Jan Willem de Winter, specialist in respiratory protection with a mission

Many people whom I advise in my capacity as respiratory protection specialist sometimes ask me why I’m so involved in safety on the work floor. The reason why I’m so committed to safety on the shop floor goes back to my youth – a time when, as an adolescent, you always think you know best and you believe you’ve already acquired plenty of life experience.

Already involved with PPE from my youth

In my youth, I was already working for companies whose business was PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). I began in the warehouse as a holiday worker and later became a salesperson and advisor. During that time, trying to look tough, I also smoked my first cigarette. That first coughing fit back then should have served as a warning.

I insisted on smoking right up to my 30th birthday. Once I’d reached around 10 cigarettes a day, I wasn’t what you’d call an actual chain smoker, but I knew that stopping would be healthier than continuing. I was never bothered by the consequences of smoking, with the exception of the consequences of heavy weekends that many adolescents and young adults experience. But by Wednesday, I was usually back to my old self again.

Contact with lung patients

Around 10 years ago, something serious happened. I suddenly found myself with a collapsed lung (pneumothorax) and was treated with a thorax drain, a small tube that passes between your ribs into the lung cavity. The lung re-expanded and sealed the hole in the lung, until six weeks later, when I opened a folder whilst on holiday in Austria and my lung collapsed again straight away. I spent a week in an Austrian hospital, where I recovered.

After being back home in the Netherlands for just two weeks, having been discharged from hospital in Austria, fate struck once again. I was diagnosed with a collapsed lung once again. The treatment was a pleurodesis, i.e. “sticking” the lung back together again. I was admitted to the lung department of a Rotterdam hospital. During the three weeks I spent there, I regularly spoke to other lung patients, who were generally older people whose entire working lives were already behind them. These people were being treated for a wide range of disorders such as COPD, asthma, fibrosis, lung cancer etc. I heard many of their personal stories, which served to inspire me.

Trained to be a safety expert

I was inspired by the personal stories of lung patients from the hospital and wanted to raise awareness about the importance of respiratory protection. In 2007, I began working for Imbema as a specialist in PPE. From that time onwards, I therefore began to immerse myself in the complex matter that is respiratory protection. I took courses run by manufacturers and successfully completed an intermediate safety expert’s (MVK) course.

I spent the majority of my time advising employers and employees on respiratory protection, including as a specialist at the Industrial Cleaning Foundation (Stichting Industriële Reiniging, SIR), at various small and major enterprises and in various knowledge platforms for safety officers. The need for effective respiratory protection, but mainly also the consequences of not using respiratory protection, or not using it properly, are the reasons why I’m a passionate advocate for effective respiratory protection. No one should become ill because of their work. My personal mission is to play my part in this.

Risk with fatal result

Respiratory protection is a CE cat.3 PPE. That means that it protects against a very high risk, namely the inhalation of a toxic substance, gas or vapour that could potentially have fatal consequences. In my experience, as an advisor, you can’t simply assume that your customer or end user has so much knowledge available in house that they are aware of the consequences of the choices they’re making. Information, training and keeping informed is therefore sheer necessity. During these discussions with customers, my story was supported by manufacturers of Imbema’s Swedish manufacturer of respiratory protection, Sundström Safety AB. They expressly endorse this way of working.

Solutions by Sundström

The solutions developed and manufactured by Sundström are of a very high quality, offer a particularly high level of comfort and are easy to understand. In my long career in personal protective equipment, I’ve sold very many different types of respiratory equipment. I am in the (fortunate) situation that I have had to use different types myself during emergencies involving hazardous substances, so I am able to appreciate Sundström’s products. I am therefore extremely happy that I am able to advise Sundström as a respiratory protection specialist.

Immerse yourself in the equipment and the possibilities

After over 10 years, the consequences of my collapsed lung are hardly having any kind of negative impact. My lungs are somewhat sensitive to rapid changes in the weather and I suffer from a number of allergic reactions, but luckily it’s nothing serious. I know what it’s like when your lungs aren’t working properly, which is why I advise every user of respiratory protection: To find out all about the equipment and the options open to you. Not to settle for a sales pitch, vague arguments or unclear instructions. To continue asking questions until you are convinced you have the right information to make a well-informed choice. After all, there is respiratory protection available that fits properly and you find comfortable, where you don’t have to compromise on safety. Whether that’s equipment from Sundström or a different brand doesn’t matter. After all, your well-informed choice is the very best choice of all.

Contact Jan Willem

If you have a challenging problem in the field of respiratory protection or you wish to share thoughts with Jan Willem, give him a call on +31 (0)88 130 6030 or use the contact form below.

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