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Q: Do I need to wear a particulate mask when cutting vehicle glass?

A: In some cases, using a particulate mask is appropriate, if the firefighter is operating in enclosed spaces with toxic or harmful particulates. However, not always is “Because we’ve always done it that way” correct, our PPE is sometimes driven by the equipment we are using. Traditionally, we’ve seen hand saws and reciprocating saws used to cut glass. These saws tend to aerate the item they are cutting and blow them into the face of the operator. In our videos, we are trying to work smarter and use the right tool for the job. We are using a dedicated “Laminated Glass” cutter tool. There are many advantages to these over what has traditionally been used to cut laminated glass. The three main advantages that I see are: the ability to work in tight quarters, no exposed blade operating near the patient, and the dust created is not agitated/aerated into the air (it drops down and away from the tool operators face). In addition, there are some misunderstandings about the Silica that makes up glass. When Silica is created/melted to form a clear glass window, it loses it's Crystalline Silica form (which is extremely harmful to humans), and becomes Amorphous Silica. Amorphous Silica is classified by OSHA as an "irritant dust", similar to regular airborne dust or smoke from a campfire. Here is a good article written by Tim O’Connell from Rescue 42. I think it is a well written and researched article.

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