Ever since the dawn of the modern industrial era companies have taken heed of the requirement to protect the well-being of their workforce, an issue that has become ever more complex in a diversifying global economy. Whereas a 19th Century miner would be fortunate to be provided a hard hat and a budgerigar to protect his well-being from rock fall and poisonous gases, the modern workplace has evolved in such a way to make the employment of Personal Protective Equipment mandatory in sectors across the board, especially as health and safety legislation – in unison with and personal injury litigation – have become ever more prominent. This article looks to focus on how respirators and masks have become a leading concern in the PPE industry across a variety of workplaces, and how cutting edge technology has influenced the development of the market.
For most people, when asked to associate a theme with gas masks or respirators will think of poison gas and its historical connotations, often the school taught image of soldiers being affected by poisonous oxides released through shelling in the WW1 trenches. While this is true, the fact remains that the first patented ‘gas masks’ were designed backs in the 1840s, with the purpose if filtering dust from the air during construction and mining work. Yet it took the advent of the cold war, and the persistent threat of a global war inevitably featuring the mass deployment of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons for industry to apply itself in constructing a reliable – and repeat use – means of protecting an individual from these agents.
Science has leapfrogged itself countless times over the last few decades, with this progress compounding our scientific knowledge and expectations, with exposure to hazardous chemicals and waste never being greater in than can be witnessed in today’s modern industrial workplace. Still employed by militaries worldwide as standard issue kit, the diversification of modern oil, gas, chemical and mining industries has seen a huge push in developing the cutting edge PPE Equipment that can match this progress, and a growing reliance on Personal Escape Masks to ensure the respiratory safety of employees.
For some modern companies, the use of wrap around face masks or N95 respirators is enough, but increasingly Personal Escape Masks are coming to the fore. Unlike the former, PEMs are multiple uses, durable and provide a far greater body of protection to the user. Also, they are lightweight enough to be carried as an emergency precaution without compromising on safety, and even more so are suitable for all head shapes, degrees of facial hair, and wearers of glasses. The FDA expects basic N95s to provide a 95% degree of protection for their employees; a PEM user would expect complete protection from airborne agents and gases, with multiple layers of protection and charcoal filtering ensuring the highest standards of personal protection.
Personal Escape Masks offer superb protection from fire, possessing latex hoods capable of resisting temperatures up to 200°C – more than meeting the requirements of the NFPA 701 – and visors capable of enduring up to 150°C. Providing a means of total protection against toxic gases, smoke and carbon monoxide, along with the reassurance of fire endurance the future of respiratory PPE equipment must be heading in the direction of Escape Masks, for which the modern industrial worker can thank the legacy laid by their ancestors.
A very progressive development in relations between employer and employee, witnessed especially over the last couple of decades, has been a non unionised responsibility for companies to take seriously the ‘duty of care’ that they have for their employees. Often highly skilled and expensively deployed, today’s workers are just as susceptible to our 19th century miner to the inherent dangers of the industrial workplace, and far more in tune to the threats that face them. Unlike other solutions the Personal Escape Mask does not just provide a reassurance; it is the embodiment of progressive industries ensuring the safety of their most valuable asset – their employees.