Comments On Respiratory Protection Programs

Today we’re going to take a look not at a particular product or line of products, but at a trend in the labor world that’s worth noting. According to official OSHA estimates, 5 million workers are required to wear respiratory protection in 1.3 million workplaces across the country. As further innovation occurs and industry expands further, these figures will only increase. It is more imperative now than ever that employers cooperate with OSHA to test their work areas, and then comply with regulations with respiratory safety programs.

 

The respiratory protection field is changing, with new products and new features being introduced every day. Often, the focus in promotional material is on the improved ergonomics of these products. This makes sense, as a more comfortable respirator is always going to sell better than the older models (assuming that it’s being promoted effectively as such and customer response is positive). Far from being merely an aesthetic improvement, ergonomic innovation has a direct positive relationship with increased productivity. A more physically comfortable worker will work faster and more consistently, without the distraction of an uncomfortable facepiece. These improvements have naturally led to a higher degree of compliance and an enthusiastic embrace of respiratory technology, simply because it’s so much easier to wear for extended periods of labor. These innovations have brought a whole new level of effectiveness and convenience to difficult tasks. The firefighting community, in particular, has seen drastic improvements to its old equipment, bringing that profession into a new age. Lighter masks, wider fields of vision, integrated communication and thermal imaging technology, and much more are becoming increasingly common.

 

Every respiratory program in the country needs official medical clearance and formalized fit testing procedures for each product being used. Respirators are only worthwhile if they are being worn and maintained properly; otherwise they may as well not exist. There are precise procedures and literature available from OSHA that outline in detail everything an employer must do to ensure his workers’ safety. Also of paramount importance is the selection of products appropriate to the hazards at hand. If a worker goes into an area contaminated with a particular chemical, wearing a respirator that’s designed to filter out a different chemical, then the whole thing is a potentially deadly farce. Precision, accuracy, and diligence are essential to a protection program in any category, but particularly when it comes to respiratory health.

 

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Employee health should always be a top priority at any honest company, but respiratory health is particularly vital and can seem particularly arcane because of the extremely gradual onset of the damage and the fact that it’s all interior (you can’t easily see and assess a damaged lung the way you can, say, a broken leg). OSHA has to be involved in as many steps as possible of the development and implementation process, to guarantee that everything is set up according to their guidelines and standard operational procedures. 5 million lives are on the line here. We can’t afford to risk even one more than absolutely necessary.

Introduction to MSA Protection Products

Mine Safety Appliances (MSA) is one of the mightiest names in the protection industry. With no fewer than 104 years of existence in the rearview, their influence and inventory is widespread and diverse. Here at Enviro we focus on their market-leading line of hard hats and hearing protection, which is what we’ll be spotlighting today.

 

The most visible variety of MSA hard hat on our site is the V-Gard, which comes in six colors (blue, green, orange, red, white) and two brim styles (basic and full). All feature slots that are compatible with certain MSA accessories (we’ll get to those later). Ever since the public debut of hard hats during the construction of Hoover Dam, MSA has been refining and popularizing their hats to the point of almost complete ubiquity. The V-shape design is so iconic that many people probably don’t realize it’s associated with a particular brand. With millions upon millions of hats sold and who-knows-how-many deaths averted and accidents made less severe, the brand’s integrity is well established. The self-adjusting straps make for a comfortable fit and higher user satisfaction, while the Fas-Trac suspension is freely adjustable with a twistable ratchet knob. The result is a hat that will withstand whatever you throw at it, and is easily customizable with stickers or hi-viz striping. As for the different brims, a full brim may not look that much different from the standard variety, but it can serve as a little umbrella in rain or provide a bit more shade in the sun. For open-air environments with particularly harsh sun exposure, the Skullgard hats are also available, which are tested to handle heat up to 350 °F.

 

Next we have MSA hearing protection. While it’s not their most well-known product category, they still excel at providing top-notch noise muffling products that sit comfortable on the head and can therefore be worn for hours. This includes standalone headsets and earmuffs, and sets that are specifically designed to be worn with hard hats. In terms of hat-mounted sets you have three options, all identically priced but with different levels of protection on offer. That’s a nice arrangement because it prevents anyone from having to break the bank for a higher noise reduction rating. It may incur the wrath of those picky about their colors, though; the 21 dBA headset is white, the 25 dBA set is blue, and the 28 dBA is yellow. Keep in mind that those ratings are assigned based on tests in controlled environments that don’t necessarily reflect their field performance.

 

Finally, we have a selection of five standalone headsets. There are three products that offer the same protection levels as the hat-mounted sets (with the same color correspondence). Like the hat-mounted ones they are passive protection products, meaning they cover your ears and that’s it. MSA also has active protection headsets, which are ideal for tactical and leisure activities. The Supreme headsets can detect hazardous sounds and filter them out, while amplifying the sounds you want to hear (animal movement, human speech, communication signals, or whatever else). The Supreme Pro-X takes it up a notch with waterproof microphones on each side offering full surround sound, bringing it all home with a stylish design and comfortable fit.

 

MSA is a valued member of the Enviro family, and we hope you find their products as special and worthwhile as we do. Get shopping!

HyFlex 101

Ansell is one of our most popular and enduring glove brands, and we’re proud to distribute their best products to the working public, in a partnership that stretches back years. Millions of people worldwide rely on Ansell gloves every day to protect their hands from hazards, and the company’s reputation is well established. One of their crown jewels in the HyFlex line of premium general purpose gloves.

 

Designed to balance the needs of comfort, dexterity, and protection, HyFlex’s popularity is a testament to its pedigree. The line is structured around four “ranges,” which group them according to their primary quality. The four ranges are Multi-Purpose, Cut Protection, Oil-Repellent, and Special Purpose.

 

The Multi-Purpose range is a family of gloves that expertly balance firm grip, precise dexterity, and luxurious comfort for one of the all-around best-performing gloves on the market. It includes the polyurethane-palm 11-600, the nitrile foam 11-801, the “barehand feel” 11-818 and 11-727, and the abrasion-resistant nitrile 11-840. Each of these gloves has that balance of performance traits, with an emphasis in a particular area that serves a particular need.

 

The Cut Protection range is, obviously, where you’ll find the most hardcore edge resistance. Whether it’s sharp edges, abrasive surfaces, or sharps, different gloves are engineered for different purposes. This range includes the Kevlar-armored 11-511 (ANSI cut level 4), the 11-518 and 11-318 with Dyneema Technology Fiber (ANSI 2), the lightweight high-performance 11-542 (ANSI A7) and 11-541 (ANSI 2), and the dynamically balanced 11-644 (ANSI 2). All of these are top-notch gloves that will serve any worker well while addressing the nuances of their needs.

 

The Oil-Repellant range is similarly obvious in its purpose. These gloves are for slick and slippery environments, where their grip and their wear will last for years. The 11-920 provides optimal control when handling small oily parts, while the 11-931 is reinforced in typically weak areas (the unfortunately-named “thumb crotch,” for instance) that can wear down after extended use. The 11-937 and 11-939 are reinforced similarly, but widens the area covered by the polyurethane coating to the back of the hand.

 

The Special Purpose range contains two items, of which we only carry one. It’s an exciting one though, that will bring a new level of digital sophistication to the workplaces where it is used. The 11-105 is a touchscreen-capable glove. More and more companies are relying on touch devices to log and organize data. The problem is that in environments that require workers to wear gloves, they have to take the gloves off to use the thing, defeating the purpose of wearing gloves in the first place! That problem is addressed here with a special material in the fingertips that allows a screen to sense your finger through the glove. As clipboards are gradually overtaken by tablets, this glove will be a total asset in certain environments.

 

Ansell HyFlex is a next-level glove brand that any employer of laborers should be looking at as an option. We believe that these products are the cream of their crop, and we hope you find them as useful and exciting as we do.

Scotchlite Hard Hat Decals

I think you know the drill by now: 3M offers an exciting new product, we introduce it here before or right as we roll it out in the store. Today we’re looking at a convenient solution to visibility problems in low-light situations. Scotchlite Reflective Striping is here to supplement your existing visibility program with a durable and stylish new accessory for your hard hats. 3M has been innovating retroreflective technology for decades at this point, and their Scotchlite brand is a standard-bearer for the whole industry. It comes in many varieties, colors, and quantities, but now for the first time they’re putting out a specifically designed set of reflective decals just for hard hats.

 

Retroreflectivity is a specific kind of refraction that bounces light off of a surface and sends it directly back to its source. This is contrasted with mirror reflection, which bounces the light in another direction, and diffuse reflection, which scatters the light in all directions. Both are visible but not as effectively as a surface that sends light directly back to you. It’s hi-viz protection specifically designed for nighttime application, as opposed to the infamous neon fluorescent tones that are typically associated with hi-viz.

 

This Scotchlite product comes in a kit featuring three decals: one for the back and two for the sides of the hat. Promotional material specifies the H-700 and H-800 hat series as being compatible with the striping, but these are literally just stickers that should adhere to any hard hat, 3M or otherwise. They take the form of two narrow triangles (4.7 square inches) that goe on the sides and an upturned chevron-like shape (3.2 square inches) that goes on the back. The shapes of the decals serve a purpose: they conform to the curve of the hat and point towards the front and top of the hat, respectively. If you’re in the dark and light bounces off of them you should be able to tell that they are attached to a hat.

 

The decal surfaces are tested to maintain their brightness after extensive heat exposure, so you won’t have to worry about them being effective after a long day in the sun. These are rugged and durable, just as you’ve come to expect from 3M’s head protection line. Get yours today!

The New Grind

Every week seems to bring something new and exciting from 3M for us to distribute to the waiting world. Today I’m happy to introduce the latest wing of 3M safety products to be opened to us. It represents a bit of a branching out for us here at Enviro, expanding from the realm of protective and preventative equipment to the tools used in the workplace. In this case, we’re focusing on 3M’s line of abrasive systems.

 

The front of one of the promotional pamphlets for today’s products says “grind without compromise.” I like that. It simultaneously evokes the relentless day-to-day rhythm of the working life (“back to the old grind”) and ties the work ethic required to perform every day with the reliability of these products. That’s some rock-solid advertising. Let’s look at what’s underneath it.

 

3M spotlights two main lines of abrasive surface discs: Cubitron II and Scotch-Brite. These discs are designed for metalworking, specifically the grinding off of edges for a chamfered or beveled shape, removing unsightly weld residue, and so on.

 

Cubitron II is advertised as a family of abrasives that combines high grinding speed with more longevity than you’d expect from items that take so much abuse. A diagram zooms in on what makes Cubitron II special: using “microreplication” technology, they’ve designed the grain of the disc as an array of uniform peaks that slice through metal, where conventional grains are irregular and inefficient, causing the cut to be rougher and the product to wear out faster. The extreme zoom picture shows that Cubitron II grain looks like shark teeth, while standard products look like rough-hewn stones haphazardly arranged. Rather than dulling and blunting with wear, the microreplicated grain fractures into points without losing its sharpness. That’s an impressive feature, for sure.

 

Also available are generically 3M-branded discs at a lower price and slightly lower quality. These options represent a tradeoff: performance and price are both reduced, for situations where speed and luxury have to take a backseat to frugality and pragmatism. These are by no means bargain-bin products, however: their ratings are still high in all categories and the grain is still significantly more sophisticated than the competitors’, featuring a blend of standard and microreplicated “teeth.” The fact that these options exist show that 3M is committed to bringing the highest quality to the largest audience possible.

 

It’s probably clear by now that I’m no expert when it comes to this stuff. It’s to 3M’s credit that they organize this material such that even a mess like me can make sense of it. I see six basic categories of product in the Cubitron II section: fibre discs, cut and grind wheels, flap discs, cut-off wheels, and depressed center grinding wheels (DCGW). These are assembled in a table with nine specified uses: cutting, notching, gouging, fillet weld removal, beveling, flame cut smoothing, scale removal, weld removal, and contoured areas. I’ll be exploring each of these categories of product and their recommended uses in a later post.

On Disposable Protection Products

A perennial theme in human expression is that we are absolutely obsessed with permanence and terrified of anything that reminds us of our fragility. When we’re making purchasing choices, how long we can expect a given item to last is as important a factor to weigh as the price. We don’t like the idea that something we spend our hard-earned money on will fall apart after x years of use. And yet, there is an entire wing of product manufacturing devoted to products that are used once, then discarded. These are not leisure items, but rather protective products used in operations that involve hazardous materials. They are valuable because, not in spite of, their temporariness.

 

Pretty much any category of safety equipment has disposable options. This includes gloves, eyewear, gowns, and respirators. At Enviro, we carry all of these from a variety of brands and with different features, quantities, and applications.

 

As far as bodywear goes, we offer an array of disposable gowns and smocks that protect from both hazardous (chemicals, fire, fetid water) and nonhazardous (dirt, grime, oil) substances alike. For a first responder going into a post-hurricane zone, for example, it’s vital to protect your feet and legs from whatever nasties are living in the standing water. After a day of service in that kind of situation, no one wants to wash the disgusting protective gear and use it again. Disposability is an asset.

 

We also have disposable gloves, our consistently most popular disposable item. There are many jobs and worksites all across the labor world, in dozens of fields, that require a constant and consistent supply of high-quality disposable gloves. Lab work, manufacturing, food processing and handling, and other such jobs can only be done with hand protection, and disposable gloves provide an easy and convenient means of getting your work done. If you need a new glove they’re right there in a functionally limitless supply (assuming inventory is being kept up) and can be easily discarded when the job is done. No filthy gloves laying around afterward, to be laboriously washed and reused. The cycle simply repeats.

 

Elsewhere, we have our selection of disposable respirators. As we’ve seen in previous posts, respiratory protection is one of the most vital services we provide. The lungs are precious, and should be protected from danger at all costs. If any piece of protective equipment should be permanent, it would seem to be respirators. However, disposable respirators are very much a real thing and are a valid element of certain protective equipment programs. Obviously if airborne contaminants are so pervasive in the air that heavy-duty filtration is required, a disposable respirator isn’t going to cut it. Disposables aren’t necessarily cheap and ineffective, though. Like disposable gloves they may appear flimsy but are still perfectly capable of providing necessary protection. One potential application I’ve seen mentioned a few times is certain surgical processes that involve precision grinding tools. A filter is required because of the clouds of microscopic tissue particles these processes create. Disposable respirators are perfect for applications like that.

 

At the end of the day, just because it’s disposable doesn’t mean it’s dispensable. These products provide immediate convenience and replaceability without compromising the features needed to stay safe on the job. Whether it’s gloves, masks, or whatever else you need, stock up today with Enviro!

Introducing the Versaflo TR-300+

A week ago, I was introduced to the 3M Versaflo TR-800 PAPR, a remarkable piece of engineering that brings high-end respiratory protection into the electrical field. Its intrinsically safe construction of the filter and housing made it possible to use in heated environments without risking combustion. This is a big innovation, and will hopefully make electricians’ lives and jobs easier and safer all over the world. All that is great. There is still a drawback, however: a PAPR’s effectiveness is directly affected by the air density around it, which is determined by elevation and temperature. Denser air has more particulate that can overload the filter, possibly breaking the unit. Certain regulatory measures are built in to keep the airflow at a level tolerable to the machinery, but even these mechanisms aren’t enough to keep the unit in working order at higher elevations. As a result, such products are useless in some of the areas that need them most.

 

Enter the TR-300+ series. Another PAPR, you may ask? What could possibly be different or special about this one? It features what 3M refers to as “upgraded altitude compensation,” allowing the unit to be used at heights of 14,000 feet or less. This is a significant leap forward that will expand the market dramatically, and bring vital respiratory protection to the masses.

 

The information I have access to about the TR-300+ is limited to the sparse promotional literature I’ve been given, as it doesn’t seem to have an online presence quite yet (the plus sign in the product name doesn’t help). It does exist though, and the possibilities it opens up for the workforce are exciting. Workers at extreme elevations will be able to properly protect themselves whenever conditions require. While there’s nothing in the literature that indicates it’s an intrinsically safe product like the 800, its existence is a welcome step towards that kind of comprehensive protection (which may or may not be necessary depending on conditions in the labor world, reliable data on which I don’t know how to find.

 

Like the TR-800, which was engineered to be compatible with TR-600 replacement parts, the TR-300+ is easily serviced by the entire line of TR-300 components (with the notable exception of the TR-371 filter cover). This includes breathing tubes, filters, batteries, belts, face shields, and more. Maintaining the unit is simple and straightforward. Combine that with the user-friendly interface that automatically informs you of the battery, airflow, and filter’s respective operational status, an ease of use is present here that we don’t always associate with products like this.

 

Also in line with other Versaflo products, the TR-300+ comes in three packaged kits tailored to specific applications. As of this writing, we only have the Heavy Industry Kit (linked above) on our website, but the others are sure to be listed upon full rollout. These include the Easy Clean Kit, which emphasizes simplified maintenance, the Heavy Industry Kit for hardcore industrial environments, and the Healthcare Kit (in small and large) for pharmaceutical and medical applications.

 

The TR-300+ is a welcome addition to the Versaflo line and will help a lot of people. Consider it if you’re in the market.

Spotlight on the CH-5 High Attenuation Headset

Today we’re looking at another brand new product from 3M, who remain steadfast in their mission to push innovation forward in the labor world. Today’s product is the PELTOR CH-5 High Attentuation Headset.

 

The immediate question, of course, is “What the heck is attenuation? All these Google results are about yeast.” Well, let’s start with yeast. Within a baking context, “attenuation is the percentage of sugars yeast consume during fermentation.” Something similar is happening here,  in seconds rather than hours. When sound hits the hearing protection, a certain percentage of it goes through while the rest (hopefully) is muffled. The degree to which this happens is also called attenuation, and is expressed with a noise reduction rating (NRR) assigned to each product.

 

A product with an NRR of 20 is lab-rated to absorb 20 decibels of sound. Keep in mind that that’s under absolute optimum conditions in a controlled environment; extenuating factors in the workplace will inevitably make the rating decrease. That being said, it’s still a good metric to use when deciding what protection to buy. I’ve seen a variety of formulas used to determine how much actual protection you’re getting, but they seem too harsh in the calculation, and the fact that there are differences of opinion in the first place makes me take it all with a grain of salt, as should you. Suffice to say that, under ideal real-world conditions, you should be able to get about 70-75% of the attenuation indicated by a product’s NRR.

 

Which brings us to the CH-5. What makes it special? Well, its NRR is 31 which is almost unheard of in this industry. Even in the field with its inevitable lowering effect, that’s an impressive performance. 3M knows this, and has designed this product with the noisiest environments in mind, from airstrips to battlefields. Anywhere with big machinery, heavy-duty processes, and the attendant deafening noise is just the environment where these babies should be deployed. The deep cups leave plenty of room for the ears, while the headband is designed to exert minimal pressure and discomfort, making it easy to wear for hours.

 

And if that wasn’t enough, they also feature a watertight noise-cancelling boom mic. Its presence would seem to imply that this is an active protection product, which I initially assumed. However, I don’t see any language in the promo that describes level-dependent technology like what we’ve discussed before, so it’s not clear what exactly the mic is doing. Is it just for picking up your voice and piping it into a radio, or does it allow human speech through like the level-dependent products we’ve seen before? All 3M’s site says is that it “enables critical communication,” only mentioning “external radio communication sources.” Based on that, I figure it definitely doesn’t have a level-dependent element. Keep that in mind when you shop.

 

The CH-5 promises to be a fantastic addition to the PELTOR family of products, and a simple choice for employers trying to build a comprehensive hearing protection program for noisy environments, without breaking the bank.

Spotlight on the TR-800 PAPR

Once again we’re looking at a special new product from 3M, a further refinement of their flagship respiratory protection technology. The Versaflo TR-800 (available in Painter’s, Easy-Clean, and Heavy Industry kits) is an exciting leap forward for 3M’s PAPR line, featuring a number of features that make it stand out in the marketplace. Let’s take a look.

 

At first glance, the TR-800 may look like any other high-end PAPR. It’s got the compact design that stays close to the body and out of the way, tube connecting to a face shield or hood, etc. What’s the difference between it and the others? The TR-800 is, uniquely, “intrinsically safe.” Intrinsic safety is an engineering technique that designs products and technology to operate with minimal electric activity. This involves simplifying the circuits, setting up the energy flow to minimize heat, and eliminating space where dust can gather. An intrinsically safe device will not explode or ignite, and is therefore clear to use in highly conductive environments.

 

The promo brochure for the TR-800 highlights the “innovative materials” used in its construction, specifically the plastic exterior that houses the filter, battery, and motor. 3M claims this material, whatever exactly it is, can meet a “new material properties requirement” in the UL Standards Catalog while also passing intrinsic safety protocols. This indicates that 3M keeps track of the shifting legal landscape, and their creators are working to make products that perform optimally within it.

 

3M has given the TR-800 yellow highlights around the edges, making it stand out visually as well. This is intended to indicate its uniqueness among their PAPRs as an intrinsically safe product. It’s a brilliant touch, as it prevents the unit from getting mixed up with other more standard units in storage. Also of note is the mechanically secured battery, which is held in place by a pin rather than a programmed lock that may fail. They say they have included this measure as part of the same UL standard mentioned before, so it may be helpful to turn to that text at this point.

 

Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) set many of the industrial world’s early standards for safety, and has continued to fill that role ever since. Section 60079 of their standards catalog is dominated by one phrase: “explosive atmospheres.” These texts serve as guidelines for manufacturers to make sure their products are safe to use in potentially dangerous areas and situations. The content of the standards themselves is highly technical, and I’m obviously not the target audience. 3M, for their part, boasts of the TR-800 being the first to be UL-certified as intrinsically safe, which is quite an impressive endorsement. Intrinsic safety standards are set out in part 25 of standard 60079.

 

As for accessories, the TR-800 is compatible with TR-600 components and replacement parts, so there’s no need to seek out a whole new line of 800 parts, as such a line probably will never exist. Any part that fits the TR-600, from filters to tubes to belts, will also go with the TR-800. We’re proud to welcome this exciting new addition to our inventory, and highly recommend the TR-800 to any worker who requires intrinsically safe technology to do their job.

Spotlight on the PELTOR Wireless Communication Accessory

Today we’re looking at an interesting new accessory as part of our PELTOR spotlight series. 3M has unveiled a wireless earmuff Bluetooth accessory to make your workday that much easier. Compatible with the X Series of PELTOR earmuffs, the cushion accessory is like any other replacement ear cushion. What is has extra, however, is a microphone and speaker that allows you to maintain communication with your team. This is a revolutionary product that can restructure workflow by allowing for easier movement of information.

 

Think of it as a stripped-down version of the elaborate communications sets we’ve shown here before, minus the voice-guided menus, densely structured frequency selection, and all those other bells and whistles. All that’s here is a simple mic and speaker that connects through Bluetooth with your external device, whether it’s a phone or a walkie-talkie or whatever else. This enables full conversations without interfering with your hearing protection. It’s all too common to see a worker in a loud area lift their ear cup to hear what their colleague or supervisor is saying, thereby exposing themselves to potentially dangerous noise. That’s unacceptable, yet many feel like there’s not much to be done about the noise problem, even with the sophisticated products that PELTOR offers.

 

The downside of PELTOR’s tech-heavy communication headsets is obvious: they’re expensive! The average construction manager can’t afford a $200+ headset for every single worker. The cushion accessory provides an imperfect solution to this problem by serving as a means of direct connection between team members that doesn’t have to break the bank. Important updates can be distributed in seconds across the work area, so no one’s out of the loop.

 

The accessory is designed to be easily wearable for hours at a time, integrated as it is into the supportive cushion itself. It’s resistant to harsh conditions in the environment, be they from sweat, rain, or whatever else the day throws at it. As for the noise, whether it’s from a jackhammer, a crane, grinding metal, or a roaring engine, you’ll be safely ensconced in a protective layer of comfort that lets you hear what you want to hear.

 

Workers shouldn’t have to expose their ears to hazardous noise to get the information they need to do their job, and hearing protection shouldn’t also isolate you from your work community. With this wireless accessory, these apparently irreconcilable situations have an elegant and permanent solution.

 

Keep in mind that this product is sold separately from the actual headset itself, and hygiene kits (also sold separately) are available to help keep it in top working condition.