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Life in a woodworking shop is a constant battle against wood dust. I’ve tried an assortment of weapons, including air helmets, respirators, paper masks and, occasionally, a wet handkerchief. But all of these weapons have some drawbacks. So I was intrigued by a novel respirator device called the Resp-O-Rator. To suggest it has an unconventional design is an understatement. At first glance, you might think it’s a new type of snorkel. Yet, after giving the Resp-O-Rator a good tryout in my shop, any skepticism I might have had soon disappeared.
The device, made by Duxterity, consists of a snorkel-type mouthpiece that connects via check valves to a pair of clear plastic tubes. The tubes extend over the user’s shoulders to a plastic crosspiece that holds two respirator-type paper filters that can trap particles as small as 0.3 micron.
To prevent breathing dust through the nose, the Resp-O-Rator includes a small clip, which is tethered to the device and simply pinches the schnozz. For safety’s sake, the end of the tether quickly breaks away should it somehow get tangled in a machine.
The Resp-O-Rator has several features I like: It’s extremely light it won’t cause your safety glasses to fog, and it works whether you’re bearded or beardless. When the device isn’t needed, simply remove it from your mouth, and the Resp-O-Rator balances comfortably on your shoulders.
The only drawback is that it also has to be removed from your mouth when you want to talk. And when you’re talking, you’re breathing in dust.
The Resp-O-Rator has not yet been approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The big hang-up seems to be that because the device is unique, NIOSH doesn’t have a standards category that applies, so a new one has to be written. That process is under way, but it’s going to take time before any hoped-for approval comes along. In the meantime, the Resp-O-Rator can be sold only as a nuisance dust-filtering device.
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