PPE, or Personal Protective Equipment, is equipment and clothing that provides a worker with protection from potential risks while they’re working. Without PPE, workers can find themselves in situations that can easily cause illness or injury without anything protecting them from contracting those illness or getting seriously hurt.
When it comes to working with asbestos, PPE is a crucial element of a worker’s daily life. There are several kinds of PPE that asbestos workers use:
- Respiratory protective equipment, which helps workers avoid inhaling asbestos fibres.
- Overalls, which should be impervious to asbestos dust to avoid the risk of carrying asbestos fibres away from the worksite on clothing.
- Footwear, which should be appropriate for the work being undertaken; footwear should not be laced, as laces are harder to clean of asbestos.
Although there are typically controls in place to prevent some exposure to asbestos fibres when employees are working, having the correct PPE in place will ensure that exposure is severely limited; keeping your workers healthy and safe.
Asbestos is linked to several lung-related diseases that can seriously affect an exposed individual’s health even decades after long-term exposure has occurred. Without PPE exposure to asbestos is maximised.
The very minimum amount of PPE that should be worn when dealing with asbestos are overalls and some kind of respirator. Overalls will prevent asbestos from coming into contact with your skin, and a respirator will prevent asbestos fibres from being inhaled. The risk of asbestos comes from breathing in asbestos fibres, above all else.
There are several types of respirators available for asbestos workers.
First of all, there are disposable half-face respirators. These respirators are perfect for quick jobs where a worker is simply checking the possibility of asbestos or just needs to enter a location for a quick moment.
Another type of respirator available is the reusable half-face respirator. Those respirators will help your company save a little bit of money instead of buying lots of disposable respirators which should only be used once before being thrown away. This respirator is also more secure.
Full-face respirators can be found in two variations – powered cartridges and portable cartridges. Like half-face respirators, full-face respirators are reusable and more economical, considering you don’t need to throw them out.
The type of respirator you need largely depends on the type of work you’ll be doing. A good way to know what kind of PPE you’ll need will depend on whether you’re working with friable asbestos or not. If it’s friable, choose a full-face respirator over a half-face or disposable respirator; especially if you’re removing friable asbestos or working near it (and therefore, possibly disturbing it and releasing its fibres into the air around you).
After each use of your respirator, unless it’s disposable, you should clean and dry the respirator face piece, check the parts for any defects, charge the batteries of your powered respirator as required, and store your respirator in a clean, dry container. This will help protect your respirator.