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One of the most dangerous hazards you and your turf maintenance crew face is inhaling harmful substances into your lungs. Although it’s rare; mists from pesticide sprays; fumes and vapors from solvents or spray paint; and suspended dust particles from fertilizers, sands and soils, as well as mixing dry chemicals, can make you sick. And in extreme cases, they can kill you. When working with these types of materials, wearing the proper respirator will filter the harmful substance, and protect you and your crew’s health. Follow these five fast tips for smart, safe respirator use.

  • Do your homework. Never use a chemical or other potentially dangerous material if you are not sure of the respiratory risk. Check the label’s Precautionary Statement, or section 8 of the Safety Data Sheet to see if a respirator is required personal protective equipment (PPE) for the product you’re using.
  • Quality choices. Choose the right respirator for the hazard. There are several types of respirators, a dual-cartridge, half-mask respirator will work for most pesticides, and a filtering facepiece (dust mask) respirator, commonly called N-95, is Ok for dust particles. Always select National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved respirators to assure they’ve been tested to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)s standards.
  • Make training a priority. Provide proper training, before initial use, and on an annual basis, for any crew member who wears a respirator.
  • Some adjustment required. Proper fit is critical, dual-cartridge respirators must have an air-tight fit to be effective. Annual “fit testing” must be performed by trained personnel, and the user should perform a seal check before each use.
  • Take a proactive approach. Clean, maintain, and store respirators to prevent damage or contamination. Inspect respirators before each use, and immediately replace damaged, or contaminated respirators, and cartridges.
  • A 25-year career golf course superintendent, Mickey McCord is the founder of the maintenance crew safety training firm McCord Golf Services and Safety.