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Respirator Fit Testing

Last time I wrapped up our introduction to respiratory protection, and I closed with some comments on fit testing. Today I’m going to explore fit tests in greater detail, and introduce ten of our 3M products that are used in the process.


You remember the solutions that are used to test the security and quality of the respirators. We sell these solutions both as part of a larger kit (more on that later) and by themselves. There’s something a bit odd, however. There’s two kinds of solution, sweet and bitter. But then there are also two separate products with slightly different descriptions for use, even though their chemical makeup appears to be identical. There’s the FT-12 (sweet) and FT-32 (bitter) fit test solutions, along with FT-11 and FT-31, which are listed as “sensitivity solutions.” They contain the same amount of fluid (55 mL), so what’s the difference?


The sensitivity solutions appear to have drastically lower chemical-to-water ratios, but the data is confusing. For some reason, FT-12 has exact numbers: it’s 45% sodium saccharin and 55% water. But FT-11 says it’s <1% sodium saccharine and >99% water, and both values are marked as a trade secret. To use 3M’s words, “The specific chemical identity and/or exact percentage (concentration) of this composition has been withheld as a trade secret.” Then I checked the data for the bitter solutions. FT-32 is marked as 90-100% water, 3-10% sodium chloride, and 0-1% denatonium benzoate. F-31 has the exact same number ranges, but again marked as a “trade secret.” An instructional video shows that FT-11 and FT-31 are for measuring the user’s sensitivity to the substance, whether their taste buds are able to detect it at all at an extremely low concentration . The other two, obviously, are used for the fit test procedure itself. FT-12 must be extremely sweet, considering its percentages are so close compared to FT-32.


For a full fit testing kit, we offer two full qualitative fit test apparati, the FT-10 with sweet solution and the FT-30 with bitter solution. There’s also the FT-20 package, which includes all the items from FT-10 along with extensive training material (posters, brochures, videos, etc). What items are those?


To do the fit test, you’ll need three pieces of hardware: nebulizer, test hood, and collar. The hood (F-14) is a rather funny-looking white bag with a clear face window and a valve in the middle. It is placed over the head for both the sensitivity and fit tests. It is held in place with the collar (FT-15), which fits over the shoulders and secures the hood over the head. The valve pops open to administer the test with the nebulizer (FT-13), which first administers the sensitivity test by squeezing into the mouth in sets of 10. If you can’t taste the agent after 30 squeezes, the other solution is used. The process is repeated, with the respirator on and using the fit test liquid. If you can’t taste it after 30 squeezes, the respirator has passed the test and is cleared for use in the field.


Fit testing is a crucial component of any respiratory protection program. Make sure you sanitize the inside of the hood and collar for each test subject. Stay safe.

Introduction to Respiratory Protection, Pt. 2

Yesterday we started talking about the range of respiratory protection products we carry here at Enviro. We covered our disposable respirator masks and the reusable face masks with replaceable filters. Today we’re looking at the next tier of protective equipment, engineered by the top innovators in the industry for the most demanding situations.


Powered air purifying respirators (PAPR) provide some of the most sophisticated respiratory protection out there, seeming more like the suits the scientists in Stranger Things wear when they interact with the Upside Down than something a normal worker would wear at their day job. But there are jobs out there that have truly gruesome particles in the air that a more standard filter simply can’t handle. It calls for next-level technology, which the PAPR provides. Its central component is the motorized air purificiation unit that straps to the user’s body, which sucks the bad air in and funnels it through a tube into the face mask. There are different forms of facial protection for PAPR systems, typically either a helmet that forms a seal around the face or a hood that covers the whole head. PAPRs are necessary for environments that have been deemed immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) by an expert from OSHA who inspects the space and determines what is needed to make it work-safe. If there are any changes to the environment that could affect contamination levels, a new test is done.


Another option is the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) from Survivair. This isn’t as popular or convenient a product, so we only carry three types. SCBAs are for situations where the air is too dangerous to even be purified, such as in a firefight or during a deadly virus outbreak (they were popular during the Ebola crisis). Instead of sucking air through a purification system, SCBAs rely on canisters of pressurized air that is released into the mask over a particular period of time, depending on the demands of the job. If someone is in a situation that requires an SCBA, they are probably putting their life on the line for the sake of others. While it doesn’t seem particularly interesting or iconic, the SCBA is emblematic of the safety community’s dedication to braving some of life’s greatest perils, often with little reward in return.


Another important aspect of respiratory protection is fit testing. OSHA has very particular requirements and standards that any respirator must meet to be cleared for use in the field. A fit test determines this annually in a 15-20 minute process. The two types of fit tests are qualitative and quantitative, referring to how they measure the security of the respirator. The qualitative test is administered by releasing one of four approved test substances near the respirator. If the user can smell or taste the test substance, then it has penetrated the respirator and the test is failed. This test is usually performed on half-mask respirators. A quantitative test doesn’t rely on the user’s senses but uses an objective measuring device to determine the degree to which the respirator is compromised. It accomplishes this with either generated or ambient aerosol, and a sophisticated probe attached to the facepiece that sends information to the machine.


Respiratory protection is a rich field of innovative research and development, and we at Enviro do our best to stay on top of the industry and make sure you get only the best. Stay safe.

Introduction to Fall Protection, Pt. 2

When it comes to fall protection, every situation calls for a unique solution. Harnesses and SRLs are standard and most frequently associated with fall protection, but not every job calls for or is compatible with such a system. Sometimes you need something a bit simpler. Shock-absorbing lanyards could be just the thing.


A lanyard is made of core material of a particular length that absorbs dangerous arrest forces as it extends, nullifying the potentially disastrous effect of a fall. It’s not as sophisticated as an SRL and it’s much more likely to leave you swinging from the momentum, but it’s a perfectly effective option for your fall protection needs. They come in many different lengths, colors, and materials to fit whatever your particular situation calls for.


But what if there is no anchorage point? What if you need to descend into an area or walk along a beam at a construction site, and there is simply nowhere to clip your device? Where there’s no anchorage to be found, you make your own. There are a number of ways to do this. For the steel girder situation, you’ll want a horizontal lifeline system. At first glance it looks like any old SRL, but it’s designed to be secured at either end of an elevated workspace and tightened with the winch handle on its side. The worker threads the wire through a shock-absorbing lanyard and walks along the length of it, the lanyard sliding along with them. In the event of a fall, a properly tightened line will act as a standard anchorage point would, while the lanyard absorbs the arrest forces.


Also available are controlled descent systems, which can take many forms. Most prominent is the classic tripod model seen in products like the DBI8300030 from 3M, which features a solid aluminum build and telescoping legs that adjust to the terrain. Say you need to go down a manhole or narrow chasm. The tripod will dig into the ground with its specialized feet, providing the same support for the worker as a normal anchorage point. The whole assembly sets up in seconds, making it ideal for rescue operations. Also available are the Advanced line of DBI-SALA hoist systems, which come in a highly distinctive green and are available both as their separate composite parts and as full apparati.


We also have cable sleeves, which are little wheeled devices that can attach to a lifeline stretched from the bottom to the top of a ladder with a tightening apparatus. If the user slips, the sleeve will lock up and prevent them falling all the way down. There are other, lower-tech options such as D-ring extensions to give you more slack in a close-quarters situation, sliding beam anchors for a moveable connection point, contoured support seats (DBI1001396), and reinforced hoistable tool buckets with six connection points and puncture-resistant plating in the bottom.


Enviro has hundreds of products to address your fall protection needs and concerns, and we’re excited to welcome you into our business family.

Introduction to Fall Protection

Falling. It’s one of mankind’s most primal fears, awaking ancient feelings of helplessness in the face of merciless nature. The possibility of falling is a constant reminder that we are not in control of our world, one that becomes all the more threatening the older we get. But a fall at home in old age is outside of our control or influence. A fall on the job, however, is one of the main things we work to prevent here at Enviro. We offer a staggering array of different fall protection products that address different support configurations.


The situation you’re working in at height determines what kind of fall protection you will need. You may or may not have an anchor point in front or above you to attach your system to. What kind of plane of motion do you need to get the job done? Will a single vertical ascent system suffice, or do you need to cross a horizontal distance? I’ll outline some protection options designed for these situations.


First, you have your arrest harness. It’s a system of nylon or polyester straps that physically support your body in the event of a fall. You lose your grip, or slip, or whatever happens, and the straps will hold you in midair as you wait to be rescued. You don’t want to dangle there too long, as extremely negative effects can occur from the pressure the straps put on your muscles and blood vessels. The harness attaches to the arrest system with a D-ring, which can be found on the front or back depending on what style of harness fits your needs best. After a harness is involved in a fall, it should be put out of service immediately and discarded. It’s tempting to use it again to save money and the trouble of getting a new one, but the trauma a harness incurs in a fall usually compromises the material and makes it unuseable. Even if a harness were to fall without being damaged, it’s not worth the risk to use it again. Many harnesses have some kind of indicator that shows if fall trauma has been incurred by the product.


A self-retracting lifeline (SRL) attaches to the harness on one end, and the line is coiled into a plastic-encased spool that clips onto an anchorage point overhead. From there it basically functions like a seatbelt; it has a motion sensor that locks down the mechanism if it’s unspooling too fast, halting the fall. Most SRLs feature internal shock absorption technology to prevent injury from the sudden halt of forces generated by falling. Different SRLs have slightly different features and accordingly various price tags.


Say you’re on a rebar frame for a building that’s going up. You don’t have just one spot you need to be to do your work, but many spread horizontally across a distance. Rather than go down each time and move your SRL, get one with twin legs. It looks very different from a standard SRL, but it works the same. The spools are attached to the chest rather than the structure, and the two legs with hooks on the end allow you to gradually move from one point to the next, without losing anchorage.


There’s more to talk about in fall protection. Stay tuned for the next post.

Gloves Made for Mechanics

It is important for mechanics to wear work gloves when servicing an automobile to protect their hands from from contact with chemicals, burns and cuts. Mechanics Gloves are specifically designed for protection against the dangers of auto repair without compromising dexterity. While there are many different styles of gloves to choose from, it is recommended to opt for more protective coverage than may be required, just to be safe.

Before deciding which mechanics glove to purchase, it is important to evaluate you working conditions to determine how much protection you need. Here are some question to ask yourself?

  • Will I be exposed to hazardous liquids, i.e. oil, gas, brake fluid, ect?
  • Do I frequently touch hot engine parts?
  • Do I use hand tools?

What to look for in mechanic gloves?Mechanic Gloves

  1. Cut Resistance – find a gloves that offers the appropriate level of cut resistance. Gloves with reinforced palms made from PVC or Kevlar offer extra protection. Remember, there is no such thing as a CUT-PROOF glove.
  2. Heat Resistance – most gloves offer protection from burns when touching or handling hot engine parts.
  3. Full Finger vs. 3/4 Finger – determine the physical conditions your hands will be exposed to determine which finger length is appropriate. Full finger covers the entire finger, while 3/4 finger leaves half of your finger exposed to potential hazards, but also offer more dexterity.

Remember to always keep a pair of Mechanic Gloves in your toolbox.

Wildland Fires and Acres

Did you know 2011 was one of the worst Wildland Fire seasons on record?

According to the USA’s National Interagency Fire Center, more than 8.7 million acres burned last year.  This is the third most in 50+ years.  And, incidentally, the two worse years occurred recently – in 2006 and 2007 (over 9 million acres burned each year).

Wildland Firefighting EquipmentSo how many acres will burn in 2012?  And how will you prepare?

We don’t know how many acres will burn this year, but we certainly know a Wildland Fire season is coming.

So preparation is important, especially in Wildland Firefighting.  It includes continuing education, skills training and strategic acquisition of wildland firefighting equipment, from fire-proof work gloves to hard hats.

Continuing education should occur in the classroom and in the field.  Principles learned formally should also be tested in real-case scenarios.  Skills training brings firefighters both the physical and mental instincts to make increasingly better decisions.

And strategic acquisition of wildland firefighting equipment is part of how we help firefighters do their job safely.  We know a Wildland Fire season is coming.  Start preparing now!

Smartphone App for Public Safety: Wildfire Pro

Wildfire ProWildfire Pro is an app that provides detailed information about a wildfire incident.  Until now most of this data was not available until you arrived on a scene to discuss it in-person.

This smartphone app gives you vital information prior to arriving on-scene.  That way you can assess the data en-route and consider which wildland fire gear, equipment and strategies you will employ.

The app provides:

  • Wildfire incident data from
  • Active fire perimeter mapping
  • Fire calculators with Weather and FDFM/PIG
  • Quick reference guides for Safety, Weather, Operations and Size Up reports
  • Fire maps with Custom overlays, Severe weather warnings and NEXRAD radar

Receiving this critical data pre-arrival will preserve more time for critical on-site decisions.  Wildfire Pro is available on iPhone and iPad.

TDS: Time, Distance, Shielding

For many years this 3-step approach has been used to reduce radiation exposure in HazMat incidents.  This 3-step approach is also effective in handling EMS incidents.

Time: adequate time should be taken with a patient to ensure the highest standard of care is being administered, and when the job is done its time to go

Distance: onlookers and other people not treating an incident should be kept a significant distance from the scene

Shielding: precautions can be taken by shielding first responders with Personal Protective Equipment such as: gowns, masks, respirators, gloves and other protective clothing

This is a simple, but very effective approach.

Planning Ahead: Fire and EMS

As most know, over the last decade the number of fires have decreased by about 7% per year.  Meanwhile, demand for EMS has grown dramatically.  EMS now makes up 80% of the calls to our Fire Departments.

Our U.S. population of 80 million baby boomers is driving this trend, and the first of them turned 65 last year.  Predictions say these folks will live at least another 15 years.  So it makes sense to plan ahead with EMS in the forefront of our minds.

Fire Departments will be driving resources to our country’s growing EMS demands.  And this can be done proactively.  For example, training can be offered to those caring for our senior demographic specifically on the topics of: CPR Training, operating AEDs and delivering emergency First Aid.

Volunteer Fire: Where is it headed?

Of the 1.1 million firefighters in the U.S., roughly 70% are Volunteers!

Knowing the stresses and challenges of being a firefighter, it’s remarkable to see this many people selflessly serving their communities across our great country!!

Unfortunately though, the great recession has been causing the number (and the percentage) of Volunteer Firefighters to decline in the last few years.  Some of these Volunteers have needed to pick up paid work opportunities like overtime and a second job.  The great recession has also brought a tightening to the budget capacities of many municipalities, states and even federal funding grants.

As a result, more pressure is being put on the remaining Volunteers along with their aging firefighter gear.  Obviously the hope is that as our economy expands again, we’ll also see our rank of Volunteers grow and their local Fire Departments will be able to modernize their fire fighting equipment stock.