The Optrel US Blog

How the N95 Mask with a Clear Window is Changing the Face of PPE

A nursery teacher wearing an Optrel N95 mask with clear window, interacting with her students at a kindergarten classroom.

Redefining respiratory protection

Optrel is synonymous with high-quality Swiss-made welding helmets and respiratory protection. Welders, metal fabricators, shipbuilders, construction workers and other industrial workers rely on optrel welding hoods, PAPRs (powered air-purifying respirators) and N95s to keep them safe and protected at work.

For years, optrel has sold the P.Air N95, a disposable N95 respirator that protects from metal fumes, dust, and fine particles for soldering, welding, sanding and grinding processes. These disposable N95s help keep welders and metal fabricators safe from hazards that can lead to serious health problems if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

While optrel’s core market hasn’t changed, the pandemic forced businesses worldwide to re-evaluate worker protection for all employees. Though NIOSH-approved N95 masks offer the highest protection against airborne toxins, traditional N95s aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

Mask-wearing can impede communication, especially for those who rely on lip-reading and non-verbal cues. While we all depend on visual communication to some extent, specific segments of the population, including the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, senior citizens, people with cognitive disabilities, speech and language pathologists (SLPs), ASL interpreters, aphasia speech therapists and others, require visual cues to communicate effectively.

From welders to ASL interpreters

If you’re asking yourself what motivated a company dedicated to improving the lives of welders to make a product that served an entirely new market segment, you’re not alone.

In a recent interview, Grant Cooper, CEO of optrel inc., told PBN that optrel’s mission is “to be the innovation leader in everything we do.” Considering this, it’s no surprise that Cooper and the leaders at optrel AG in Switzerland recognized the need for an innovative solution and used the company’s expertise in respiratory protection to develop the world’s first N95 respiratory with a transparent window.

Cooper explains, “Some of our welders and distributors were surprised to learn about the P.Air Clear N95 mask. Still, the pandemic taught us many lessons. Most importantly, it showed us that our reach extends outside the industrial sector. Doctors and dentists started ordering optrel PAPRs, and everyone was looking for N95s—from professionals in pediatric speech therapy to ASL interpreters, school teachers and more.”

The acclaimed P.Air Clear N95 mask provides maximum protection against airborne particles and has a transparent window for an unobstructed view of the wearer’s mouth and lips. This window makes it possible to connect with others through a smile, an essential part of non-verbal communication that we forgo when wearing traditional N95 masks.

Smiling signals to others that we’re friendly and open to communication. It also helps establish trust and rapport—even before the conversation begins. For this reason, The P.Air Clear N95 is an optimal choice for communicating with those with cognitive issues such as dementia and autism. While the P.Air Clear N95 respirator is suitable for anyone who wants to improve communication while wearing a mask, certain professionals consider the mask a non-negotiable, including:

  • Doctors, nurses and professionals who work in pediatric speech therapy.
  • Speech and language pathologists, also called SLPs, can see a patient’s mouth and lips and vice versa, allowing for more accurate and effective therapy.
  • Elderly patients and caregivers tend to use lip-reading and visual cues to communicate, especially if the patient is experiencing a cognitive decline due to dementia or Alzheimers. The P.Air Clear N95 mask allows patients to see non-verbal cues that may help them feel safe and secure.
  • Healthcare workers in nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and hospitals use the P.Air Clear mask to protect against viruses and airborne particles. These professionals credit the mask with improving communication between patients and colleagues and being a win-win for everyone.
  • Sign language interpreters and ASL teachers—especially those in congregate educational or medical settings—use the P.Air Clear because it keeps the face clear and helps them stay safe from respiratory contagion.
  • Teachers and other professionals in public-facing professions, where communication with patients, students, or colleagues is critical, all benefit from the clear window of the P.Air N95 respirator.
  • First responders use the P.Air Clear N95 mask to reduce fear and anxiety in emergencies. According to Maurice A. Ramirez, DO, Ph.D., Founder & President of the High Alert Institute, “interpersonal connection and empathy are almost exclusively communicated through the lower face.” A behavioral health project is currently underway to evaluate the impact of a clear mask in situations requiring empathy and connection.
  • Veterinarians and animal trainers use the P.Air Clear mask to help animals feel more at ease while ensuring they stay protected. Allison A. Sakara, NP, MSN, RN, of the High Alert Institute, helps organizations caring for animals and their habitats prepare for disasters and enhance resiliency. One of the tools she discusses in her training is the P.Air Clear. “Animals operate largely from the perspective of what is your snout doing?” said Sakara. “When you take away the ability to see the bottom half of the face, you put both animal and provider at risk.”

Whether you’re an ASL interpreter, a speech and language pathologist, or you work in pediatric speech therapy or a residential care facility, the P.Air Clear mask is a long-overdue addition to your occupational toolkit.

The Clear Solution for Protection and Connection

The demand for the P.Air Clear N95 mask continues to grow, even as the end of the public health emergency approaches. As COVID-19 becomes an ongoing part of the infectious disease landscape, employers and individuals continue to adapt their approach to personal protection.

At optrel, the focus continues to be innovation and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible to provide workers with the best Swiss-made personal protective equipment. The company continues to think outside the box to make a difference in people’s lives.

The Optrel N95 mask with a clear window in front of the mouth is approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The P.Air Clear is available online in a pack of 20 masks or as a bulk pack of 180 masks. The P.Air Clear is also available on Amazon.

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