Protect Your Lungs While Welding

Protect Your Lungs While Welding

A Swiss Air PAPR Story

By Jenna B.

While many outside the welding community would think that welding and respiratory PPE (personal protection equipment) have always gone hand in hand, those within the community know otherwise. We hear horror stories of long-time welders retiring with permanent or chronic lung problems. From emphysema or chronic bronchitis to cancer, welders have always accepted that breathing in harmful fumes are particulates are part of the job, and the diseases that come with are also just part of the job. But what if welders could be more protected? What if there was a way to minimize, or even in the future eliminate welders breathing in these harmful fumes and particulates?

Everyday new technologies are being developed to protect welders. Occupational Health & safety wrote in their May 2022 issue:

One of the most common, low cost and readily available types of personal respiratory equipment is half mask respirators, which historically were not widely used within the welding industry. Why? Simply put, most half mask respirators weren’t compatible with other welding PPE and/or were uncomfortable. Luckily, modern R&D advances in this respiratory PPE category have improved both compatibility and comfort, making these respirators more widely used for metal fabrication. 

Optrel, a Switzerland based personal protection equipment developer, has come up with one such solution. The Swiss Air Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) is a TH3 certified personal respirator capable of filtering out 99.8% of harmful particles, aerosols, vapors, smoke, or even viruses. This powerful half-mask PAPR system seamlessly integrates with a welder’s standard welding hood and safety apparel. Without the requirement of attaching to a welding hood, welders can keep their PAPR mask on even while removing or lifting their hood. Now welders can stay protected no matter what hood they wear, if they have facial hair, or even if they wear glasses under their hood. While all these benefits are great in theory, how does it work in the real world? Let’s explore a story of a young welder, one day of hard facing, and his first time wearing a Swiss Air PAPR.

Glasses and facial hair doesn't get in the way of the Swiss Air
Due to the Swiss Air PAPR featuring a soft, flame-retardant material covering their mouth-nose mask, no fit test is necessary. Glasses and facial hair do not get in the way of the mask or air flow. Positive pressure in the mask supports breathing and avoids fatigue even with large beards, mustaches, or glasses.

Hard Facing for a Day

After expressing an interest in respiratory PPE and being told he had to purchase his own unit, a young welder reached out to one of our sales reps for help finding the right unit. After a couple conversations with the welder and the safety coordinator, our rep decided to let the young welder borrow his Swiss Air PAPR for a day. He installed a new pre-filter into the unit and let the welder go about his workday.

Many welders have applications that they are best at or that others in the shop rely on them to complete. For this welder, his primary responsibility was the majority of the hard facing their shop produced. While welding in general creates harmful fumes and particulates, hard facing can create a much larger amount of these particulates and fumes.  This means that this young welder really put the Swiss Air PAPR to the test. You can see the results below.

Pictured is a brand new, clean Swiss Air pre-filter shown next to the pre-filter that was in the unit the young welder in our story. If that pre-filter was from one day of hard facing, imagine what his lungs would look like after years of welding.

Most welders don’t work for just one day and then stop welding. They make careers out of it. Whether a year, a handful of years or a lifetime, imagine what that filter would look like after all that time. What if we were looking at the lungs of the welder instead of a replaceable pre-filter?

Take a Deep Breath. Safety Never Felt So Comfortable

New advancements in technology and safety equipment have now made it possible for our trade workers to have the protection they need to work safely throughout their entire career without the long-term aftermath of lung diseases. After decades of welders retiring with anything from emphysema or work-related asthma to lung cancer, there is now a solution to decrease the chances of permanent lung damage. While the Swiss Air PAPR is not a gas filtration system, it can prevent many of the harmful particulates found in welding shops or those created while making repairs out in the field from causing catastrophic damage to our welder’s lungs.

What about the young welder who wore the Swiss Air PAPR hard facing for a day? When our sales rep returned, the welder told him that the respirator was great, and he had shown the dirty pre-filter to another welder and his father who happened to work for the same company. What did his dad have to say after looking at the pre-filter? Dad said it was “a no brainer” and purchased a new Swiss Air PAPR for his welders. Now they can take a deep breath of fresh, purified air and keep welding comfortably for many years to come.

Shop optrel’s Swiss Air PAPR:

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