Abrasive blasting, more commonly known as sandblasting, is a procedure done to forcibly alter surfaces. It can be done with a variety of materials ranging from sand, metal shot, or glass beads. Products used for sandblasting range from highly abrasive to mildly abrasive, but all can cause harm to the individual doing the work. Safety concerns can be lessened for workers by using the correct sandblast helmet.
The History of the Helmet
Sandblasting has been done since the 1870s. Helmets were used since that time and were very rough in nature. Air was forced into the very tight fitting helmet. They were thought to be unsanitary and unreliable for workers. It wasn’t until the mid-1930s that it was realized that a percentage of sandblasters died from a common disease–Silicosis. As more research was done into these common death causes, regulations were put into place to protect workers with the use of properly fitting and ventilated helmets.
Safety is First and Foremost
Anyone doing sandblasting has probably felt the sting from flying particles. To protect a worker’s face, a sandblast helmet is necessary. More importantly, depending on the abrasive material being used for blasting, great care must be taken to protect a worker’s respiratory system. Some abrasives produce silica dust. Prolonged inhalation of this dust causes silicosis, which has similar symptoms to that of pneumonia and can cause active tuberculosis. Permanent scarring of the lung tissue is caused by silicosis. Even though there are strict regulations placed on the sandblasting industry, there are still high risks for respiratory illness. Therefore, it is important for workers to have properly fitting equipment, and to also use a complete sandblasting suit to avoid dust getting on clothing.
Types of Helmets
Sandblast helmets come in a variety of styles to accommodate the type of blasting that’s being done. Although there are some on the market that give basic protection from flying debris, all of them have respiratory protection as well. Some sandblast helmets are equipped with respiratory filters to protect workers from other hazardous materials, such as lead from paint.
Modern-Day Sandblasting Helmets
Today’s helmets are made with the worker’s overall comfort in mind. They’re made of lightweight materials, yet meet with OSHA requirements for respiratory safety. Depending on the job type, helmets can be found with one or two layers of thickness for the worker’s protection from debris. Neck collars are made of more flexible materials, making day-long wear more comfortable. Respiratory systems are effective, yet lightweight. High-quality helmets are now made in ergonomic fashion for additional comfort.
Whenever any type of abrasive blasting is done, a respiratory sandblast helmet should be used. When worn with a sandblasting suit, risks of injury and illness are greatly reduced.