Because heat is an integral part to this application, this hazard simply cannot be removed. This poses a significant hazard to workers health through burns, heat stress and respiratory illness making this industry very dangerous to work in. Although PPE is worn to protect the worker’s skin, this adds to their discomfort as typically thick flame-resistant material covers their entire body. This prevents the body from regulating any temperature, leading to extreme discomfort and fatigue and increase the risk of injury, illness and fatalities.
After seeing firsthand just how difficult and hazardous the work in this industry is, we wanted to change the way PPE was being used to completely transform the user’s experience of safety allowing them to perform at their best. For some, PPE is only seen as something that protects you, however we see this differently. We see this as an opportunity to work with the elements of the application to incorporate design features that support the wearer, making them more comfortable, safer and productive. We looked at existing systems in the market and it became clear that the biggest issue for this industry is the way the PPE was being worn and how it forced operators to work in a particular way. To combat these issues, we developed the RPB Radiant Heat Shield.
For the foundation of this system, we utilized an existing product of ours, the RPB Z-Link. This tried and tested system is lightweight, durable and most importantly comfortable. The internal layout of this headtop allows the user to customize the fit to suit their needs which ensures there is no movement within the headtop preventing unnecessary overstraining of the operator’s neck and shoulders. This system also has the ability to be customized for different applications through its various visor and cape options.
The Radiant Heat kit features a gold coated visor which mounts via the Z-Link visor clips. This reflects heat away from the user, keeping them cooler and protecting the materials from wear and tear. In addition to this, the FR hood is made from reflective aluminized material and covers the entire headtop to further reduce the effects of heat for the user. The way the system is designed enables the operator to lift up the visor, even when they’re wearing thick gloves so they can quickly view their environment through the normal Z-Link lens. Because the visor is clipped on, this also makes removal and replacement a simple process compared to other systems on the market that have a fixed field of view and require tools to change out.
Aside from the obvious areas of protection to the skin and eyes, the biggest change we wanted to instigate in this industry is through respiratory protection. In many applications, we saw a minimal amount of respiratory protection being used such as half face N95 respirators. Although they provide some degree of protection, with the added heat in the environment and tight-fitting design this raised some serious health concerns for us with how much protection they were providing and additional strain this was having on the user. By utilizing our powered air purifying respirator with the Z-Link headtop, we were able to reduce this additional strain on the user, supplying them with positive pressure filtered air, enabling them to breathe as they normally would and no longer rely on the their lungs to draw air through a filter.
Because the PPE that is currently being used does not allow for any airflow, this exacerbates the user’s experience of heat. With the PAPR, this supplies the air to the user, creating air movement inside the respirator which moves sweat away from the body and makes the user feel cooler. In many foundries we also found that they had cool air being blown on the user's back already. Because the PAPR mounts to the back of the user, this means the ambient air that is being drawn in by the fan, may also be cooler than the general air temperature which can provide additional cooling relief.
If you’re working in a high heat environment and your team is struggling, it’s time to seek alternative ways of working by equipping them with PPE that supports, not restricts them.