Protecting your lungs is essential and the correct level of protection required should be identified. Testing how effectively a seal has been created on the face of the wearer is also important.
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) –
What is the contaminant?
You should select the correct filter for the application and contaminant (you may have to refer to the supplier of the material being used for this information). The class of filter being used in a respiratory protection product can be identified by a code.
Gas and Vapour (EN 14387 and EN 405) EN141
A – Organic vapours with boiling point greater than 65°C and good warning properties
B – Inorganic gases and vapours, e.g. Chlorine (not Carbon Monoxide)
E – Acid gases and vapours, e.g. Sulphur Dioxide, Hydrogen Chloride
K – Ammonia and organic ammonia derivatives
AX – Certain organic compounds with boiling points less than 65°C & good warning properties
Particles (EN 149:2001 A1:2009)
P1 / FFP1 – Non toxic dust
P2 / FFP2 – Toxic dust, mist & fume
P3 / FFP3 – Very fine toxic dust, mist & fume
P2 / FFP2 and P3 / FFP3 filters are suitable for hardwood / softwood, MDF, welding fumes, grinding, brazing / soldering, cement dust, brick / plaster dust and glass fibre. P3 / FFP3 filters can be used for all of the above and when polishing / linishing.
What is the most suitable respirator?
Disposable – face mask for dust/mists/fumes and nuisance level gas/vapour
Half face – respirator with replaceable filters
Full face – respirator with replaceable filters and protection for the face / eyes
Powered – clean air to the headpiece by drawing air through a filter
Fit and fit testing
For a cup or fold flat mask to fit it must be able to create a seal on the face of the wearer. Therefore they must be clean-shaven; severe dental work or facial scarring may also affect the fit of a mask. The same applies to half and full-face respirators.
The COSHH Approved Code of Practice states: “Employers should ensure that the selected face piece is of the right size and can correctly fit each wearer. For a tight-fitting face piece, the initial selection should include fit testing to ensure the wearer has the correct device. Also, employers must ensure that whoever carries out the fit testing is competent to do so.”
What is the hazard level?
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should really only be used as a last resort. Ideally the hazard should be controlled at source. Where this is not possible it is essential that the correct level of protection should be selected, bearing in mind the hazard, the length of exposure and the working environment. Many of these have criteria laid down by the HSE. Our guides are only an aid to selection; for full guidance on approved products we would advise that you consult the appropriate code of practice issued by the HSE.