Respiratory protection is much more important than people realise. Whilst the pandemic has helped to increase the awareness of respiratory masks and disposable face masks, it is vital that we understand the importance of RPE outside of the medical area, for example, the construction industry. This includes the need for proper training around how to correctly fit respirators. Respiratory protection falls under the PPE category III which means that they are mandatory in a number of working environments. Due to this categorisation, training in fitting and removing a respirator is mandatory. The employer is responsible for organising this training for their employees.\
How Does A Respirator Work?
Particle-filtering respirators offer no protection against gases and vapours, solely particles. Respirator masks are constructed using multiple layers of filter material, and can come fitted either with or without an exhalation valve.
One thing to consider when looking at different types of respiratory protective equipment (RPE), is breathing resistance. This refers to the resistance that the wearer experiences when breathing in and out. The higher the level of resistance, the harder the wearer’s lungs have to work.
Respiratory Protection Categories
There are 3 different types of categories when it comes to FFP safety mask classes:
- FFP1: filters out at least 80 percent of particles
- FFP2: filters out 94 percent of particles
- FFP3: filters out 99 percent of particles
As more layers of filter are needed for those masks that filter more particles, they are always thicker and therefore create a higher breathing resistance.
Surgical Face Masks
Surgical (or disposable) face masks prevent droplets and bodily fluids excreted by the wearer from entering the environment. They don’t necessarily provide protection for the wearer though. It is also important to note that these masks aren’t considered to be RPE because they are not designed in line with the EN149 standard.
The FFP masks that we stock are primarily designed to protect the wearer. It is therefore essential that achieving a close, tight fit when wearing respiratory protection is really important. Our face fit testing kit contains everything you need in order to carry out face fit testing for respiratory masks.
What Does A Valve Do?
Not all respiratory masks are fitted with an exhalation valve, and they are often found on FFP3 masks where breathing resistance is greater. The valve opens when the wearer breathes out, making the mask more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Any warm, moist air that is exhaled is quickly removed and when the wearer breathes in the valve closes and reseals itself, providing ultimate protection for the wearer.
Decontamination & Damp Respirators
Respirators can’t be decontaminated once they have been exposed to things like radiation or steaming. The filter material they are constructed from is electrostatically charged, which means that once exposed to certain chemicals and environments the function of the mask can’t be guaranteed.
As part of the EN149 testing process, all respirators are exposed to various conditions which they are often exposed to within the workplace. This includes different humidities and temperatures within which they must still provide an adequate level of protection. It is always best to look at the storage instructions that accompany the respirator if you are not sure.
If you would like any further information on the best respiratory protection for your requirements, please feel free to contact the expert team at BETAFIT on [email protected], or alternatively call 01472 867 467.