Respirators – Protection from Airborne Particles

What is a Respirator?

A respirator is a device worn over the face/mouth designed to protect the wearer from inhaling harmful dusts, fumes, vapors, or gases. Respirators come in a wide range of types and sizes used by all sorts of industries.
Respirators cover the nose, mouth, and sometimes the eyes and face. They provide protection from airborne particles including dust, mist, liquids and fumes, gases or vapors. Respirators range from single-use disposable masks, to reusable models with replaceable cartridges.

Why Should You Use a Respirator?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that deaths from work related respiratory diseases and cancers account for about 70% of all occupational disease deaths.

An estimated 5 million workers are required to wear respirators in 1.3 million workplaces throughout the United States. – US Department of Labor

Even “clean” industrial processes often generate large amounts of harmful particulate matter and require breathing protection. Respirators provide protection against work related respiratory diseases and cancers by filtering out harmful particulates.

How to Choose the Right Respirator

The contaminants, exposure, time, and concentration level of potential airborne particles is essential to know when choosing a respirator. If used in the workplace, a respiratory protection program must be in place according to the requirements set by OSHA Respiratory Protection Standards.

 

Styles of face masks to consider:

Half Face Mask:half face masks

  • Protects nose and mouth
  • Found in particulate and chemical cartridge/gas masks
  • Both in disposable and reusable respirator models
  • Eyewear and additional face protection may be needed

Full Face Mask:full face masks

  • Protects eyes, nose and mouth
  • Found in particulate and chemical cartridge/gas masks
  • Reusable respirators only

Respirator valve variations:

Valved:valved

  • One-way exhalation valve near the mouth
  • Allows user to experience cool, dry comfort
  • Found on these respirator types
  • Disposable and reusable particulate respirators
  • Chemical cartridge/gas mask respirators

Non-valved:non-valved

  • No vents to allow air movement
  • Hot air may build up inside respirator with long period of continuous use
  • Found only on disposable, particulate respirators

Respirator cartridges and filters:

Cartridges:cartridges

  • Used in respirators to protect against gases and vapors
  • Chemical cartridges block out vapors but not particles
  • Dual cartridges include a replaceable pre-filter to block airborne particles
  • Found on these respirator types
  • Disposable and reusable particulate respirators
  • Chemical cartridge/gas mask respirators

Filters:filters

  • Used in respirators to protect against airborne particles
  • Replacements are widely available
  • Not found in disposable respirators
  • Found in both particulate and chemical/gas mask respirators

 

Respirator Ratings

Respirators are rated by the type of contaminants and how much they filter out. Each rating has a letter (N) and number (95). The numbers refer to the percentage of one-micrometer particles removed during trials.

United States NIOSH standards define the following categories of particulate filters:

Oil resistance Rating Description
Not oil resistant N95 Filters at least 95% of airborne particles
N99 Filters at least 99% of airborne particles
N100 Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles
Oil Resistant R95 Filters at least 95% of airborne particles
R99 Filters at least 99% of airborne particles
R100 Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles
Oil Proof P95 Filters at least 95% of airborne particles
P99 Filters at least 99% of airborne particles
P100 Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles

 

Protect yourself and your employees from harmful airborne particles with the right respirator.

Stay healthy and safety compliant by using respirators!

 

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