Benefits & Uses of Emergency Escape Respirators

IHW sat down with the folks at ILC Dover to discuss their innovative respirators, NIOSH-approved filtration and more. 

First, what is the difference between a standard respirator and an emergency escape respirator?

“Standard” respirators are typically designed to support workers in operations where they are performing a job – e.g., a production operation, lab testing activity or maintenance effort.  They are designed for longer term use and provide continuous protection during that time period.

Emergency escape respirators are designed to support escape during an abnormal event that has created a respiratory hazard – e.g., a chemical spill, a process excursion resulting in a release and even a respiratory hazard created by a terrorist event.  They are for short-term use and only for escape purposes.

What types of jobs (or situations) might require the use of an emergency escape respirator?

Escape respirators are used in numerous industries and situations.  They’re used by a wide array of government agencies to protect their workers.   They are also commonly found in refineries, chemical production facilities and laboratories, energy producers, pipeline operations, and other industries.  The common thread among them is that some event has occurred resulting in a sudden respiratory hazard that doesn’t exist during normal operations. This could be a chemical spill, a fire event creating carbon monoxide or even a hazard created by a terrorist attack.

The SCape CO/CBRN30 respirator, designed by ILC Dover, includes NIOSH-approved filtration. From what types of hazards or chemicals does that type of filtration protect the wearer?

The Scape CO/CBRN 30 escape respirator is of the air-purifying type meaning it filters the hazard out to a safe level prior to providing air to the wearer.  It’s been designed to a rigorous NIOSH standard requiring protection against a wide range of chemicals (including ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, phosgene and sulfur dioxide and many others), particulates, chemical warfare agents (like GB and HD) and even carbon monoxide. Challenge levels range from 1,300 for cyclohexane to 100ppm for nitrogen dioxide.

The product is approved for escape for 30 minutes per the NIOSH standard. This 30-minute timeframe is established by the minimum timeframe the unit can filter all of the challenge gases.  Most escape respirators are only approved for 15 minutes.

How did ILC Dover go about getting approval from NIOSH for their filtration design?

The process for obtaining approval for a CBRN APER (Air-Purifying Escape Respirator) is quite rigorous and time-consuming. NIOSH publishes a Statement of Standard covering this product area which contains all of the detailed requirements for product approval.  Some of the requirements include: breathing resistance, field of view, fogging, carbon dioxide limits, flammability, gas life testing of the filter against a wide range of chemicals and carbon monoxide, donning time, and Laboratory Respiratory Protection Level (LRPL) testing.

The standard also includes testing of the full product on a SMARTMAN headform in a chamber filled with chemical warfare nerve agent. During this testing, the product is placed on a breathing headform and the concentration of agent inside the hood is measured to determine it is offering protection to the required levels. This rigorous test challenges every aspect of the product, including materials, filters and product fabrication integrity.  Virtually all testing described above occurs on the product following a challenging five-week period in a hot/cold environmental chamber.

As with all NIOSH approvals, ILC Dover was required to submit our own third-party filtration and other testing along with our application for review by NIOSH.  In addition, quality plans covering the unit fabrication and inspection criteria were submitted.

The customer can have confidence that all respiratory products approved to this standard have been thoroughly evaluated for effectiveness under a broad range of harsh conditions.

The SCape CO/CBRN30 respirator is designed to require only one step to achieve complete donning. How was this innovative design achieved?

In the event of an emergency, the ability for a wearer to don the product without remembering a list of detailed steps and instructions is critical. To achieve this one step donning we combined an ergonomic design with an automated actuation.

When the outer protective foil bag is removed, the wearer is presented with a wide yellow pull tab attached to the back of the hood. As this tab is pulled, the small blower automatically comes on as the product leaves the package. The user simply needs to pull the neckdam over their head, and they are ready to escape.

Since the SCape CO/CBRN doesn’t require a nosecup or mouthbit there are no user straps or buckles to adjust.  Simply leave the area to escape the contaminated environment.

Related to the above question, what are the benefits to the ease of an “on-in-one-step” respirator?

The primary benefit is the user is more likely to escape the contaminated area quickly and confidently with the simple to use product.  With Scape there is no need to remember a set of complex instructions during an already stressful emergency situation.

Aside from being one-size-fits-all, what other features in the design make the SCape respirators especially versatile?

The Scape CO/CBRN product has a number of unique features; however, the most significant include:

The auto-actuated blower –  This blower delivers 64 lpm to the wearer and makes breathing easy.  Unlike negative pressure escape respirators, there is virtually no work required to breathe since the blower automatically pulls the filtered air into the hood.  This reduced physiological stress makes the Scape product easy to use for individuals of all fitness levels.

No nosecup or mouthbit – Eliminating the need for a nosecup allows the wearer to see and be fully seen by their co-workers while communicating directly or via telephone or radio in a much more natural, effective manner.

Clear Hood  – The clear hood is another way the Scape product helps simplify the escape process. The user is much less likely to feel claustrophobic in a clear hood, and again, can be seen and recognized by their co-workers.

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