Respirators for Powder Coating – A Complete Guide
While powder coating does not have the harsh chemical odor of liquid paint, it is still comprised of compounds that are hazardous for your body. One common compound that is often used for cross linking powder coatings and that is harmful is TGIC (Triglycidylisocyanurate), a compound that can cause asthma and other problems if you are frequently exposed. OSHA CFR 29 1910.1200 provides the safety requirements that are needed in relation to the amount of exposure that is acceptable. The important thing to remember is powder coating contains harmful compounds that you need to protect yourself from by use of a proper respirator, in this guide will provide an overview of respirator types to choose from for powder coating and the pros and cons of each plus ideas of when each are appropriate.
Reusable Negative Pressure Cartridge Style Respirators
The first respirator option for powder coating is a cartridge style respirator that uses replaceable cartridges. These style respirators are well suited for light exposure and are required to meet at minimum N95 efficiency. This is commonly for applications like use with a powder booth that the operator does not stay in the booth while powder coating (like on a conveyor line) and for maintenance of the powder booth. For operators that will powder coat inside the powder booth all day, the exposure level may become too high exceeding the threshold limit value requiring a positive pressure type respirator. The other potential downsides to negative pressure cartridge style respirators for powder coating are they can require annual exams that are performed to verify the respirator properly fits because if the respirator is not tightly sealed over the nose and mouth it will be rendered useless. Additionally you will need to be diligent in your respiratory protection program to ensure that the respirators are changed out routinely so they are able to function efficiently. Some common options for powder coating negative pressure cartridge respirators are below.
This respirator meets or exceeds the minimal N95 efficiency rating and is cartridge style making it better suited for regular use around a powder coating booth where threshold limit values are not a concern and can be used with a half face style respirator.
3M P95 Cartridge Style Respirators
P95 cartridges are less efficient than a p100 cartridge but still meet the N95 standard.
N95 Dust Masks
These mask style protective respirators are best used for light exposure to powder coating areas like for occasional maintenance projects and similar situations.
Positive Pressure Free Air Pumps and PAPRs
These two categories of powder coating respirators differ from the respirators above because pressurized air is delivered to a hood. This type of respirator is important if the operator will be inside a booth powder coating frequently and where there are concerns of surpassing the threshold limit value. Using either type of unit doesn’t require fit testing because a loose fitting hood is used instead of a mask that must be properly fitted to your face. They also do not require routinely verifying that cartridges are changed, a papr can still require replacement cartridges though. Both PAPR’s and free air pumps will require a larger initial investment but will maximize safety and over the long term can be more cost effective than respirators (especially a free air pump that doesn’t require changing out any components except hoods). Most operators also believe that a positive pressure respirator is generally more comfortable and easier to breath with because you do not have to draw air through a filter but rather air is supplied to you.
This is a complete free air pump system. With a system like this the pump doesn’t use oil which eliminates the potential for carbon monoxide being sent to the operator (as long as the free air pump is not placed near a source of CO). The system can allow for quick change of operators by each operator having their own hood, which is low cost to do but will prevent any sweat buildup from being an issue between different operators.
The PAPR is nice because you have less hose to deal with but the filters can require monitoring and changing. You typically need at the least a HEPA rated filter on the unit but a higher efficiency will typically be better.
Final Thoughts on Powder Coating Respirators
Ultimately having a respirator is very important to ensure you do not have negative effects from the powder coating you are spraying. The right respirator will depend on how long you will be around the powder coating. Cartridge and throw away respirators will provide protection for a lot of applications but if you will be frequently inside a booth powder coating your exposure may be to high which can make a positive pressure respirator the right choice.