The safety and health of workers is essential to any successful organization.
Breathing air that contains hazardous substances can lead to long-term issues such as respiratory illnesses or even death. Employers must provide their employees with adequate protection from airborne hazards, including protective gear like respirators and masks. This guide will outline what type of respiratory protection is required in different industries and explain how employers should go about selecting effective solutions for their workplaces.
Hazard Assessment & Risk Analysis
Before deciding which types of face masks are necessary, it’s important to carry out a hazard assessment that accurately identifies potential risks within the workplace environment. By understanding what types of particles or chemicals your workers need to be protected against you can then begin looking at devices designed specifically for those needs (such as N95 dust mask respirator). Conducting regular risk assessments also ensures that new dangers within the workplace can be identified quickly, allowing employers time to respond appropriately when needed by providing additional training or personal protective equipment (PPE).
Types of Respiratory Protection
Different working environments have varying levels of pollution exposures; therefore a variety of face coverings operate more efficiently than others depending on industry sector.
Below we discuss these types
Elastomeric Half Facepiece Respirators (EHFRs)
Elastomeric Half Facepiece Respirators (EHFRs) are a type of personal protective equipment that offers reusable protection against harmful airborne contaminants. They are similar to Elastomeric Full Facepiece Respirators but cover only the lower half of the face, making them a more lightweight and comfortable option. The replaceable canisters, cartridges, or filters used in EHFRs can be changed out when necessary, making them a flexible option for different types of hazardous environments. Additionally, the face piece of EHFRs covers the face and mouth, which offers respiratory and eye protection in a single piece of equipment.
EHFRs are commonly used in industries such as construction, agriculture, and manufacturing, where workers are exposed to airborne contaminants that can cause respiratory and eye problems. EHFRs are designed to be comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, allowing workers to perform their tasks without interruption. The replaceable filters or cartridges used in EHFRs offer a high level of protection against a wide range of contaminants, making them a reliable choice for respiratory protection.
Elastomeric Full Facepiece respirators
Elastomeric Full Facepiece Respirators (EFRs) are a type of personal protective equipment that provides full-face coverage and reusable protection against harmful airborne contaminants. Unlike disposable respirators, EFRs are designed to be used multiple times, making them a cost-effective option for industries where workers are exposed to hazardous materials. The replaceable canisters, cartridges, or filters used in EFRs can be changed out when necessary, making them a flexible option for different types of hazardous environments. Additionally, the face piece of EFRs covers the face and eyes, which offers eye protection in addition to respiratory protection.
EFRs are widely used in industries such as chemical and manufacturing, where workers are exposed to airborne contaminants that can cause serious health problems. The full-face coverage provided by EFRs ensures that workers are protected from all angles, while the replaceable filters or cartridges offer a high level of protection against a wide range of contaminants. EFRs are also comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and they can be fitted with different types of filters or cartridges depending on the specific application.
Filtering Facepiece Respirators
Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs) are a type of personal protective equipment that provides protection against airborne particles, such as dust, mists, and fumes. They are designed to be lightweight, disposable, and provide a secure fit around the nose and mouth. FFRs are commonly used in industries such as construction, mining, and healthcare to protect workers from inhaling hazardous airborne particles. It is important to note that FFRs do not provide protection against gasses and vapors, and they should not be used in environments with these hazards.
FFRs come in different classes, with N95 being the most common. This classification indicates that the respirator can filter out at least 95% of airborne particles. FFRs should be properly fitted to ensure a tight seal around the nose and mouth, which can be done using adjustable nose clips or foam nose cushions. It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and disposal of FFRs, as they are designed to be used only once and then discarded.
Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs)
They are a type of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) that uses a battery-powered blower to force ambient air through a filter or cartridge, removing contaminants and delivering purified air to the user. PAPRs are commonly used in industrial and healthcare settings to protect workers from airborne hazards such as dust, fumes, smoke, and biological agents.
One of the key advantages of PAPRs is that they provide a higher level of protection than traditional respirators, as they can filter out a wider range of contaminants and do not require a tight fit around the face. PAPRs are also more comfortable to wear for extended periods, as they reduce breathing resistance and minimize heat build-up. However, PAPRs require proper training, maintenance, and storage to ensure their effectiveness, and users should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines. Additionally, it is important to regularly monitor the performance of PAPRs, including the battery life and filter efficiency, to ensure that they are providing adequate protection to the user.
Supplied-Air Respirators (SARs)
These are a type of respiratory protection that uses an external source to supply clean, compressed air to the wearer. This is done through a hose that is attached to the face piece, allowing the user to breathe comfortably in environments that may contain hazardous contaminants. SARs are often preferred over other types of respirators due to their lightweight design and long-wear comfort, making them suitable for use in environments that are not immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH).
SARs are widely used in industries such as painting, sandblasting, and welding, where workers may be exposed to hazardous contaminants that can cause respiratory illness. The external air source used in SARs ensures that the air the wearer breathes is of high quality and free from harmful contaminants. Additionally, SARs can be fitted with different types of face pieces, including hoods and helmets, depending on the specific application and user preference.
A Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)
SCBA is a device used in environments that are considered Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH). These devices are designed to provide their own supply of breathable air, allowing the wearer to safely enter or escape such hazardous environments. There are two main types of SCBAs, open circuit and closed circuit.
Open circuit SCBAs are the more common type and work by delivering breathable air from a tank to the wearer, with exhaled air released back into the environment. Closed circuit SCBAs, on the other hand, recycle exhaled air by removing carbon dioxide and adding oxygen, allowing for a longer supply of breathable air. Both types of SCBAs are important tools for those working in hazardous environments, providing an essential layer of protection for their respiratory health.
These are a type of respiratory protection that can either be a supplied-air/SCBA respirator or a supplied-air/air-purifying respirator. The SCBA type has a self-contained air supply that comes in handy in situations where the primary airline fails. It can also be used in environments that are immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH). On the other hand, the air-purifying type provides protection through a supplied-air hose and an air-purifying component. However, it is not suitable for entry into IDLH environments.
In summary, combination respirators offer a versatile option for respiratory protection in different settings. While the SCBA type is ideal for use in IDLH environments and comes with a self-contained air supply, the air-purifying type provides protection through a supplied-air hose and an air-purifying component. It is important to choose the appropriate combination respirator for the specific environment and job requirements.
Certain industrial applications require appropriate respiratory protection for staff to maintain their well-being. Ignoring this fact could potentially cause serious harm to personnel. Having a clear understanding of sector-specific requirements allows organizations to stay vigilant and up-to-date with the latest updates and situations. Employers should select the most suitable apparatus to offer maximum assurance and compliance to protect their workforce and respect the economic and environmental laws enforced.
Moreover, providing training to the workers to identify when to use which kind of respirator, depending on the work environment as well as on the proper adorning & use of these respirators is equally important.