Six Recent Updates in Abrasive Blasting Personal Protective Equipment
Is Your Blasting Helmet Up to Par?
The abrasive blasting industry has come a long way since the early days in the 1930s when we saw workers blasting the Golden Gate Bridge with the first supplied air respirator for blasting. In recent years, several significant advancements in blast respirators have dramatically improved blasting in three key areas:
- Blast operator effectiveness
- Worker ergonomics
- Job site efficiency
Staying up to date on advancements in blast personal protective equipment (PPE) can help your company, your workers, and your end product yield the best results possible. Let’s dive in to the latest improvements available in blasting helmets and respirators. Look for these features when you evaluate new blast hoods for your blasters:
1. Sophisticated Air Delivery
A blaster’s ability to breathe easily and experience the feeling of ample airflow is directly related to the way air is delivered into the blast helmet. Helmets designed to funnel air from the breathing tube directly over the top of the head to the face and breathing area not only efficiently provide air for breathing, but also help prevent lens fogging and improve cooling.
2. Improved Strength to Weight Ratio
Newer, advanced blast helmet designs can offer superior strength to weight ratios, which translate to one key improvement: lighter weight helmets. In some helmet designs this can mean a dramatic reduction in weight, without sacrificing durability. Blast operators using lighter helmets can reduce the likelihood of neck strain and fatigue. The most durable lightweight blast helmets will use High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) construction, combined with a streamlined design that eliminates unnecessary pieces and parts, such as inserts or air plenums.
3. A Focus on Balance
Many recent enhancements to blast PPE have come from product engineers who are focused on maintaining a stable, balanced fit, even as sandblasters move, bend, and turn. Look for helmets that feature the following:
- Centered breathing tube connection for even balance
- Six-point suspension that distributes helmet weight evenly and comfortably
- Wide suspension straps that sit gently on the head
- Adjustable cheek pads that stabilize the helmet without becoming hot and sweaty once blasting is underway
4. Advanced Cooling Options
The best respirators for blasting offer a wide variety of cooling options, but not all are created equally. Choose climate control options that are lightweight, yet still durable and easy to attach. Some cooling devices themselves now stay cooler, even as they are directing hot air away from the wearer’s body. Options can include cooling only, both heating and cooling, and/or a swivel fitting for greater mobility. Most importantly – be sure that any cooling device used is approved for use as part of the blast helmet respirator assembly (i.e., no mixing of components from different manufacturers).
5. More Lens Options
Outer lenses are a necessary accessory for any blast helmet. A large selection of outer lens options greatly enhances the productivity and comfort of your blaster. Look for blast helmets that offer tear- or peel-away lenses, allowing workers to clear away worn out lenses without having to stop working. Also look for outer lenses offered in thicker or thinner sizes, based on the aggressiveness of your blast media. Thicker lenses will stand up to the harshest abrasives longer, allowing for more productivity. Finally, for blasters operating in booths that may use bright fluorescent lights or in sunny outdoor operations, look for shaded lens offerings – typically Green for bright fluorescent light and Smoke for outdoors.
6. Made in the USA
Although not a necessarily new development, it’s important to note that there are blast helmets made and assembled completely in the USA. In fact, PPE manufacturer Bullard has been producing respirators in the USA continuously since creating the first one in the 1930s. Look for helmets that are designed, made, and assembled in the USA. Every helmet you buy keeps an American worker employed.
Does your current blast helmet incorporate the latest PPE advancements? If not, you could be sacrificing blast operator effectiveness, ergonomics, and efficiency.