Respirators are used to protect the wearer from inhaling harmful substances, including infectious particles and chemical vapors. With varying degrees of protection, respirators are available in many different types. While particulate respirators are used to filter only particles (dust and mist, for instance), chemical cartridge respirators (also known as “gas masks”) actually purify the air while you inhale.
Finding the right respirator to suit your needs will depend on the nature of your application. Just as importantly, you’ll also need to carefully follow the device’s guidelines to ensure full protection during use. There are some myths surrounding the proper ways to wear, use, and enforce respirators, many of which can actually be dangerous if believed. Here, we’ve collected and debunked some of the most common respirator myths:
3 Safety Respirator Myths:
MYTH: My company doesn’t need a respiratory protection program if employees wear masks voluntarily.
TRUTH: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets forth requirements which employers must follow to keep individuals safe against the exposure of harmful air pollutants. Specifically, OHSA has a Respiratory Protection Standard which enforces respirator regulations. For instance, in settings where employees could be exposed to harmful fumes, vapors, smokes, sprays, and mists, the company must have a documented plan to explain how their respiratory protection program will be governed. This should also include procedures, specific types of equipment to be worn, care and use of the equipment, and medical evaluations for employees to verify their ability to wear respirators. Thus, even if your employees willingly wear respirators, government regulations still require you to have a plan in place.
MYTH: My facial hair won’t hinder respirator effectiveness.
TRUTH: It’s possible beards and mustaches could leave you more exposed to air pollutants. Here’s why: in order to keep you fully protected, the respirator needs to form an air-tight seal against your skin. Beards, clothing, and any other blockage preventing the seal from coming into direct contact with your skin can become an issue. By preventing a tight seal or blocking the exhalation valve, facial hair can allow contaminated air to leak into your respirator.
MYTH: I don’t need to change my respirator’s cartridge until I can smell the chemical while wearing it.
TRUTH: Certain types of respirators use cartridges to purify the air. While they offer a high level of protection, they become less effective over time as the cartridge wears out. Thus, waiting until the cartridge is no longer working essentially defeats the purpose of wearing a respirator, as it no longer protects the wearer effectively. Moreover, using employees’ ability to detect smells is an unreliable method for changing cartridges, as they may be less sensitive to the fumes after working with them for a long time. OHSA mandates that employers should have a cartridge change schedule in place, so they can be replaced prior to losing their effectiveness.
If you’re in need of reusable respirators and cartridges to keep your employees protected, look no further than Harmony Lab & Safety Supplies. Dozens of options are available online to accommodate every application, and a product specialist can help you if you’re not sure which model is right for your needs.