Respiratory Protection Equipment Vital To Operator Safety in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing
At Interphex 2014, Todd and Todd interview Grant Rowe, Product Manager with Bullard to discuss the importance of respiratory protection equipment in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. Bullard manufacturers respirators to protect anything from airborne contaminants. OSHA categories respirators with levels of protection and they call them Assigned Protection Factors. Bullard manufactures Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) technology designed to provide constant air flow in a compact, streamlined form for added customer comfort.
Todd S: Good afternoon. This is Todd and Todd live in New York, Life Science Connect Radio on location direct from Interphex day #2. Todd, an exciting guest up next. Wow, having a great day and learning some cool stuff.
Todd Y: Every guest seems to get better than the last one doesn't it?
Todd S: I've got to tell you, it's been a parade of amazing talent and amazing conversation. I suspect our next guest will be no different. Say hello to Grant Rowe. He's a product manager with Bullard. Grant, welcome to the show.
Grant: Thank you for having me, Todd and Todd. It's a pleasure to be here.
Todd S: The pleasure is ours. Thanks for stopping by and joining us Grant. Before we get into a conversation around Bullard, take a quick few seconds and tell us a little bit about you and your background.
Grant: I've been with Bullard about 15 years. The first five of those as a manufacturing engineer and then I started in product management for the respiratory protection line about 10 years ago. I have been coming to Interphex most of those 10 years as we sell respirators in many industries but the one we concentrate on the most is the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry.
Todd S: All right. Go deep on Bullard. Give us the 10,000-foot view. What do you do, how do you serve your market?
Grant: Bullard has been in the safety business since 1898. We've been providing respiratory protection to the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry since 1983. So, for over 30 years when we developed one of the first high-chem disposable hood-style respirators for Eli Lily in Indianapolis.
There are many respirators out there but we specialize in suppled air and powered air purifying respirators and we emphasize some pharma specifics like quick donning and easy decontamination, high protection and then cross-contamination protection.
Todd Y: Respiratory protection in the pharmaceutical industry, why is it different? Why is it more important? Why is it more difficult?
Grant: Well, gosh, the workers in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry they do such a valuable job, you know, formulating the medicines that heal so many people.
It's important to heal those people that take those medicines but it's also very important to protect the workers that are making them. It's the consumers of the medicine that need the dose not the workers making the medicine.
We're very proud to help protect those workers while they're making the pharmaceuticals so they don't get unintended doses before they go home.
Many of these pharmaceutical ingredients can be very potent. They are designed for specific things so the average worker does not need any of that and they actually need protection from that because a medicine can be harmful to someone that's not the intended patient.
These things get airborne during the processing in these manufacturing facilities and we make these respirators to protect anything from the airborne contaminant. OSHA categories respirators with levels of protection and they call them Assigned Protection Factors.
Many of our respirators carry a 1,000 Assigned Protection Factor, which is actually the highest category that OSHA offers for any respirator other than an SEBA, which is a type of respirator firemen wear. We're very happy to protect those workers as they help make the drugs that heal so many people.
Todd S: What precisely is the market for these respirators? Who should be considering purchasing machines like this?
Grant: In general, you kind of start with just with any business has to perform a hazard assessment. That's what OSHA requires. They look at all aspects of what goes on in the facility.
When it comes to respiratory protection, if that hazard assessment reveals that there is airborne contaminant at concentrations above OSHA's permissible exposure limit, then they have to take measures to address that and respiratory protection is usually the most effective and economical way of addressing that.
Now when it comes to other facilities maybe they already have a solid respiratory protection program already in place but maybe their equipment is kind of aging. So, for them it might be more a matter of looking at the newer and improved technology.
For others, it may be that they're bring a new process online and maybe it's more potent or dealing with other chemicals they haven't used before and they need to make sure that their respiratory protection is appropriate for whatever the new process is.
Todd Y: Talk a little bit about how I should go about making a decision. What factors do I need to consider? What do I need to think about?
Grant: There are two big categories that are commonly used in these facilities that do the manufacturing. That is the supplied air respirator where compressed air source is providing Grade D breathable air to the respiratory but you have an air supply hose that you're tethered to.
The other kind is the powered air-purifying respirator that involves a waste pack usually that has a motor and filter and is powered by a battery. This gives you more portability.
The first decision is which respirator is appropriate and which do you prefer from a portability standpoint. Now, if we dig into the supplied air side a little bit more, you're going to look at the head top. We're sending filtered or clean air up to your head top to make a positive pressure to keep out the airborne contaminant and there's some considerations for that head top.
The first thing is you want the air to flow across the lens. This helps keep the lens from fogging up much like the defroster in your windshield in your car. The next thing is what protection factor do you need. Not everyone needs 1,000. Some only need a 25. So, there are different hood options dependent upon the protection factor that you need.
Then do you want a personal climate device. There's actually technology, called vortex technology, that spins the air coming into the respirator so fast that the air will separate into hot and cold components. If you want to be colder, you can configure the device a certain way and actually change the delta temperature by as much as 15 to 30 degrees and vice versa, you can go to a warming device and warm up that much.
Now, if you're choosing the portable, the untethered power aired purifying respirator, you have to make sure, since you're using a filter, that your containment actually has the filter that exists for it. Not every chemical can be filtered out so that's why sometimes they have to go the supplied air route and just use fresh air all the time.
The same head top considerations carry over. The same protection factor considerations carry over but then not every powered air-purifying respirator can deliver the same amount of airflow. The Government requires all respiratory manufactures to send their equipment to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, and they test it for a minimum of at least six cubic feet per minute of airflow.
Most workers want a lot more than that. Six is just not enough to make them feel comfortable. There are respirators, PA/PR's, that can provide as much as 8.5 cfm. That's more than 40% of the Government minimum. The workers really like that.
Then they should look at ergonomic weight and balance. They might be wearing these devices for four, eight, sometimes longer, maybe even 10 hours on a shift. So, the ergonomics are very important to prevent fatigue, injury, keep morale up, and keep productivity up.
Because these are battery-powered devices, the battery technology is very important. There are NiCd batteries. You might remember from early days of cell phones and laptops that they might stop holding a charge earlier in their life because they develop what they call a memory issues. So, then things evolved to nickel metal hydride batteries and those worked a lot better.
Now we live in an age of lithium ion batteries and they provide the longest running power for the least amount of weight. They can also offer things like fuel gages where you can see what your battery status is at all times. That is a very important consideration.
The belt that holds the blower on is very important. Most pharmaceutical companies want to make sure everything is very easy to wipe down, clean off. It doesn't have any contaminant traps that they can get pharmaceutical A mixed in with pharmaceutical B later so we design everything to be smooth but also ergonomic so it kind of hugs the hips and reduces that fatigue.
Chargers are very important. If you have batteries, you have chargers. In the early days you could only leave your battery on a charger so long before you had to remove it otherwise the battery could actually be damaged. Then that made what was called smart chargers that could sense when the battery was almost full and change from a rapid charge to a trickle charge and just top it off slowly.
Now we have something called a genius charger and not only can it do all those things that we just talked about but you can actually connect your charger to your laptop and get diagnostic information from the battery.
The data manufacturer, the serial number, the number of charge and discharge cycles, how long it will take to charge it the next time, what the existing capacity is, what the voltage is, all sorts of things that help people know if their battery is still good and healthy and when maybe it might need to be replaced.
Flow control is important. Remember I said that the amount of air that you get from the device is very important. Well, this may change depending upon conditions. Maybe they're doing tableting and they're creating a lot of dust in their process.
That's going to load up the filter and that's going to be a restriction. Not every powered-air purifying respirator can overcome that restriction. But, one of our devices has a mass flow sensor in it with a feedback loop.
It actually changes the rpm of the motor to keep the flow constant even when there is a greater restriction due to something like a high loading. They also self-adjust for altitude. Some powered-air purifying respirators on the market cannot do that. They actually advise in their manual that above 2,800 feet they can't. This makes sense. The air is thinner and if you can't increase the rpm, then you're not going to deliver the same mass of airflow to the worker.
The last one I would like to say is alarm. So, just like in your car you want to know when your battery of the car is getting low or you want to know when we need to check the engine or you want to know when it's time to fuel your gas tank again.
These alarms are helpful. With powered-air purifying devices you might look at the alarms. Is there an alarm for low battery? Is there an alarm for low flow? These give people a lot of piece of mind that, okay, while I'm doing my work this is going to let me know if there is something else that I need to pay attention to. That gives them a great security while they do the work.
Todd Y: Goodness gracious Todd. I'm glad there's someone like Grant thinking about all these details. It's unbelievable. He touched on this throughout the duration of this broadcast but there are other personal protective equipment vendors in this hall right now. Summarize for us what makes Bullard different.
Grant: Well, you know, with this type of personal protective equipment, there's really only one other manufacture here exhibiting. So, that's one of the main things that differentiate us. We focus on pharma. There's folks that are bigger than us and they've chosen not to focus on this market.
We really differentiate ourself by immersing ourselves in this industry and we use that knowledge that we gained from that immersion to put it into the products that we design.
We don up and go into the manufacturing suite with our customers, bend, scoop, climb, go under things, everything they do so that we understand when we go back to our engineers and we need to develop the next product that it is designed for how those people use it. Many of our customers have told us that we listen and use their feedback better than the other manufactures do for this industry.
Todd S: That's some great stuff. Grant, I hate to say it but we are out of time. Before we let you go, how can people get in touch with you and learn more about Bullard?
Grant: Probably the shortest way to remember is email firstname.lastname@example.org is the way to connect with us and ask any question you might have.
Todd S: All right. Grant Rowe, Product Manager with Bullard. Grant, it was great to have you. Thanks for stopping by and joining us today.
Grant: Thanks so much for having me.
Todd S: That wraps this broadcast. On behalf of our guest, Grant Rowe, my cohost, Todd Youngblood, I'm Todd Schnick, Life Science Connect Radio's live coverage of Interphex. We'll be right back.