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Proper Fit Is Key To Respiratory Safety

Disposable particulate respirators are being made available free through provincial farm safety agencies to help farmers plan for safety on their farms. However, if you wear a respirator improperly, then you might as well have none at all. So the key message is to think ahead, have a respirator handy, and know how to use it properly.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has partnered with 3M Canada, Pioneer Hi-Bred Limited and the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association to offer free N95 particulate respirators (3M style 9211) across Canada. Look for your free respirator at trade shows and other events where you meet provincial agricultural and farm safety organizations. For a list of participating organizations as well as more information on how to fit test an N95 respirator, visit www.planfarmsafety.ca.

Grain dust, moulds, pollen, animal dander, soil dust, and welding fumes are just a few of many farm-related respiratory hazards. Exposure can cause immediate and long-term respiratory illnesses such as farmers’ lung, asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and other irreversible, incurable ailments.

When selecting a respirator, there are several things to consider. Respirators are rated as N Series, which mean not resistant to oil; R Series, which means resistant to oil; and P Series, which means oil-proof. A mask with an N95 rating is not resistant to oil and has a 95 per cent filter efficiency rating. Filter efficiency means the percentage of particulates removed by the filter. There are three levels of filter efficiency: 95 per cent, 99 per cent, and 99.97 per cent. The higher the efficiency – the lower the leakage.

There are many different types and sizes of disposable respirators or dust masks available – so be sure to find one that is comfortable for you. Also ensure you only select a product with NIOSH or CSA certification. You can expect to pay between $1 and $4 per N Series respirator – a small investment that will make a big difference in your long-term health. Respirators should be discarded after one use.

To ensure a proper fit, a Negative Fit Test should be performed:

Place the mask over your mouth and nose, and adjust straps so that the mask fits snugly.

Place your hands over the respirator so that no air can enter.

Breathe in and hold your breath.

The mask should suck in against your face and stay there for 10 seconds after you have stopped breathing in.

If the mask does not collapse against your face or immediately releases, readjust the straps and repeat the first four steps. If you cannot maintain a tight seal, try a different size, make or model of respirator until you find one that does seal. A respirator may not fit properly if you wear dentures, have facial scarring, are not clean shaven, or have had a broken facial bone or facial surgery.

Respirators must be stored in a clean, dry place in a tight container or a sealed plastic bag when not in use so they are protected from dust, sunlight, extreme heat and cold, moisture, chemicals and physical damage. Keep respirators in a convenient location close to where they are to be used.

“Plan Farm Safety” is the three-year theme of the Canadian Agricultural Safety campaign, which was launched in March. Each aspect of the theme will be promoted over the next three years.

In 2010, the campaign promotes “Plan” with safety walkabouts and planning for safety. In the second year, the focus will be on “Farm” including implementation, documentation and training. In the third year, emphasis will be on “Safety” including assessment, improvement and further development of safety systems.

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