To help raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos, we're covering the what's, why's and how's of asbestos PPE (personal protective equipment).
Why Is Asbestos PPE Necessary?
The inhalation of asbestos fibres has been linked to various diseases, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, pleural thickening and pleural plaques. As such, controls must be put in place when working with asbestos-containing material (ACM) to reduce exposure to these fibres. However, the risks associated with working with asbestos can be minimised even further by wearing the correct PPE.
What PPE Should Be Worn If Asbestos Might Be Present?
If there is a risk workers could be exposed to asbestos it is vital they wear the correct PPE, including:
RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment)
RPE should always be worn when working in an environment where asbestos may be present. This will minimise the risk of inhaling asbestos fibres.
Types of RPE include:
- Disposable half-face respirators - a temporary respirator which can only be used once
- Re-usable half-face or full-face respirators - respirators which can be used more than once and work with filter cartridges
- Full-face powered respirators - a respirator which can incorporate a fan to push air through a filter supplied to the wearer within a mask or headgear
Facial hair and glasses can prevent respirator masks from fully sealing the face. Therefore, it's recommended that men be clean shaven when wearing a respirator and if glasses cannot be modified then a positive pressure air supply hood should be worn.
When using a respirator for the first time, a respirator fit test should be carried out by a trained tester to ensure a good seal is achieved. It is also recommended for businesses to carry out RPE fit-testing annually. Swift360 can offer testing from our Fit2Fit training accredited RPE fit test provider.
Once accurately fit-tested, a wearer should self-test their RPE each time they put a respirator on. This can be done by placing your hands over the mask or filters and breathing in; the mask should pull firmly to the face. The wearer should then block the exhalation valves and exhale hard; a bulging effect should occur but there should be no leakage. If the mask leaks, you can re-adjust the straps and test again. If leakage is still happening, the wearer will need to change to a different size or model of respirator and arrange for another fit-test.
Which Respirators Should Be Used?
- Disposable respirator to standards EN 149 (type FFP3) or EN 1827 (type FMP3)
- Half-face respirator to standard EN 140 with a P3 filter
- Re-usable respirator to standard EN 405 with P3 filter
- Powered respirators should be used for high-risk work or long periods of use
These must be impenetrable to asbestos dust/fibres and should preferably be disposable to avoid risk of carrying asbestos fibres away from the work area. If the coveralls/overalls are not disposable, the wearer must ensure they are able to be washed in a laundry area specifically capable of handling asbestos contaminated clothing.
Must be suitable for the work being carried out and should not be laced as these are very difficult to clean thoroughly. The use of disposable boot covers is not recommended as they can cause a slipping hazard.
Depending on the exact work, other PPE may prove necessary, including:
- Safety gloves (these should be single-use and disposable)
- Hi-vis or waterproof clothing
Dealing With Asbestos Contaminated PPE
After working with asbestos, all PPE should be taken off and disposed of in the decontamination area. Reusable PPE, such as respirators and boots, must be decontaminated, cleaned and stored properly for next use. Used respirator filters should be treated as asbestos waste and disposed of accordingly.
You can take a look at our RPE core range by downloading our free catalogue below.