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Finding PPE

2 June, 2020

What safety wear is currently available and advisable?

As PPE becomes more important than ever, it also becomes more expensive and harder to find. Can contractors get what they need? Well yes… and… no.

We caught up with Rusty Robertson, purchasing manager at Spectrum Paint, an independent chain headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma with over 80 stores in eight states. He predicts N95s are going to be off the shelves for quite some time. “Nobody can get any besides where FEMA approves and they’re not approving paint stores,” he said. Also, medical facilities are going to stockpile these so they aren’t caught short in the case of future emergencies, and he doesn’t expect them to be available until later in the year or even 2021. In their place they sell KN95s imported from China and dual cartridge respirators.

Robertson recommends the dual cartridge. “They come from companies that we know, such as Honeywell or SAS. We don’t know much about the KN95s – I don't know how much they're regulated over there or the specifications. We’re not trying to push them,” he said. “I’m not super comfortable with it.”

With PPE in general, you might not get your brand or the exact model you’re used to. Spectrum has gloves, and it has coveralls, said Robertson, but it might not be the millage you prefer, for example. The situation might improve as the USA allows more countries’ cargo ships to dock on its shores, as a lot of PPE comes from overseas, he said.

Other retailers report varying success:
Jim Praytor, owner of Chattanooga Paint & Decorating in Tennessee, is doing pretty well other than N95s. “We are able to get some KN95 masks and cotton one-ply masks, all made in China,” he said. “Coveralls have been hit and miss along with any respirators and refill cartridges. Goggles haven’t been an issue for us, and we are able to get hand sanitizer and disinfectant.”

BJ Andriot, owner of Andriot’s Paint, Flooring and Blinds in Shelbyville, Kentucky says his mask cupboard is bare. “We sold out in the first week of this and have had masks on order since early March. We will probably be last on the list to receive any,” he said.

Costello’s ACE Hardware, with stores in New York, New Jersey and Maryland, posts that it is sourcing hard and heavy. “Our team is in close contact with suppliers and is working diligently to try to keep high-demand products like hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, cleaning products and respirator masks in stock. In some cases, these products are in very limited supply; however, our procurement team continues to research every possible source,” said the company.

This week’s takeaway advice:

  1. Most PPE is available in some forms.
  2. Stay in touch with your retailer to procure needed items.
  3. [UPDATED] Certain KN95s may not meet the spec of N95s. Keep up with changing information from OSHA and FDA on respirator information. 

To see more from FDA and OSHA on temporary respirator requirements and respirators no longer authorized by the FDA: 

This information is changing daily, please check with OSHA, FDA, CDC and your safety consultant to stay up to date on changes. 

Sponsored by Benjamin Moore

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