In the wake of the Delaware County mercury exposure incident associated with Environmental Remediation Services, the decisive role of the Occupational safety and Health Administration (OSHA) gained public appreciation. The company was fined $142,000 for willful violation of the OSH Act of 1970, and had 14 citations issued against it. Mercury vapors, when inhaled over short or long duration, can lead to several biological complications such as anxiety, anorexia and fatigue. The omission of respiratory protection equipment (RPE) is completely imprudent in such hazardous settings.
Safety at workplace is identified as the employer’s responsibility. Sheer negligence is the underlying reason for most cases of regulatory violations. While in some of them, the employer tries to avoid the expenditure on protection equipment, for they consider it as “auxiliary.” The imposition of penalties on defaulters ensures strict adherence to the regulatory frameworks. However, technological advancements in the respiratory protection equipment market have helped enterprises actually stick to the guidelines.
Before the advent of technology, respirators were essentially animal skins that were worn by ancient Roman miners to prevent direct exposure of lead oxide dust. The contemporary applications remain pretty much the same—to prevent airborne particulate matter from entering the respiratory tract of the on-site worker. However, vendor offerings have undergone various stages of design and technology development over the course of time. Today, users have a variety of disposable, limited-use, and reusable respirators as well as source-powered and supplied air-purifying systems.
Vendors and manufacturers in the respiratory protection equipment market are aware that recognizing the critical needs of the highly diversified class of end users is the key to commercial success. There is an extensive array of respiratory hazards, which can create an unsafe atmosphere. Poisonous vapors, chemical odors, molds, pathogens, and harmful radiations are a few of the generic categories that can be segmented further based on the application environment. Designers and developers remain detail-oriented towards those situations in which their products and solutions are to be used, and deliver accordingly. For instance, military personnel require to be geared up well in advance before they approach a potentially hazardous zone. Complex self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) is therefore a plausible solution for them. While in emergency situations of leakage or fire, a pre-assembled wearable that can be put on within seconds serves the requirement.
The task of optimizing comfort, efficiency, quality, safety, and manufacturing costs is managed to bring innovative range of RPE to consumer platforms. From the primeval substantial piece of fabric to advanced materials, and passive coverings to supplied protection, the respiratory protection equipment market has evolved a lot, but the best of RPE is yet to come. Powered air-purifying respirators with the facility of automatic detection of air quality and flow is the latest addition to the industry offerings. Given the current global scenario, where each day a novice bio-hazard, virus, or biological weapon is identified, it is the unexpected for which the industry must remain prepared. With highly advanced materials at hand, the prospects of that happening seems promising.