Preventing Lung Disease on the Job

Today we’re proud to bring you a guest post by Molly McGuane, Communications Specialist for the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center. They’re doing great work and their website is a treasure trove of excellent resources.

Everyday the average adult takes in about 17,000-30,000 breaths, inhaling the air around us and exhaling potential toxins that make their way into our body. The natural respiratory process of our bodies does its best to keep the “bad stuff” out, but there are still dangerous toxins from the air around us that can be inhaled and make their way to our organs. It’s important to be cognisant of the quality of air that surrounds us at home and in the workplace to avoid inhaling these damaging toxins.

For those who work in the construction, manufacturing, and mining industries, controlling air quality while on the job is more difficult than in other occupations. When both employers and employees are more aware of the common risks and factors that could hinder lung health, the better they can protect themselves and others.


Occupational Asthma

Asthma is a respiratory issue that can arise from many different root causes, but many workers are more at risk of developing occupational asthma while working as drug manufacturers, plastic manufacturers, laboratory workers, or metal workers. Occupational asthma is most common in these workspaces due to proximity to chemical materials, metals, and other products that irritate the lungs.

People are more likely to come down with cases of occupational asthma if they smoke, are more prone to allergies, or have a family history of asthma. The longer they are exposed to asthma causing materials, the more likely they are to have long-lasting asthma that follows them beyond the job. Workers who are at risk should consider wearing a dust or respiratory mask and should monitor their symptoms if they come down with shortness of breath or wheezing. When these symptoms worsen, workers should contact a doctor to assess the need for medication.


Asbestos and Lung Cancer

The mineral asbestos is a health issue and carcinogen that affects many professionals who work in in the mining and construction fields. The inhaling of asbestos can lead to lung complications like asbestosis and lung cancer. Mesothelioma cancer is also directly caused by inhaling asbestos, specifically pleural mesothelioma, which originates in the lining of the lungs. Specific professions that came into contact with asbestos were put most at risk because asbestos was commonly used in the past in building materials, pipes, and shipbuilding (among other things). When building and machinery that contained asbestos was deconstructed or broken apart, it left workers vulnerable to breathing in the substance.

Due to the widespread use of asbestos in the past, those who work in these fields should be continuously conscious of where asbestos has the potential to be hiding and what safety precautions should be taken. Many structures from 1930 to the 1980s were built with asbestos containing materials, so knowing the date that the structure was built or last renovated can help narrow down if asbestos was used in the process. Workers should also protect themselves using ventilator masks, like the ones seen here, and protective clothing when possible to limit exposure.


Pneumoconiosis and Silicosis

For miners, occupational health has never been a given due to the nature of their working environment. Pneumoconiosis, often known as black lung, is one such disease that occurs from the inhalation of coal dust. This disease generally only arises from prolonged workplace exposure, when coal dust and other particles cause scarring in the lungs which results in difficulty breathing, cough and tightness in the chest. Silicosis is a specific type of pneumoconiosis that occurs from silica dust and is most common in miners, glass workers and masonry workers. Silicosis also causes scarring in the lungs, leading to chest pain and trouble breathing.

For all forms of pneumoconiosis, those affected should see a doctor when they experience symptoms to discuss how to treat their condition and prevent further scarring. Silicosis puts patients at a greater risk for developing serious diseases like lung cancer and tuberculosis, so it’s important to address it early on. There are medicines that can help alleviate pain, like bronchodilators which relax breathing tubes, but preventing too much exposure to silica and other dangerous dust particles is the best thing employees can do. Wearing dust and respiratory masks while working in low ventilated areas can help limit the inhalation of dangerous dusts, as well as not bringing clothes from work home without washing them, to spare your family from any contact.

Lung Cancer Awareness Month is all November long, so now is the time to take a stand for your lung health. Adults spend a majority of their day at work providing for their families and themselves, so the quality of the air surrounding them is of the utmost importance. Those most at risk should be aware of the conditions that could arise in their work environment. For most lung scarring and damage, there is no real “cure,” but merely monitoring these diseases so they don’t worsen. Taking safety precautions and preventive measures is the best way to keep dangerous materials out of the body.

Nail Gun Safety

Nail guns are one of the most widely used tools for woodworking projects in both professional and personal contexts. Their user-friendly and intuitive nature lets the user drive far more nails per hour than with a hammer alone. That convenience can obscure the fact that nail guns are still extremely dangerous tools. They must be used with both caution and confidence to ensure a job done both safely and well. Every year, tens of thousands of nail gun-related injuries occur. It’s an all-too-common sight in emergency rooms to see someone come in with a nail through their hand, and these injuries are perfectly avoidable. With the help of our friends at Backyard Boss, we’re bringing you a basic rundown of nail gun safety today.

Different nail guns are available for different jobs, and it’s important to know which is right for you. The two main types of guns are electrically and pneumatically powered. Electric guns are the simplest and most common, although it’s important to check that any extension cord you use is rated for the same amperage that the gun needs. There are also cordless guns with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Pneumatic guns use compressed air to propel the nail, and are significantly more powerful and less common.

A while back, OSHA and NIOSH developed an excellent nail gun safety handbook with six steps that employers can take to improve safety on their watch:

  1. Use nail guns with a full sequential trigger – This type of trigger will reduce the risk of unintentional nail discharge and double fire, which includes bumping into co-workers.
  2. Provide adequate training – Everyone benefits from training. Employers should provide hands-on training, including operation, loading the nail gun, air compressor operation, awkward positions, and what to do when a nail gun malfunctions.
  3. Establish work procedures – Creating a step-by-step procedure for handling, operating, and storing nail guns will make the workplace safe and reduce employee injuries.
  4. Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) – Workers should be provided and required to wear steel-toed boots, a hard hatsafety glasses that meet ANSI Z87.1 impact standards, and earplugs or earmuffs while operating a nail gun. You can find great options in our store.
  5. Encourage employees to discuss the importance of nail gun safety – employees should be active in making sure fellow employees are following proper nail gun operating procedures.
  6. Provide adequate first aid supplies and immediate medical treatment immediately following nail gun injuries.

They also offered some solid guidelines for what not to do when working with nail guns.

  • Never bypass or disable nail gun safety features, including removing the spring from the safety-contact tip, or securing the trigger so it does not need to be pressed.
  • Never keep your finger on the trigger when holding or carrying a nail gun that is not in use.
  • Never lower the nail gun from above or drag it by the air hose.
  • Never operate a nail gun with your non-dominant hand.

The design of some guns can unintentionally encourage dangerous habits to develop. It’s important to always be fully cognizant of your equipment and of how you interact with it, in the same way that you should think critically about your driving habits. Engaging thoughtfully with the tools you use every day is also a stepping stone to being more engaged with your environment more generally. Nail gun injuries are rarely fatal, but they are traumatic and potentially career-ending, so it’s vital to be alert and engaged.

Check out the article from Danielle McLeod at Backyard Boss for more great tips about nail guns, and click here to download OSHA’s handbook “Nail Gun Safety: A Guide for Construction Contractors.”

The ABC’s of Fall Protection

Here at Enviro Safety Products, one of our top concerns is fall protection. It’s estimated that the new fall regulations that OSHA introduced last autumn (where does the time go, right?) affected 112 million workers at 6.9 million establishments. To be fair to the employers, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every single one of those people were risking life and limb completely unprotected. Most employers are conscientious of fall risk and provide protection equipment. But we have learned more about how to best implement fall protection and that new knowledge was incorporated into the standards, which had a wide effect on the industry.


For us, safety literacy is a major focus. We don’t just want customers to come here to shop, we want to help them learn what’s best for them and their workers. That means providing resources they can consult when they’re in need of guidance to make the right purchasing choices. For fall protection, we’ve developed a convenient acronym, the ABC’s of fall protection:



Body harness


Descent and rescue


Fall protection for tools


Anchorage is the most fundamental aspect of fall protection. The anchorage point is where the system connects to the larger structure. They typically take the form of a metal ring attached to a cable choker, fixed beam, or concrete strap that then anchors to the structure. They are designed to be independent of other anchorage elements, and are typically rated to support 5,000 lbs. They must be installed with qualified supervision.

Body harnesses are the instantly recognizable body-cradling straps that provide the first line of defense. They support the user while they work and keep them suspended in the event of a fall. Many varieties are available, typically featuring D-rings on the back and hips to attach lifelines, lanyard, and tools, as well as an impact indicator that shows at a glance if the harness has been worn in a fall (at which point it is discarded).

Connectors provide the vital link between the anchorage and the harness. The two basic categories are lanyards and self-retracting lifelines (SRLs). Both of them must have the ability to absorb and neutralize the dangerous forces that a falling body generates. Lanyards do the job with stretchable core material, while SRLs have a sophisticated locking mechanism in the spool that halts the fall’s progress as soon as it detects the speed increase. Both of these inventions absorb the arrest forces to prevent injury.

Descent and rescue is a term for systems that allow for easy and safe descent from elevated areas, particularly in delicate situations that require quick escape. Using SRL technology in tandem with independent standing support, descent and rescue systems can allow for automatic controlled descent on sloped surfaces.

Education is a huge part of keeping your employees safe. If they don’t understand how their fall protection works or why it’s important, it will be more difficult to keep the workforce compliant with the law. Corners will be cut, and accidents will happen. To prevent tragedy, build and maintain a robust culture of accountability in the workplace, and encourage questions about the particulars of fall protection.

Fall protection for tools is also important. Certain harnesses will have rings or hooks that can attach to tools. That way, if a tool is dropped, it can be retrieved without having to descend to the ground, and will not be dangerous to anyone walking below. There is also a hoistable bucket available for holding large amounts of tools and supplies.


This acronym provides a basic framework that can be used to build a fall protection program for any workplace. Fostering a strong environment of mutual support and inquiry will go a long way toward keeping everyone safe at work, as will making sure all bases are covered when buying and implementing protection equipment.

Flu Season

Flu season is upon us, and experts all over the country and world are encouraging folks to get their shot early. The CDC has released new updates on what to expect this year, and how the vaccines have been modified to keep pace with the circulating viruses. Ideally, you should receive your vaccination before the end of October. Shots will still be available throughout the rest of the year and into early 2019, but getting it done early will give the antibodies time to develop before the season begins in earnest. The urgency of managing flu outbreaks is particularly potent this year, which marks the centennial of the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918 that killed an estimated 20-50 million people. More recently, the tragic failure of medical infrastructure on local and international levels during the 2014 Ebola outbreak showed just how far we have to go before we are fully able to contain these large threats while minimizing casualties.


Here at Enviro Safety Products, we’re committed to providing the finest personal protective equipment (PPE) available at ideal prices for our customers. That includes the medical field, and the need for microbial protection always skyrockets during flu season. We also believe in providing information directly through our site so that customers can understand the nuances of certain products and make informed decisions for their needs.


For protection against microorganisms and pathogens, a Type N95 respirator will meet OSHA’s requirements for infectious exposure control. We recommend the 3M 1860 respirator as an excellent and economical option for airborne particle protection. It shields against particles as small as 0.1 microns, which covers nearly any threat you could possibly encounter. Another excellent choice is the 3M 8511, an N95 particulate respirator that features a proprietary “CoolFlow” valve. The valve actually redirects the user’s exhaled breath away from the face and out of the mask, providing a comfortable work experience during long hours. It guards excellently against biological particles including airborne pathogens.


Hand protection is also important in these situations, and high-quality gloves by Microflex. The manufacturer offers a variety of gloves designed for various situations. The Microflex N85 powder-free exam gloves provide a latex-free option for users with sensitivities, without sacrificing excellent protection. There’s also the Microflex N73 nitrile medical exam gloves, which provide excellent grip and tactile sensitivity for performing complicated tasks.


When it comes to vaccination, there are a number of flu shot options outlined by CDC:

Standard-dose: Administered muscularly, either with a hypodermic needle or jet injector.

High-dose: Designed for patients 65 years or older, to make up for age-weakened immune defenses.

Adjuvant: Standard-dose plus adjuvant to enhance immune response in patients 65 years or older.

Cell-based: Sourced from viruses grown in animal cells rather than eggs.

Recombinant: Made with vaccine production technology, approved for patients 18 years and older

LAIV: Live attenuated influenza vaccine takes the form of a nasal spray with viruses designed to multiply at cooler temperatures.

Go over these options with your provider to determine which is right for you.


Stay safe and protected this flu season with high-quality protection from Enviro Safety Products.

History of Versaflo

Hello everyone, it’s been a while! Today I’m giving an overview of 3M’s trailblazing line of PAPRs, the Versaflo series. We’ve outlined their latest models before, but I’ve learned a lot about the history of 3M’s work in respiratory protection since then.


Respiratory protection has been around for thousands of years. The earliest innovations dates back to the Roman era, when miners would use animal bladders to protect themselves from inhaling toxic lead oxide. Today, respiratory devices are required all across the labor world to protect workers’ lungs, and 3M has been leading the pack. Here’s a timeline so you can get a sense of how far the technology has come.


  • 1975: A UK company called RACAL Electronics released the Airstream PAPR for mining operations, kicking off a revolution in respiratory safety. With NIOSH approval they were clear to sell in America.
  • 1977: RACAL released the Airstream Industrial PAPR, expanding the product’s reach beyond the mining industry.
  • 1982: RACAL’s  Airmate introduced a lightweight and compact option to the market, making the product easier to use in close quarters.
  • 1987: RACAL’s Powerflow featured a lightweight face-mounted high-efficiency filter, further widening the options for application.
  • 1993: 3M gets in the game with the GVP (Gas Particulate Vapor) PAPR, pushing the invention further by protecting against harmful gases as well as solid particulate.
  • 1995: 3M launches the Dual Airline, which introduced the now-familiar sight of a full-face tight-fitting mask attached to a compressed airline, giving the user the option of switching from negative pressure (lungs pulling the air) to positive pressure (air mechanically supplied into the face mask).
  • 1998: 3M acquires RACAL and all of their products, propelling them to the top of the PAPR market.
  • 2001: A company called Hornell launches the Adflo PAPR, geared specifically toward welding applications.
  • 2004: 3M acquires Hornell and the Adflo.
  • 2009: The Versaflo line of PAPRs launches.
  • 2010: Debut of the TR-300, with a sleek compact design that manages to fit a fully functional air processing unit into a 3½”-wide space that hugs close to the user’s back.
  • 2015: Debut of the TR-600, a fully high-performance unit that comes in two basic variations: one for pharma applications and the other for heavy industry. Chemical-specific filters are available to customize according to work conditions.


Versaflo products can be disassembled and reassembled with ease, and colored touch points guide the eye to switches and buttons, so maintenance is easy. LED status lights alert the user when the lithium ion batteries need to be recharged. When the battery is truly drained, it will provide fifteen minutes of warning signals before powering down. Battery and filter pop out easily for replacement.


2018 has been a big year. The TR-800 Series, which we profiled here, introduces a number of design tweaks that make it the finest product yet in the line. Also debuting this year is the TR-300+, profiled here, which provides protection at heights of up to 14,000 feet.


The Versaflo line is a landmark achievement in respiratory protection that we are proud to carry in our store. The lung health of our workers is too precious to risk, so the labor world needs products like this and we will always keep our pledge to provide the best.

Comments On Respiratory Protection Programs

Today we’re going to take a look not at a particular product or line of products, but at a trend in the labor world that’s worth noting. According to official OSHA estimates, 5 million workers are required to wear respiratory protection in 1.3 million workplaces across the country. As further innovation occurs and industry expands further, these figures will only increase. It is more imperative now than ever that employers cooperate with OSHA to test their work areas, and then comply with regulations with respiratory safety programs.


The respiratory protection field is changing, with new products and new features being introduced every day. Often, the focus in promotional material is on the improved ergonomics of these products. This makes sense, as a more comfortable respirator is always going to sell better than the older models (assuming that it’s being promoted effectively as such and customer response is positive). Far from being merely an aesthetic improvement, ergonomic innovation has a direct positive relationship with increased productivity. A more physically comfortable worker will work faster and more consistently, without the distraction of an uncomfortable facepiece. These improvements have naturally led to a higher degree of compliance and an enthusiastic embrace of respiratory technology, simply because it’s so much easier to wear for extended periods of labor. These innovations have brought a whole new level of effectiveness and convenience to difficult tasks. The firefighting community, in particular, has seen drastic improvements to its old equipment, bringing that profession into a new age. Lighter masks, wider fields of vision, integrated communication and thermal imaging technology, and much more are becoming increasingly common.


Every respiratory program in the country needs official medical clearance and formalized fit testing procedures for each product being used. Respirators are only worthwhile if they are being worn and maintained properly; otherwise they may as well not exist. There are precise procedures and literature available from OSHA that outline in detail everything an employer must do to ensure his workers’ safety. Also of paramount importance is the selection of products appropriate to the hazards at hand. If a worker goes into an area contaminated with a particular chemical, wearing a respirator that’s designed to filter out a different chemical, then the whole thing is a potentially deadly farce. Precision, accuracy, and diligence are essential to a protection program in any category, but particularly when it comes to respiratory health.


The stakes couldn’t be higher. Employee health should always be a top priority at any honest company, but respiratory health is particularly vital and can seem particularly arcane because of the extremely gradual onset of the damage and the fact that it’s all interior (you can’t easily see and assess a damaged lung the way you can, say, a broken leg). OSHA has to be involved in as many steps as possible of the development and implementation process, to guarantee that everything is set up according to their guidelines and standard operational procedures. 5 million lives are on the line here. We can’t afford to risk even one more than absolutely necessary.

Introduction to MSA Protection Products

Mine Safety Appliances (MSA) is one of the mightiest names in the protection industry. With no fewer than 104 years of existence in the rearview, their influence and inventory is widespread and diverse. Here at Enviro we focus on their market-leading line of hard hats and hearing protection, which is what we’ll be spotlighting today.


The most visible variety of MSA hard hat on our site is the V-Gard, which comes in six colors (blue, green, orange, red, white) and two brim styles (basic and full). All feature slots that are compatible with certain MSA accessories (we’ll get to those later). Ever since the public debut of hard hats during the construction of Hoover Dam, MSA has been refining and popularizing their hats to the point of almost complete ubiquity. The V-shape design is so iconic that many people probably don’t realize it’s associated with a particular brand. With millions upon millions of hats sold and who-knows-how-many deaths averted and accidents made less severe, the brand’s integrity is well established. The self-adjusting straps make for a comfortable fit and higher user satisfaction, while the Fas-Trac suspension is freely adjustable with a twistable ratchet knob. The result is a hat that will withstand whatever you throw at it, and is easily customizable with stickers or hi-viz striping. As for the different brims, a full brim may not look that much different from the standard variety, but it can serve as a little umbrella in rain or provide a bit more shade in the sun. For open-air environments with particularly harsh sun exposure, the Skullgard hats are also available, which are tested to handle heat up to 350 °F.


Next we have MSA hearing protection. While it’s not their most well-known product category, they still excel at providing top-notch noise muffling products that sit comfortable on the head and can therefore be worn for hours. This includes standalone headsets and earmuffs, and sets that are specifically designed to be worn with hard hats. In terms of hat-mounted sets you have three options, all identically priced but with different levels of protection on offer. That’s a nice arrangement because it prevents anyone from having to break the bank for a higher noise reduction rating. It may incur the wrath of those picky about their colors, though; the 21 dBA headset is white, the 25 dBA set is blue, and the 28 dBA is yellow. Keep in mind that those ratings are assigned based on tests in controlled environments that don’t necessarily reflect their field performance.


Finally, we have a selection of five standalone headsets. There are three products that offer the same protection levels as the hat-mounted sets (with the same color correspondence). Like the hat-mounted ones they are passive protection products, meaning they cover your ears and that’s it. MSA also has active protection headsets, which are ideal for tactical and leisure activities. The Supreme headsets can detect hazardous sounds and filter them out, while amplifying the sounds you want to hear (animal movement, human speech, communication signals, or whatever else). The Supreme Pro-X takes it up a notch with waterproof microphones on each side offering full surround sound, bringing it all home with a stylish design and comfortable fit.


MSA is a valued member of the Enviro family, and we hope you find their products as special and worthwhile as we do. Get shopping!

HyFlex 101

Ansell is one of our most popular and enduring glove brands, and we’re proud to distribute their best products to the working public, in a partnership that stretches back years. Millions of people worldwide rely on Ansell gloves every day to protect their hands from hazards, and the company’s reputation is well established. One of their crown jewels in the HyFlex line of premium general purpose gloves.


Designed to balance the needs of comfort, dexterity, and protection, HyFlex’s popularity is a testament to its pedigree. The line is structured around four “ranges,” which group them according to their primary quality. The four ranges are Multi-Purpose, Cut Protection, Oil-Repellent, and Special Purpose.


The Multi-Purpose range is a family of gloves that expertly balance firm grip, precise dexterity, and luxurious comfort for one of the all-around best-performing gloves on the market. It includes the polyurethane-palm 11-600, the nitrile foam 11-801, the “barehand feel” 11-818 and 11-727, and the abrasion-resistant nitrile 11-840. Each of these gloves has that balance of performance traits, with an emphasis in a particular area that serves a particular need.


The Cut Protection range is, obviously, where you’ll find the most hardcore edge resistance. Whether it’s sharp edges, abrasive surfaces, or sharps, different gloves are engineered for different purposes. This range includes the Kevlar-armored 11-511 (ANSI cut level 4), the 11-518 and 11-318 with Dyneema Technology Fiber (ANSI 2), the lightweight high-performance 11-542 (ANSI A7) and 11-541 (ANSI 2), and the dynamically balanced 11-644 (ANSI 2). All of these are top-notch gloves that will serve any worker well while addressing the nuances of their needs.


The Oil-Repellant range is similarly obvious in its purpose. These gloves are for slick and slippery environments, where their grip and their wear will last for years. The 11-920 provides optimal control when handling small oily parts, while the 11-931 is reinforced in typically weak areas (the unfortunately-named “thumb crotch,” for instance) that can wear down after extended use. The 11-937 and 11-939 are reinforced similarly, but widens the area covered by the polyurethane coating to the back of the hand.


The Special Purpose range contains two items, of which we only carry one. It’s an exciting one though, that will bring a new level of digital sophistication to the workplaces where it is used. The 11-105 is a touchscreen-capable glove. More and more companies are relying on touch devices to log and organize data. The problem is that in environments that require workers to wear gloves, they have to take the gloves off to use the thing, defeating the purpose of wearing gloves in the first place! That problem is addressed here with a special material in the fingertips that allows a screen to sense your finger through the glove. As clipboards are gradually overtaken by tablets, this glove will be a total asset in certain environments.


Ansell HyFlex is a next-level glove brand that any employer of laborers should be looking at as an option. We believe that these products are the cream of their crop, and we hope you find them as useful and exciting as we do.

Scotchlite Hard Hat Decals

I think you know the drill by now: 3M offers an exciting new product, we introduce it here before or right as we roll it out in the store. Today we’re looking at a convenient solution to visibility problems in low-light situations. Scotchlite Reflective Striping is here to supplement your existing visibility program with a durable and stylish new accessory for your hard hats. 3M has been innovating retroreflective technology for decades at this point, and their Scotchlite brand is a standard-bearer for the whole industry. It comes in many varieties, colors, and quantities, but now for the first time they’re putting out a specifically designed set of reflective decals just for hard hats.


Retroreflectivity is a specific kind of refraction that bounces light off of a surface and sends it directly back to its source. This is contrasted with mirror reflection, which bounces the light in another direction, and diffuse reflection, which scatters the light in all directions. Both are visible but not as effectively as a surface that sends light directly back to you. It’s hi-viz protection specifically designed for nighttime application, as opposed to the infamous neon fluorescent tones that are typically associated with hi-viz.


This Scotchlite product comes in a kit featuring three decals: one for the back and two for the sides of the hat. Promotional material specifies the H-700 and H-800 hat series as being compatible with the striping, but these are literally just stickers that should adhere to any hard hat, 3M or otherwise. They take the form of two narrow triangles (4.7 square inches) that goe on the sides and an upturned chevron-like shape (3.2 square inches) that goes on the back. The shapes of the decals serve a purpose: they conform to the curve of the hat and point towards the front and top of the hat, respectively. If you’re in the dark and light bounces off of them you should be able to tell that they are attached to a hat.


The decal surfaces are tested to maintain their brightness after extensive heat exposure, so you won’t have to worry about them being effective after a long day in the sun. These are rugged and durable, just as you’ve come to expect from 3M’s head protection line. Get yours today!

The New Grind

Every week seems to bring something new and exciting from 3M for us to distribute to the waiting world. Today I’m happy to introduce the latest wing of 3M safety products to be opened to us. It represents a bit of a branching out for us here at Enviro, expanding from the realm of protective and preventative equipment to the tools used in the workplace. In this case, we’re focusing on 3M’s line of abrasive systems.


The front of one of the promotional pamphlets for today’s products says “grind without compromise.” I like that. It simultaneously evokes the relentless day-to-day rhythm of the working life (“back to the old grind”) and ties the work ethic required to perform every day with the reliability of these products. That’s some rock-solid advertising. Let’s look at what’s underneath it.


3M spotlights two main lines of abrasive surface discs: Cubitron II and Scotch-Brite. These discs are designed for metalworking, specifically the grinding off of edges for a chamfered or beveled shape, removing unsightly weld residue, and so on.


Cubitron II is advertised as a family of abrasives that combines high grinding speed with more longevity than you’d expect from items that take so much abuse. A diagram zooms in on what makes Cubitron II special: using “microreplication” technology, they’ve designed the grain of the disc as an array of uniform peaks that slice through metal, where conventional grains are irregular and inefficient, causing the cut to be rougher and the product to wear out faster. The extreme zoom picture shows that Cubitron II grain looks like shark teeth, while standard products look like rough-hewn stones haphazardly arranged. Rather than dulling and blunting with wear, the microreplicated grain fractures into points without losing its sharpness. That’s an impressive feature, for sure.


Also available are generically 3M-branded discs at a lower price and slightly lower quality. These options represent a tradeoff: performance and price are both reduced, for situations where speed and luxury have to take a backseat to frugality and pragmatism. These are by no means bargain-bin products, however: their ratings are still high in all categories and the grain is still significantly more sophisticated than the competitors’, featuring a blend of standard and microreplicated “teeth.” The fact that these options exist show that 3M is committed to bringing the highest quality to the largest audience possible.


It’s probably clear by now that I’m no expert when it comes to this stuff. It’s to 3M’s credit that they organize this material such that even a mess like me can make sense of it. I see six basic categories of product in the Cubitron II section: fibre discs, cut and grind wheels, flap discs, cut-off wheels, and depressed center grinding wheels (DCGW). These are assembled in a table with nine specified uses: cutting, notching, gouging, fillet weld removal, beveling, flame cut smoothing, scale removal, weld removal, and contoured areas. I’ll be exploring each of these categories of product and their recommended uses in a later post.