Respiratory protection

Using Resporatory Protection

Options such as removing the source of hazard from the work area or applying engineering controls should always be implemented before resorting to a respiratory protection device. The selection of the correct respiratory protection follows a basic 4-step method:

1. Identify the hazards (particulates, gas, vapour).
2. Quantify the hazards (measure airborne contamination levels and compare these with acceptable limits).
3. Select the appropriate respirator and filter combination (disposable, half mask, full face mask, powered, airline).
4. Train wearers in the fitting, use, care and maintenance of RPE provided to optimise the protection afforded.

Respiratory Hazards

Respiratory hazards come in many forms. Particulates – including dusts (finely divided solid materials including fibres, usually associated with grinding, sanding and drilling), mists (liquid droplets and aerosols, associated with e.g. spraying operations), metal fumes (thermally generated solid particles generated in extreme high heat process such as welding , combustion, smelting, brazing and chemical processes), micro-organisms (such as bacteria, virus, spores). The smaller the particle size is the more dangerous substances are as they enter down into the alveoli of the lungs. Gases and Vapours – materials in the atmosphere in a molecular state. Vapour is the gaseous state of substances that are liquids or solids at room temperature. Vapours are formed when substances evaporate. Gases are airborne at room temperature and are capable of diffusing or spreading freely. Various gases have various effects:
  • Airways inflammation (e.g. toxic fumes).
  • Irritation (e.g. tear gas).
  • Suffocation (e.g. chlorine, phosgene).
  • Anaesthetic (e.g. solvents).
  • Blood poisoning (e.g. hydrogen cyanide HCN, phosphine).
  • Corrosion (e.g. mustard gas, ozone).
  • The effects are dependent on levels of concentration in the inhaled air, exposure time and work rate.

Calculating the Level of Protection Required

To afford adequate protection, a respiratory protective device must provide a sufficient level of protection to reduce the exposure of the wearer to an acceptable level. To determine this, it is necessary to know the expected concentration of contaminant in the workplace, and calculate the minimum factor by which it must be reduced to reach an acceptable level - well below any applicable Exposure Limit, for example OES (occupational exposure standard), OEL (occupational exposure limit), MEL (maximum exposure limit), STEL (short term exposure limit), MAK (maximum workplace concentration), TLV (threshold limit value).  

Special Considerations

Some applications, by their nature, require special consideration in terms of respiratory protection selection: Bacteria and Virus – Safe exposure standards have not been established for bacteria and virus and this gives rise to difficulty in deciding what level of protection is required. In general, high efficiency particle filters are required and these should be of a type approved for liquid aerosols. To decide on the appropriate protection, it is necessary to at least consider the following:
  • Proximity to contamination source.
  • Level of ventilation/ dilution.
  • Risk of contamination (e.g. by splash, from coughing etc).
  • Infectious dose of the organism, for example TB is very infectious, whereas HIV virus is much more difficult to transfer.
If risk from all of these factors is low, it is likely that an FFP3SL disposable or half mask with P3 filter would be adequate. For progressively higher risks, higher levels of protection are required. If the level of risk cannot be identified at least qualitatively, it would be unwise to consider using anything less than TH3 or TM3 powered respirators against bacteria and virus.   Asbestos and Asbestos removal - Asbestos exposure potentially affects workers in the construction and maintenance industries. Use of respiratory protective equipment fitted with effective particle filters is essential when working with asbestos and even is inadequate unless full measures for controlling dust at source are implemented with appropriate work enclosures and decontamination procedures. Where work which is likely to give rise to asbestos dust is contemplated, at a minimum a TM3 power assisted respirator or EN139 positive pressure demand breathing apparatus should be worn.   Isocyanates - There are several organic chemicals within the Isocyanates family and they are found in many industrial applications where two liquid components react to form a solid material (e.g. insulation materials, polyurethanes and various coatings). Most of these materials are toxic and can provoke severe allergic reaction in sensitised individuals. For this reason Isocyanates have a very low exposure limit, and it is vital that exposures are kept as far below this limit as possible. The filtering respirators suitable for protection against Isocyanates are full facemasks with A2P3 canisters and should only be used either for short term escape from a limited spillage or leak, or for short periods where the contaminant concentration is known to be less than 10 x the Exposure Limit. For general exposures less than 10 x the Exposure Limit, suitable air fed equipment with an APF of at least 40 is recommended. For general exposures greater than this, positive pressure demand breathing apparatus should be used, possibly with an auxiliary A2P3 filter to allow transit to the airline connection point (if applicable). Disposable filtering face pieces, half mask respirators and powered respirator systems are not ideally suited for the control of Isocyanate exposure, and should not be used unless exposure levels have already been controlled at source to well below the control limit.   Solvents – Some solvents are relatively innocuous, others are toxic, with the potential to cause permanent organ damage or cancer. Many are relatively volatile organic liquids which can be filtered with A type filters, however there are several commonly found substances, e.g. Acetone, Dichloromethane, Diethyl Ether, which are so volatile that they may require either an AX type single use filter, or may not be filterable at all. For this reason, it is vital that the airborne concentrations of all solvents in any mix is determined, and the filter types are individually checked. Because solvents are usually physically absorbed by charcoal filters rather than chemically absorbed, the volatility has a major effect on the filter performance. Also, being volatile, solvents can often be found in surprisingly high concentrations in a work area, meaning that filter life will be correspondingly short.   Materials with no set exposure limit - There may be substances for which there is not a statutory exposure limit. In these cases, it is usually necessary to set an internal control level – the lowest detectable concentration using modern detection equipment – and select the highest protection respiratory protection device compatible with the task and the wearer. Generally, carcinogenic substances should be controlled to achieve low levels at source with respiratory protection equipment used solely as the last resort.

Selecting And Using Filters, To select a suitable filter for protection against workplace respiratory hazards:

1. Fully identify the prevailing workplace hazards, checking the scientific names of the chemicals. Ensure that the state of the substance is known - is it a gas, vapour or particle, or a mixture of these. Special attention is required where there are several substances present that may interact chemically or have synergistic adverse health effects.
2. Estimate the likely atmospheric concentration. This is best done by measurement. If the substance has long term health effects it is recommended that a workplace survey is carried out. Where measurement is not possible, an estimate should be made of the maximum likely concentration.
3. Select the appropriate filter.
Particulate filters
1. Choose a particle filter to protect against particulate hazards.
2. Ensure that the filter selected has the correct efficiency for the application and that it is correctly marked for the respirator (powered systems).
3. Ensure that the filter is new and undamaged.
4. Check that the filter selected is suitable for liquid / mists /bacteria / virus / metal fume, as applicable.
5. Mark date and time of first use on the filter label or record this separately.
6. Replace the filter when breathing resistance becomes noticeably burdensome or when a powered respirator fails the flow test.
7. If the filter has been used against toxic dusts, bacteria or virus, it is usual to dispose of it as controlled waste after each use. 8. Always replace a particulate filter after 6 months of use regardless of any of the above.

Gas / Vapour filters

1. Choose the correct filter for the hazard encountered.
2. Ensure that it is new and undamaged and not time expired.
3. Mark date and time of first use on the filter label or record separately.
4. Check usage duration with the manufacturer. This will require the atmospheric concentration to be known. Bear in mind that mixture of substances can severely reduce filter life. Concentrations of all substances in the mix must be known.
5. Replace filters when calculated usage duration is reached.
6. If the usage duration is not known extreme caution should be exercised. 7. If the substance is tasted or smelled, the filter must be replaced immediately. Subsequent filters should be used for no more than half the duration of the initial filter. 8. Taste/Smell must not generally be used as an end of life indication
9. If the substance has poor warning properties (taste/smell) and the concentration is not known, then gas filters should not be used. Instead, consider using air supplied equipment. 10. Do not use a gas filter which has been stored out of its packaging for more than six months, regardless of any of the above. 11. Always replace a gas filter after six months.  

Care & Maintenance of RPE


Daily checks are required to ensure the correct functioning of a respiratory protection device. These should be carried out in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. For most devices, the user should conduct a pre-use visual inspection to check the face piece for holes, cuts, cracks or distortion. Powered respirators will require a daily flow check, before and after each use, to ensure the flow is maintained throughout the working shift. A documented monthly check is recommended for all RPE, and this should cover all items in the daily checks. A record of each device should be maintained to show the results of checks and a note of all replacement parts. Air flow rate and quality for air-fed devices should also be checked monthly. This needs to be carried out for each working point in the compressed air system. Periodically, it is advisable to have a thorough test conducted on high performance devices, including full face masks and powered respirators. This should be performed by the manufacturer or the manufacturer’s agent who can issue a certificate showing that the device tested still meets specification. It is important to note that such checks need to precisely follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Employee Training

The following, as a minimum should be covered as part of employee training on respiratory protection:
  • The workplace hazards, possible health effects and the control measures in place.
  • How to recognise faults in their respiratory protection equipment, where
  • to report them and how to obtain spares (as necessary).
  • How to maintain their respiratory protection equipment.
  • How to perform pre-use checks.
  • How to use the device correctly.
  • Any limitations associated with use of the device.
  • How to clean and store the device correctly.
Training should be revised regularly to ensure employees remain proficient and retraining may be necessary where audits indicate incorrect practices.   The hazards presented by airborne contaminants are perhaps the most difficult to protect against, given the wide range of contaminants and environments. To select the correct repiratory protection it is important to identify the hazard and choose a protector that can provide protection against the hazard in sufficient quantity. Levels of protection can be optimised via expert training in respirator fitting and use. Anderco Safety can provide full on-site training and assistance in implementing an effective respiratory protection programme. In our Respiratory Protection catalogue, we have detailed a cross section of the products which represent those most commonly used in industry today. Our stock products are available for 24 hour delivery. Also included is detailed information on the relevant product standards to assist you with the selection process. Should you have a requirement which is not met by catalogue, please contact our Sales Helpdesk on 1850 303304 for assistance.

Respiratory Standards

EN 1146:2005

Respiratory protective devices - Self-contained open-circuit compressed air breathing apparatus incorporating a hood for escape - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 12021:1998

Respiratory protective devices - Compressed air for breathing apparatus

EN 12083:1998/AC:2000

Respiratory protective devices - Filters with breathing hoses, (Non-mask mounted filters) - Particle filters, gas filters, and combined filters - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 12941:1998/A2:2008

Respiratory protective devices - Powered filtering devices incorporating a helmet or a hood - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 12942:1998/A2:2008

Respiratory protective devices - Power assisted filtering devices incorporating full face masks, half masks or quarter masks - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 132:1998

Respiratory protective devices - Definitions of terms and pictograms

EN 13274-1:2001

Respiratory protective devices - Methods of test - Part 1: Determination of inward leakage and total inward leakage

EN 13274-2:2001

Respiratory protective devices - Methods of test - Part 2: Practical performance tests

EN 13274-3:2001

Respiratory protective devices - Methods of test - Part 3: Determination of breathing resistance

EN 13274-4:2001

Respiratory protective devices - Methods of test - Part 4: Flame tests

EN 13274-5:2001

Respiratory protective devices - Methods of test - Part 5: Climatic conditions

EN 13274-6:2001

Respiratory protective devices - Methods of test - Part 6: Determination of carbon dioxide content of the inhalation air

EN 13274-7:2008

Respiratory protective devices - Methods of test - Part 7: Determination of particle filter penetration

EN 13274-8:2002

Respiratory protective devices - Methods of test - Part 8: Determination of dolomite dust clogging

EN 133:2001

Respiratory protective devices - Classification

EN 134:1998

Respiratory protective devices - Nomenclature of components

EN 135:1998

Respiratory protective devices - List of equivalent terms

EN 136:1998/AC:2003

Respiratory protective devices - Full face masks - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 137:2006

Respiratory protective devices - Self-contained open-circuit compressed air breathing apparatus with full face mask - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 13794:2002

Respiratory protective devices - Self-contained closed-circuit breathing apparatus for escape - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 138:1994

Respiratory protective devices - Fresh air hose breathing apparatus for use with full face mask, half mask or mouthpiece assembly - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 13949:2003

Respiratory equipment - Open-circuit self-contained diving apparatus for use with compressed Nitrox and oxygen - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 140:1998/AC:1999

Respiratory protective devices - Half masks and quarter masks - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 14143:2003

Respiratory equipment - Self-contained re-breathing diving apparatus

EN 142:2002

Respiratory protective devices - Mouthpiece assemblies - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 143:2000/A1:2006

Respiratory protective devices - Particle filters - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 14387:2004+A1:2008

Respiratory protective devices - Gas filter(s) and combined filter(s) - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 144-1:2000/A2:2005

Respiratory protective devices - Gas cylinder valves - Part 1: Thread connections for insert connector

EN 144-2:1998

Respiratory protective devices - Gas cylinder valves - Part 2: Outlet connections

EN 144-3:2003/AC:2003

Respiratory protective devices - Gas cylinder valves - Part 3: Outlet connections for diving gases Nitrox and oxygen

EN 14435:2004

Respiratory protective devices - Self-contained open-circuit compressed air breathing apparatus with half mask designed to be used with positive pressure only - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 145:1997/A1:2000

Respiratory protective devices - Self-contained closed-circuit breathing apparatus compressed oxygen or compressed oxygen-nitrogen type - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 14529:2005

Respiratory protective devices - Self-contained open-circuit compressed air breathing apparatus with half mask designed to include a positive pressure lung governed demand valve for escape purposes only

EN 14593-1:2005

Respiratory protective devices - Compressed air line breathing apparatus with demand valve - Part 1: Apparatus with a full face mask - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 14593-2:2005/AC:2005

Respiratory protective devices - Compressed air line breathing apparatus with demand valve - Part 2: Apparatus with a half mask at positive pressure - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 14594:2005/AC:2005

Respiratory protective devices - Continuous flow compressed air line breathing apparatus - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 148-1:1999

Respiratory protective devices - Threads for facepieces - Part 1: Standard thread connection

EN 148-2:1999

Respiratory protective devices - Threads for facepieces - Part 2: Centre thread connection

EN 148-3:1999

Respiratory protective devices - Threads for facepieces - Part 3: Tread connection M 45 x 3

EN 149:2001+A1:2009

Respiratory protective devices - Filtering half masks to protect against particles - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 15333-1:2008/AC:2009

Respiratory equipment - Open-circuit umbilical supplied compressed gas diving apparatus - Part 1: Demand apparatus

EN 15333-2:2009

Respiratory equipment - Open-circuit umbilical supplied compressed gas diving apparatus - Part 2: Free flow apparatus

EN 1827:1999+A1:2009

Respiratory protective devices - Half masks without inhalation valves and with separable filters to protect against gases or gases and particles or particles only - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 250:2000/A1:2006

Respiratory equipment - Open-circuit self-contained compressed air diving apparatus - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 269:1994

Respiratory protective devices - Powered fresh air hose breathing apparatus incorporating a hood - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 402:2003

Respiratory protective devices - Lung governed demand self-contained open-circuit compressed air breathing apparatus with full face mask or mouthpiece assembly for escape - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 403:2004

Respiratory protective devices for self-rescue - Filtering devices with hood for escape from fire - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 404:2005

Respiratory protective devices for self-rescue - Filter self-rescuer from carbon monoxide with mouthpiece assembly

EN 405:2001+A1:2009

Respiratory protective devices - Valved filtering half masks to protect against gases or gases and particles - Requirements, testing, marking

EN 529:2005

Respiratory protective devices - Recommendations for selection, use, care and maintenance - Guidance document

 

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