What Airflow Design Means for Abrasive Blasting Operations

In the abrasive blasting business, the quality of your blast cleaning is one of your key priorities. Yet, maintaining consistent quality can also be one of the most elusive goals for any blast professional.

We know that checking for surface contaminants and monitoring ambient conditions can help control the quality of your blast cleaning. But, we also know the ability of your blast operator greatly affects the quality of the work. Blasters work under tough conditions. It’s hot. It’s loud. It’s dirty. And, the gear can be heavy. As much as we all may hate to admit it, at the end of a shift, even the best blasters can start to feel fatigued.

In these tough conditions, how can you make sure your sandblasters are able to produce the highest quality work in an efficient manner?

One word: Airflow.

Not just more airflow – the right type of airflow

Is the airflow in your blasting helmet contributing to worker fatigue? It may seem simple on the surface; all blasting respirators funnel air into the helmet. In fact, NIOSH requires that helmets receive a minimum airflow of 6 CFM (cubic feet per minute) into the helmet. But, let’s pay attention to the way the air flows into the helmet. With some blast hoods, the air flows through the breathing tube and into the back of the operator’s head. This will typically cool the immediate area, however, the operator’s face and breathing area will feel stifled, since the flow of air is not effectively surrounding the head. 

A blasting helmet with a more advanced design can actually guide the air directly to the worker’s breathing area. By focusing on the effects of this type of design, you can help your operators concentrate on the quality of their work, without being bogged down by fatigue.

The signs of good airflow design

The GenVX blasting helmet from Bullard is designed to direct air into the user’s breathing area. An over-the-top airflow design like this one reduces blaster fatigue in three key ways:

  1. Significant cooling
    When paired with an air cooling device, this design passes cool air directly over the operator’s face, providing instant relief.
  1. Prevention of fogging
    When air passes across the lens of the helmet, the fogging frequently experienced by blasters is eliminated, offering excellent visibility.
  1. Easier breathing
    When airflow is directed to the wearer’s mouth and nose, instead of the back of the head, the operator gets immediate access to the air flowing into the helmet, reducing the stifling sensation sometimes experienced.
Significant cooling

How to evaluate blast helmets for their airflow features

Design elements such as the direction of airflow in a blasting helmet may seem small when you’re holding a helmet in your hands. However, airflow design provides a significant difference in an operator’s fatigue level throughout their shift. This fatigue level directly affects the quality of their work for sandblasting, shot blasting, and any type of media blasting.

There are three steps you can take to evaluate blast helmets for their airflow features:

evaluate blast helmets for their airflow features
  1. Put it on and blast. 
    Use the helmet for a full shift. Helmets that are designed for the best airflow will be obvious.
Put it on and blast
  1. Look Around 
    Wearing the helmet, with the airflow turned on, move from side to side, bend down, and look around. Does the airflow continue to move with your head? Or do certain head positions cause the airflow to feel less consistent?
Huff & puff
  1. Huff and puff.
    With the air flowing into the helmet, does the lens fog up when you exhale, especially in cooler temperatures? The best helmets will eliminate or dramatically reduce fogging with proper airflow design.

As a blast professional, it’s important to understand how worker fatigue can be a contributing factor in quality control. Be sure and evaluate airflow with your current blasting helmet for its airflow design. To get the most out of your blast helmet evaluation, you can download a Blast Helmet Field Test Template here.

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