What is respiratory protective equipment?
Respiratory protective equipment is a specific form of PPE used to protect the individual against the inhalation of hazardous substances in the workplace. These substances can include dust, mist, gas and fumes. Jobs performed on site such as the cutting of materials, handling dusty powders and using liquids that contain volatile solvents can lead to direct exposure to dangerous matters within a close breathing space. Under the law, respiratory protection is the last line of protection. All other preventative measures must have been taken first to reduce or remove exposure to hazards. Only if the inhalation exposure risk is still present should RPE be used. At this point, where there is a need for respiratory protection, employers have a legal responsibility to provide it.
Why is respiratory protection important?
Respiratory protection is important because it can protect people from long-term damage to their health. Inhalation disorders can develop as a result of improper use of respiratory protective equipment. When hazardous substances are inhaled in the workplace (or anywhere), they can damage the lungs and airways. In some instances, the harming materials can spread and impact other organs.
Respiratory diseases are often chronic, irritating and in some cases fatal. It is estimated that about 12,000 people die each year due to occupational respiratory diseases with about two-thirds of these deaths being accounted for by asbestos related issues or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
So why do some object to wearing respiratory protection? One of the objections many people have is that the equipment provided is typically uncomfortable and inhibiting.
This can lead to persons not wearing the respiratory protective equipment correctly, which may reduce the level of respiratory protection provided. It can even cause persons to avoid wearing it at all, greatly increasing the risk of exposure to hazards. By providing the right RPE, which is designed with the user’s comfort in mind as well as respiratory protection, your employees will be more likely to use it and prove the benefits of it too.
Are respiratory protection masks required by law?
The Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 requires the provision of a safe place of work. This applies to employees, employers and the self-employed. Section 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, states that employers and those who control workplaces must identify the hazards in the workplaces and assess the risks to safety and health at work presented by these hazards. Dependent on the hazards identified, this could lead to RPE, or a form of respiratory protection becoming required.
These regulations also require the assessment of PPE in the workplace. Employers must determine the conditions of use of PPE and assess the adequacy of PPE selected. For respiratory protective equipment, usually, each employee should have their own set provided. In the instance that RPE is shared, disinfectant and cleaning opportunities should be provided between users.
Employees must be informed on how to use their PPE and given training if necessary. Respiratory protective equipment must also be provided to employees without charge.
To learn more about the requirements of other PPE, you can check out the counterpart to this article on what employers should know about ear protection.
When to wear respiratory protective equipment?
- Respiratory protection should be used when there is a risk that employees might still be breathing in contaminated air despite the fact other measures have been put in place (such as extraction systems)
- When other controls prove to be impractical and there is a sudden short-term or infrequent exposure to hazards
- While other controls are being implemented
- When a safe exit is required during an emergency and other measures cannot be controlled
- When controls fail and emergency work must be carried out
- When an emergency rescue (by trained employees) is required
Do you have to be cleanly shaven to wear a dust mask?
A recent study by the Health and Safety Executive indicates that as facial hair grows, the respiratory protection offered by a tight-fitting mask reduces.
It is important therefore that wearers should be clean-shaven, not only for a fit test but whenever they wear a tight-fitting mask at work.
However, if an employee is unable to be clean shaven for either medical or religious reasons, then an employer is required to provide alternative RPE that does not rely on a tight seal such as hoods, helmets and visors.
Need high-quality respiratory protective equipment?
At BETAFIT we truly believe in superior comfort and fit. All of our products are tested to the highest standards in accordance with relevant and current Health & Safety legislation. From disposable respirators to moulded respirators, our premium range makes the last line of respiratory protection the strongest it can be.
Safety in the workplace is our key focus and we can help it become yours too. Our range of respiratory protective equipment is all tested and CE approved so that you know your employees are being given the best protection available. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to find out more by calling 08455 444 000 or emailing us at [email protected]
This article was written by the Technical Team at BETAFIT PPE.