)
Among supplied-air respirators, full-facepiece models typically provide the highest level of protection. With some designs, the breathing tube and airline attach in back, away from the work zone. Painters find that this rear-mount model helps prevent the airline from accidentally ruining the paint job. To ensure a tight seal with this type of respirator, painters need a fit-test and cannot have a beard or other facial hair. Eyeglass mounts are available with most models. (Prices start at about $500.)
Another popular supplied-air respirator has a flip-up visor, which allows the painter to get a better view of the finish without removing the respirator. This model, a modified version of a loose-fitting hood, does not require fit testing and can accommodate eyeglasses and some facial hair. Painters using this respirator must remember to lift the visor only after the ventilation system has exhausted all paint overspray from the spray booth. (Prices range from $200 to $400.)
Yes. Shop owners must decide what type of breathing air system they will use for their supplied-air respirators. In-line air filtration units and low-pressure ambient air pumps are two common choices.
In-line air filtration units convert your shop's existing high-pressure compressed air to clean breathable air. These units use replaceable filters to remove contaminants from the compressed air stream.
To meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for breathing air, the filtration units should be equipped with a carbon monoxide monitor. Some systems can deliver air-conditioned or heated air, an attractive feature for painters. Of course, filters for these systems need periodic changes, which increase their cost over time. (Prices for portable or wall-mounted units with carbon monoxide monitors range from $1,300 to $4,000.)
Low-pressure ambient air pumps differ from air filtration units in that they are electrically driven, oil-less compressors, and are usually placed in locations with fresh air away from work areas. Unlike other compressors, oil-less ambient air pumps typically do not require filters (other than a small inlet filter) or high-temperature alarms, if installed in a contaminant-free area (away from exhaust, chemicals, etc.). These systems can also be used when the shop's air compressor lacks the capacity to feed equipment and respirators. (Prices start at about $600 for one-worker units and $1,700 for two-worker units.)
OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134) requires that employers select only National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-certified respirators. This OSHA standard further states that employers may not modify the respirator system or change/mix any of its components. Supplied-air respirators typically consist of the following four parts: facepiece or hood, breathing tube, flow control device, and air supply hose. Some models may include other components. To meet NIOSH certification, all respirator systems must be complete and properly assembled.
Visit the NIOSH Web siteor call 1-800-35-NIOSH.
Visit the OSHA Area Office near you or visit the OSHA Web site.
Contact local manufacturers and distributors about respirators: some may provide free services or demonstrations of their products. Information on respirators and the location of distributors is also available on manufacturers' home pages on the Internet.