Monday, November 15, 2010

Importance of Respiratory Protection at Demolition or Disaster Sites

The Newsday story "Ground Zero settlement tally delayed as deadline hits" had the above image as part of the story.  Based on this image we see workers at the sight wearing two different types of respirators and one worker wearing only a neckerchief (or something similar).  The predominant respirator worn in this picture is the filtering facepiece respirator.  This respirator is primarily meant to handle nuisance dusts and is not intended in handling hazardous materials or chemical vapors.  It has two straps and most have a metal nose clip that is meant to achieve a better seal around the nose.  It seems most are wearing these correctly except the individual in the background which appears to have only one strap on.  For this individual, the respirator is probably not providing the intended protection.  Three individuals have the half-mask air purifying respirators two are wearing them properly while the third is wearing it as jewelry.  The cartridges being worn are high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.  The HEPA filter is the highest level filter you can get for particulates and will filter out asbestos, lead, and other hazardous dusts.  However, this filter will not filter chemical vapors.  Based on the contaminants previously published from 9/11, the standard respirator should have been a half-mask air purifying respirator with organic vapor, acid gas, and P100 (HEPA) filters.  So all the respirators in the picture were the wrong type to protect them, based on published reports of the contaminants at the 9/11 work sight.  Hopefully, the regulatory and disaster community learned the lessons of 9/11 and in the future we can ensure workers at the sight wear the proper respirator and wear it properly.  Maybe then in the future we will not have to pay these claims on people who got sick for not wearing a respirator or wearing the wrong type.
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