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Blasting Safely During the COVID-19 Pandemic

FRIDAY, APRIL 3, 2020

By Tom Enger, MS, CSP, CHMM, CFM, Clemco Industries Corp.


Photos courtesy of Clemco industries corp.

By now, everyone has heard what to do individually to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, including staying at home. If, however, you are required to be on a work site, the additional precautions in this article can help keep you and others safe. Share this information with those who use blast machines, blast cabinets or blast rooms.

Extra Precautions When Using Abrasive Blast Machines

1. If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this: If you touch it, clean it!
  • In order to kill those invisible viruses, clean with a disinfectant such as an antiviral cleaner, a solution that is 2% bleach, or other disinfectants recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even if a surface you touched looks clean—clean it!
  • Clean all parts of a blast machine that your hands, body, blast suit or gloves may have touched. Yes, your blast suit and gloves. The coronavirus could be there and then transfer onto a surface you touched.
  • Clean surfaces in the work area you may have touched.
  • A handheld orchard sprayer or a basic spray bottle may speed up cleaning.

2. After using a blast machine, clean and disinfect:
  • Hose,
  • Remote controls,
  • Abrasive metering valve,
  • Isolation valves,
  • Bags of abrasive that you touched and have not discarded (and keep moisture from entering the bags),
  • Any other part of the machine you may have touched,
  • Any blast machine surface you may have leaned against with bare skin or clothing, and
  • Any other surfaces you may have touched.
3. Blast suits and gloves
  • Clean and disinfect the exterior of your blast suit and gloves.
  • As best you can, clean and disinfect the interior of your blast suit and gloves and dry them. Air drying may be the easiest.
  • Don’t share blast suits and gloves!
4. Respirators
  • Every part of a respirator is exposed to a blast operator’s exhalations, coughs and sneezes. So never share respirators!
  • After the end of each shift, blast operators should clean and disinfect their respirators and all respirator components, either by handwashing or submersion. (See “Ways to Clean a Respirator,” below.)
  • For either method, use a 2% bleach solution or another CDC-recommended disinfectant.
  • Did I mention, Never share respirators?
5. Dry surfaces you cleaned with disposable rags. 
If you cannot let equipment air dry, it is important to dry the equipment with disposable rags because:
  • The coronavirus can live longer in moist environments.
  • Mold can grow in moist environments.

Throw away rags after using them. The virus may be on them.

 


Extra Precautions When Using Blast Cabinets

1. If you touch it, clean it!
  • In order to kill those invisible viruses, clean with a disinfectant such as an antiviral cleaner, a solution that is 2% bleach, or other CDC-recommended disinfectants. Even if a surface you touched looks clean—clean it!
  • Clean all parts of a blast cabinet that your hands, body, or clothing may have touched. Yes, your clothing. The coronavirus could be there and then transfer onto a surface your clothing rubs against.
  • Clean surfaces in the work area you may have touched.
  • A handheld spray bottle may speed up cleaning.

2. After using a blast cabinet, clean and disinfect:
  • Switches,
  • Latches,
  • Regulators,
  • Wing nuts,
  • View window exterior (you, and probably others, have breathed on it),
  • Any other part of the cabinet you may have touched,
  • Any blast cabinet surface you may have leaned against with bare skin or clothing, and
  • Any other surfaces you may have touched.
3. Blast gloves
  • As best you can, clean and disinfect the interior of your rubber blast gloves and dry them.
  • If other operators use the machine, all should have their own set of quick-change gloves.
  • Don’t share gloves.
4. Drying surfaces you cleaned with disposable rags is important because:
  • The coronavirus can live longer in moist environments.
  • Mold can grow in moist environments.

Again, throw away rags after using them.

 


EXTRA PRECAUTIONS WHEN USING BLAST ROOMS

1. If you touch it, clean it!
  • To kill those invisible viruses, clean with a disinfectant such as an antiviral cleaner, a solution that is 2% bleach, or other CDC-recommended disinfectants. Even if a surface you touched looks clean—clean it!
  • Clean all parts of a blast room that your hands, body, blast suit, or gloves may have touched. The coronavirus could be there and then transfer onto a surface you touched.
  • Clean surfaces in the work area you may have touched.
  • A handheld orchard sprayer or a basic spray bottle may speed up cleaning.

2. After using a blast room, clean and disinfect:
  • Door handles,
  • View windows,
  • Brooms,
  • Shovels,
  • Any other tools in—or parts of—the blast room you may have touched,
  • Any blast room surface you may have leaned against,
  • Any part of the blast machine you may have touched, such as hose, remote controls, abrasive metering valve, isolation valves,
  • Bags of abrasive that you touched and have not discarded (keep moisture from entering the bags),
  • Any other surfaces you may have touched.
3. Blast Suits and Gloves
  • Clean and disinfect the exterior of your blast suit and gloves.
  • As best you can, clean and disinfect the interior of your blast suit and gloves and dry them. Air drying may be the easiest.
  • Don’t share blast suits and gloves.
4. Respirators
  • Every part of a respirator is exposed to a blast operator’s exhalations, coughs, and sneezes. So never share respirators!
  • After the end of each shift, blast operators should clean and disinfect their respirators and all respirator components.
  • Operators can clean and disinfect their respirators and respirator components either by handwashing or submersion.
  • With either method, use a 2% bleach solution or another CDC recommended disinfectant.

Ways to Clean a Respirator 

OPTIONS STEPS
Handwash a Respirator and Its Components After using a respirator, break it down into its individual parts, including the suspension system, in-helmet-mounted carbon monoxide monitor if you use one, inner lenses, rubber gaskets, cushions, the cape collar, blast shroud, and other components in or attached to the helmet. Next, handwash the blast helmet and its components with a 2% bleach solution or another disinfectant recommended by the CDC. Allow the helmet and components to air dry.
Timesaver: Clean by Submerging a Respirator and Some of Its Components Detach fabric components, cushions, the cape collar and blast shroud, and the in-helmet-mounted carbon monoxide monitor, if you use one, from the respirator. These detached components should be hand-washed and then allowed to air dry. Consider using replacement cushions instead of handwashing them.* Submerge the blast helmet with the components that are attached to it in a 2% bleach solution or another disinfectant recommended by the CDC. Gently agitate the blast helmet with its attached components for at least 5 minutes. Remove the helmet with its attached components from the solution and allow to air dry.

*If a blast helmet has a cushion suspension system, submerging the cushions in a disinfecting solution is ill advised. The cushions may not dry by the next shift, and long drying cycles could promote mold growth. Handwashed cushions may also take too long to dry. Consider using replacement cushions instead, or look into replacing the cushion suspension system with a web suspension system, which has no cushions to detach. To speed cleaning, for example, the DLX Comfort-Fit Suspension System (with cushions) on Clemco’s Apollo 600 Supplied-Air Respirator can be replaced with the company’s web suspension system (without cushions).

Never share respirators.

5. Dry surfaces that you cleaned with disposable rags.
If you cannot let equipment air dry, it is important to dry the equipment with disposable rags because:
  • The coronavirus can live longer in moist environments.
  • Mold can grow in moist environments.
Once more: Throw away rags after using them.

 


I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS CLEANING AND DISINFECTING!

I know you’re thinking this. Yes, these precautions will take more time than cleaning procedures followed under normal circumstances. But these are extraordinary circumstances. These preventive steps could save your life and others’ lives. They’re simple—maybe not convenient, but simple. And they are simply the safe, and right, things to do.

 

 

Claims or positions expressed by sponsoring authors do not necessarily reflect the views of TPC, PaintSquare or its editors.

 

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Enger, MS, CSP, CHMM, CFM, Clemco Industries Corp.

Tom Enger is Director of Product Safety at Clemco Industries Corp. He is a Certified Safety Professional with more than 30 years of environmental, health and safety experience. Expertise: construction, explosives manufacturing, government affairs, abrasive blasting. Experience: adjunct faculty at Maricopa CC (AZ), author of many articles and safety seminar presenter.

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