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Ensuring Safe Breathing Air For Blasters and Painters

Understanding Grade D Breathing Air

What equipment should you buy to ensure you’re producing GRADE D breathing air for your jobsite respirators?

In this Primed Insight we’re going to clear up a few misconceptions about Grade D breathing air. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, Grade D is an acceptable, legal standard of compressed breathing air that ensures the health and safety of blasters and painters relying on jobsite respirators. It’s called Grade D in the United States.

Here are the composition standards for Grade D:
• Oxygen content (v/v) of 19.5-23.5%;
• Hydrocarbon (condensed) content of 5 milligrams per cubic meter of air or less;
• Carbon monoxide (CO) content of 10 ppm or less;
• Carbon dioxide content of 1,000 ppm or less; and
• Lack of noticeable odor.

Now, each of these components must be met for the compressed air to be deemed Grade D – suitable for worker safety. Which leads us back to this post’s original question:

What equipment should you buy to ensure you’re producing GRADE D breathing air for your jobsite respirators?

Well, that’s actually a trick question, because there is NO equipment that produces Grade D breathing air. Scrubbers, monitors, filters – none of these PRODUCE Grade D air. The operative word being PRODUCE. Furthermore, none of these products can even certify the air going through them is Grade D air.

Confused? Allow us to explain… The air being fed to the respirator generally comes from one of two sources…. Either a mechanical air compressor – or a low pressure, ambient pump (aka free air). Regardless of how it’s furnished – that supply air is either Grade D or not. And in the case of the Free air – just because it’s coming from an outdoor environment doesn’t guarantee it is Grade D quality.

The principle here is you basically get what you start with. Whatever is drawn into the system – for the most part gets delivered to the respirator.

But what about Scrubbers?  – They eliminate Carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons! Yes, that is true – but they too cannot PRODUCE nor ensure Grade D Breathing air.  The same is true for the filters and monitors. Unfortunately, there currently is no industry equipment that produces Grade D Breathing air. The only way to guarantee Grade D Air is to test it, which you typically can’t do onsite.

So how do we protect all these blasters and painters? All these amazing human beings who have families, friends, and decades of life ahead of them?

Let’s explore some simple procedures you should definitely incorporate into your jobsite set-up that increase the chances of delivering Grade D to your respirators.

The three pillars are:

  • Correct Selection and Placement of the Compressor (which we recommend over a free air pump)
  • Install a breathing air system
  • Regular air testing for certification.

Let’s quickly run through these.

Correct Selection and Placement of the Compressor

  1. The general atmosphere is 20.8% Oxygen. This falls perfectly within the specs needed for the oxygen component of Grade D – so unless you are in an oxygen deficient area, you should meet that criteria.
  2. Place your compressor in a well-ventilated area, ensuring it’s exhaust, or exhaust from nearby trucks or site equipment doesn’t get drawn back into the unit and compressed into the supplied air system. This holds true for low pressure/ambient systems as well that may draw in exhaust from vehicles or other site equipment.
  3.  If need be, install a remote air intake to keep it away from contaminated air
  4.  Ensure your Compressor is the correct size and is well maintained to prevent it from overheating and creating CO

When installing a Breathing Air System we recommend the following items:

  1.  Use a Radex filter which has activated carbon to remove odors. The Radex also has activated alumina that absorbs moisture.
  2.  We also highly recommend a Micro Mist Filter, which helps remove moisture and hydrocarbons
  3.  And when it comes to a Carbon Monoxide monitor we strongly endorse the RPB GX4 Gas Monitor – which from our experience definitely meets the criteria for being deemed Superior Equipment.

And last but not least,

Regular testing of your air is critical.

Grade D Air Test Kits are available from BlastOne, which you can send in to get certified.

How often should you test? Well, if you have a fixed worksite – with pretty much no changes being made to your set-up, OSHA recommends a minimum of once a year. Otherwise, under its guidelines, you should be certifying your air every time you move your equipment.

Reality says, you’re not going to be able to do that — which makes it even more important that you employ the previously outlined procedures to keep your workers safe!

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