Breathe Easy! A Pro Painter’s Guide to Respirators

Job site safety. We know how important it is for you and your crews. So we sat down with the technical services team in 3M’s Construction & Home Improvement Markets Division to get their expert advice on the use of respirators on the job.

The basics

On residential jobs, the use of low-VOC latex paints combined with light sanding means that a disposable particulate respirator with carbon embedded in the filter media can help reduce your airborne exposure to sanding dust and paint odor.

Solvent-based paints and coatings are typical in commercial work, so a half or full facepiece respirator with organic vapor cartridge and particulate prefilter are often used.

When spraying, consider safety goggles if there is potential for overspray. Wrap-around safety glasses or goggles help keep the mist out of your eyes.

Interior jobs

An N95 disposable particulate respirator is a staple for drywall sanding.

Hearing protection and safety eyewear may be needed if other construction or remodeling work is going on at the site. A couple questions to ask yourself:

  • Are your periodic respiratory medical evaluations up-to-date to ensure there are no underlying cardiac or respiratory issues that could affect a crew member’s ability to wear a respirator?
  • Are all respirator fit tests current?

Then a thorough review of the scope of the job will help ensure that you have the proper safety eyewear, hearing protection, respirators and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

Exterior jobs

While chemical concentrations will likely be lower when you’re outside and fresh air will dilute your exposures, you may still need to consider respiratory protection if it’s windy or if paints/coatings become aerosolized via spraying.
A typical configuration is a half or full facepiece respirator with organic vapor cartridge and particulate prefilter.

A disposable particulate respirator can be used for sanding or for pressure washing surfaces prior to painting.

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