Masks, designed to protect the eyes, nose and mouth from chemical agent exposure, are successfully safeguarding Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant workers, and regular testing confirms the masks are functioning as intended.
“We routinely test the integrity of the masks to make sure there are no leaks,” said Merri Johnson, operations support superintendent, PCAPP. “Each time a mask is issued and returned, it is cleaned and retested.”
The M40A1, Army air purifying respirator mask, is the most common mask at the pilot plant. It is tested with Defense Chemical Testing Equipment, which consists of four independent pieces of equipment used for four different mask tests.
First, the mask is evaluated with the Protective Mask Leakage Tester. A personal protective equipment technician places the mask on a test head, inflates the peripheral seal and attaches flex tools to different areas of the mask, including eye lenses, the outlet valve and the voicemitter. The technician then places the mask beneath a hood filled with smoke and manipulates the mask with the flex tools to ensure it is free of leaks, said Johnson.
“If the mask passes the smoke test, then a charcoal filter canister, which is good for one year from the test date, is attached to the mask,” said Johnson.
The canister test is like the flex test. The PPE technician points smoke directly at the place where the canister is threaded into the mask and bends the canister in all directions to confirm there is no outflow at the seam, Johnson said.
The second test, the Outlet Valve Leakage Indicator, assesses the resistance and inlet for the outlet valve to make sure air is exiting and not returning. The third test, Dry Bubble Air Leakage, examines the endurance of the drink tube and finally, the Air Leakage Tester is used to examine the drink tube assembly for leaks or blockages.
“Our extensive testing regimen gives PCAPP employees the assurance that their mask will protect them,” said Johnson.