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What Painters Need to Know About Respirator Masks

Painter with respirator mask

If your industrial employees are among the 3.3 million that need to wear a respirator mask while on the job, chances are they may not be getting the most out of the protection that respirators provide. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 40 percent of these employees receive training on respirator use, meaning nearly half of workers must look elsewhere for guidance regarding their health on the job.

Because paint vapors, dust, and solvents are the biggest reasons for wearing a respirator at work, take a look at what you need to know about protective masks for your employees in the paint industry.

Not all Masks and Respirators are Equal

There are dozens of masks and respirators available for a range of industrial tasks, and employees in the paint industry need some type of protection depending on what task they are involved in. Here are some common types of respirator masks and how they help keep your employees safe when they work around paint.

Dust masks. Also called nuisance masks, dust masks are usually plain white, contain no print, and provide only one fastener for the wearer. This basic mask filters out large particulates like dust and pollen and should only be worn for tasks like sweeping or mowing grass. Dust masks are not effective for use in the paint industry.

Respirator masks. Respirator masks are clearly marked with a NIOSH label, indicating it's approved by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety. They contain two fasteners or straps for a more secure fit. A respirator marked N95 means it can filter 95 percent of particulates 0.3 microns or larger and protects from sanding non-harmful surfaces.

Respirators. More than just a cover for mouth and nose, a respirator is larger and has multiple straps for fitting the lower half or entire face of the user. A respirator comes with removable cartridges or filters designed to protect against dangers associated with lead paint or asbestos particles from sanding, spray paint mist, and fumes from paint and other harmful chemicals like paint thinner.

Because dust masks and N95 respirator masks are not designed to protect employees from the particles and paint fumes relevant to the paint industry, most of your employees will require a respirator equipped with cartridges.

The Right Respirator for the Risk

The paint industry employs a wide range of chemicals and other solvents and particulates which are harmful to the health of your employees. A respirator allows workers to breathe safely while in the presence of many of them. Here are some of the most commonly-used respirators:

  • Sanding respirators for lead, asbestos, and fiberglass

  • Gas and Vapor respirators for paint fumes and spray paint mist

  • Combination respirators for both particles and fumes

When you choose the correct respirator, you can be assured your employees breathe safely when they work in the vicinity of paint vapors and other contaminants.

Respirator Training is Important

Just as important as selecting the correct respirator is receiving the right training on that respirator. Don't just assume your employees are able to read and understand the instruction labels on respirators and masks on their own. Do more than just provide the right safety gear for your workers.

When you provide proper training for respirator masks you offer a safe, healthy work environment for your employees. Make sure your employees are regularly trained on respirator choice, usage, and fit.

If it's time to choose the right respirators, masks, and other protective gear for your employees in the paint industry, look to the experts at California Industrial Rubber Company. We offer a range of masks and respirators to keep you employees breathing easily and safely.