Personal Protective Equipment on the Job

Words: Vanessa Salvia

Words: Vanessa Salvia

Photo: mihalec

At this point, we're all accustomed to wearing personal protective gear in the form of masks when we go about much of our daily lives. Even though we might rather not, they've become a fact of life in many ways. Wearing masks may have been a new experience for many people who weren't used to wearing personal protective gear, but for masons and others who wear protective gear on the job, it might have been easier to get used to doing it every day. 

Regardless of pandemic-related safety concerns, PPE on the jobsite is essential to protect from impacts, splashes, and flying debris. For personal protective equipment on the job, you've got to choose products that can hold up to the long hours of a workday, are comfortable enough to wear and use for extended durations, and are easily fixable or replaceable. To that end, here's a round-up of the best personal protective equipment for the jobsite that we've seen lately. 

Reusable Respirator Parts & Accessories

Construction dust can be a serious contaminant. Respirators help protect against airborne particles and contaminants, from silica to insulation to dust kicked up by cutting porcelain, stone, or tile with masonry saws. The 3M Full Facepiece Reusable Respirator 6000 Series is highly versatile, and nearly every part of it is replaceable. 3M's series of particle filters, gas and vapor cartridges, and filters capable of filtering both gases and particulates make these respirators usable in every industry. 

3M has dozens of respirator parts and accessories available as replacements, from Face Shield covers to cleaning wipes and nose pieces to head straps. 

Face Shields

The two most common types of face protection are face shields, which cover the face, and helmets, which cover the head. Usually, face shields are used in conjunction with a helmet because when you're dealing with the potential for heavy items falling from above or chemical splashes, the whole head also needs protection, not just the face. When choosing face shields, look for products that make it easy for your face shield to fit with the other PPE you're using, such as hard hats or respirators. Also important are coatings to make them less scratchable and to prevent fogging while using. 

3M's SecureFit X5000 Short Visors are available in three colors (clear, grey, and amber), are molded out of sturdy, impact-resistant polycarbonate, and feature an anti-fog anti-scratch coating. These fit securely with the 3M SecureFit X5000 Series Safety Helmets, designed with comfort for construction workers in mind. These include a magnetic chin strap and are customizable with multiple adjustment points. 

Head Protection Accessories

On most jobsites, head protection is a must. 3M's 82521-10000 headgear extends down also to offer chin protection. Adjust the crown in five places for fully customizable comfort. This system includes high-strength ratchet headgear and protection from durable clear polycarbonate. The chin protector is also clear, so it doesn't limit downward visibility. Users can easily replace the face shield with 3M's line of head protection accessories in minutes. 

NoSweat Disposable Hard Hat Liners 

You might think that being drenched in sweat is the price you pay for having to wear a hard hat. But with NoSweat's disposable hard hat liners, that's not the case. NoSweat has created the first disposable performance liners specifically for hard hats that absorb sweat and stop the constant need to wipe sweat with a towel or a shirt sleeve. NoSweat's thin liners fit in all brands and models of hard hats and bump caps. The liners are compliant with major safety standards requirements. They take seconds to install by simply peeling and sticking a liner to the inside of the headwear. Each NoSweat liner absorbs around 2 ounces of sweat. Bonus: NoSweat is a 100% American Made company. 

Disposable Respiratory Protection

In most cases, it's best to find an item that is reusable as much as possible. Most of the time, a reusable product saves money over the lifetime of the object. But in the cases where you need disposable respiratory protection, Beeline Purchasing Brokers has a lengthy catalog of disposable respiratory products that range from low-profile N-95 respirators to disposable half-face respirators and simple, lightweight dust masks. 

Disposable respirators are sometimes called particulate respirators or dust masks. These cover about half the face and are used specifically for protection against airborne particles. Particulate respirators have three classifications: N-Series, R-Series, and P-Series. Each of these three groups divides into three levels of filtering efficiency: 95, 99, and 100. The basic N-95 respirator, which is in high demand due to COVID-19 and is the most commonly used in general, is not resistant to oil. If any particulate dangers contain oil, these will not work against them. You can continue to use N-Series respirators repeatedly as long as the mask is not damaged and you don't notice any breathing issues while using it. 

R-series masks are resistant to oils. These masks are only certified for up to 8 hours of usage. P-Series masks also protect against oils and are usable for either 40 hours or 30 days of use, as long as the mask is not damaged. 

Reusable Respiratory Protection

Reusable respirators protect against airborne particulates as well as gases and fumes. For these respirators, the mask itself is reusable. At the same time, the cartridges or filters are interchangeable for different levels of protection and/or replaceable so that the mask can be used repeatedly. This isn't the place to switch around brands — if you buy a 3M mask, you'll need to stick with 3M cartridges and filters, as other brands may not fit properly and thus will reduce the product’s overall effectiveness. 

The mask itself consists of very lightweight thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) material. 3M makes the 6000 Series Reusable Respirators, which are popular because they are effective, lower cost, and reusable when the filters and other accessories require replacement. The 6000 series is popular because of its versatility and ease of use. It requires no extra parts or tools to attach the filters or cartridges directly to the facepiece. You can switch out the cartridges and filters depending on the type of protection you need. After use, just wash the mask with warm soap and water. This mask is reusable until the seal starts to break down. 

Face Shields, Brackets, and Adapters

Faceshield brackets securely attach face shields to hard hats. These are gold because they contain gold-anodized aluminum, a coating designed to resist corrosion and heat. Certain brackets fit certain hard hat models, so be sure you're buying the correct thing.  There are also face shield brackets for visors. Visors are sold separately, and these brackets connect a hard hat with a visor. 

Of course, adapters are necessary to ensure you have the correct fit with any personal protective device you use. These Jackson Safety Hard Hat Visor Adapters work to hold a visor firmly attached to most hard hats with heavy-duty clips and springs. Certain models fit with certain hats: The Model-H attaches face shields to most full brim safety hats. The Model C works with bill-backward hats, and the Model-P mounts to most non-slotted caps. 

Conclusion

As you can see, there is a huge variety of personal protective equipment you can use on the job. In many cases, OSHA requires certain PPE devices, but wearing some can simply help you be more comfortable in other cases. Whatever you decide or are required to wear, research it to ensure that you are purchasing what you need. Once you purchase your protective equipment for the jobsite, keep it clean and maintained, so it stays in good shape for you for the longest time possible. 

OSHA says PPE that does not fit properly can distinguish between being safely covered or dangerously exposed. Know what PPE is necessary for you, how to put it on and adjust it, and how to wear it for a full day's comfort at work. Know what the equipment can and can't do, and importantly, be confident in your knowledge of caring for and replacing your PPE.  

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