• Feb 28, 2021
  • Vipul Rana

What is a respirator?

A respirator is a device that prevents you from inhaling toxic substances like chemicals or infectious particles. Working in hazardous environments requires respirators, which are among the essential pieces of protective equipment. You have to select the appropriate respirator according to the work environment so that it can save you from all the hazardous air particulates around you.

The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) reviews, checks, and certifies respirators to ensure that they meet specific minimum performance criteria, such as filter efficiency and breathing resistance. Respirators keep you safe from airborne particles and protect against biological aerosols, such as viruses and bacteria, in the healthcare environment. Respirators are made to fit snugly against the wearer's face. To get the best fit, wearers should do the fittest to ensure they are using the right type and size of respirator.

Types of respirators

A 95 rating is given to respirator filters that absorb at least 95% of the challenge aerosol. A "99" rating is granted to filters that collect at least 99 percent of the data. A "100" ranking is given to those who receive at least 99.97 percent (nearly 100 percent). A 95 rating is given to respirator filters that absorb at least 95% of the challenge aerosol. A "99" rating is given to filters that collect at least 99 percent of the aerosol. A "100" ranking is given to those who receive at least 99.97 percent (nearly 100 percent).

How do respirators work?

Respirators remove contaminants from the air, purify the air, or provide clean air from an outside source. Particulate respirators are the most prosperous and most economical of the various types of respirators available. These respirators only protect against particles. There are few filters available that protect you against chemicals, gases, or vapors and are intended solely for low hazard levels.

The "N-95" filtering facepiece respirator or "dust masks" are the most common types. Particulate filters are classified into nine categories, divided into three series (N, R, and P). There are three efficiency levels available for each series: 95 percent, 99 percent, and 99.97 percent. The N series filter is used in environments free of oil mists.

Particulate respirators

  • Filter out specks of dust, fumes, and mists.
  • They are usually disposable dust masks or respirators with disposable filters.
  • Must be replaced when they become discolored, damaged, or clogged.
  • Examples: filtering facepiece or elastomeric respirator.

Chemical Cartridge/Gas Mask Respirator

Since they filter or clean chemical gases out of the air while you breathe, gas masks are also known as "air-purifying respirators." A facepiece or mask, as well as a cartridge or canister, are included in this respirator. Straps keep the facepiece in place on the head. The cartridge may also have a filter to remove particles.

Gas masks are only useful if they are used with the right cartridge or filter. Choosing the correct filter can be a challenging job. Some cartridges protect against several hazards, but there is no such thing as an "all-in-one" cartridge that protects against anything.

Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR)

Powered air-purifying respirators use a fan to draw air through the filter to the user. They are more convenient to breathe through, but they need a fully charged battery to operate correctly. Filters/cartridges are identical to those used in other air-purifying respirators. To choose the correct filters/cartridges, you need to know the danger and how much it is in the air.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)

The SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus) is the most common respirator used by firefighters. You don't need to think about filters because these have their air tank to provide clean air. They also protect against higher levels of toxic chemicals. They are, however, incredibly heavy (30 pounds or more) and need advanced training to use and maintain them.

What are respirators made from?

The majority of filtration facepieces (dust masks) are made from a cloth-like filter material. Chemical cartridge/gas mask respirators are available in a wide range of products. Silicone, neoprene, and rubber are the most common facepiece materials. Rubber and neoprene are rigid, long-lasting materials. Silicone is widely chosen for its comfort, versatility, and easy cleaning.

What are optional features available for respirators?

Several features are available to help you customize respirators to your employees' needs and the hazards they face. For instance, nose cups reduce lens fogging with full facepiece respirators, and lens covers protect the lens from paint, minor chemical splash, and scratches.

When wearing prescription correction lenses, spectacle kits are required. The frame mounts into full-face masks, and the users' optometrist makes the prescription lenses. This helps the wearer to keep a comfortable fit while still wearing prescription lenses.

How are particulate filters classified?

Particulate filters are categorized into nine groups and three series: N, R, and P. There are three efficiency levels available for each series (N, R, and P): 95 percent, 99 percent, and 99.97 percent, respectively. The N series filter is used in non-oil mist conditions. Oil mists may be present in the R series filters, but they should only be worn for one work shift. The P filter can be exposed to oil mists for longer than one work shift.

Are there any cautions or limitations when using respirators?

Yes, indeed. There are several types of respirators, each with its cautions, limitations, and usage restrictions. Tight-fitting respirators must be fit tested to ensure a good fit on the face, and they cannot be worn with facial hair. Some escape respirators have a nose clip and mouthpiece that you clench between your teeth like a snorkel. Any respirator that has been contaminated with dangerous chemicals should be washed and decontaminated before being discarded.

You should know how to correctly wear the respirator so that you get full protection from it. It would be best if you also practiced breathing on your respirator. Since some escape respirators come in an enclosed box that must be kept sealed once used, you'll need to practice with a unique "practice" version. When it comes to the storage, repair, use, and disposal of the respirator, training is essential.

How well does a respirator need to fit me?

You can breathe dirty air that leaks around the edges of your face seal if your mask does not make a tight seal around your face when you inhale. Since different people have different shapes, most respirators come in various models and sizes that suit other people differently. You'll also need the training to know how to put on and wear the mask correctly.

Can I wear a respirator if I have a beard?

To get a perfect face fit from your respirator, it is advised to trim your beards.  You won’t get the desired fit needed if you wear the respirator with big beards. With long beards, there is always the chance of leakage.

Can anyone wear a respirator?

No. It's more difficult to breathe through a respirator than it is to breathe naturally. Breathing issues may affect people with lung disorders like asthma or emphysema, the elderly, and others. A full facepiece or hooded respirator may not be ideal for people who have claustrophobia.

Will a gas mask protect me if there is not enough oxygen in the air?

No, Air-purifying respirators do not provide oxygen. You cannot wear it in an environment with low oxygen levels.

Once I put on my gas mask, how long will it last?

It depends on the respirator's filtering ability and the amount of hazard in the air – the higher the concentration of chemical or biological hazard in the air, the shorter the time your filter will last. There is no definite time limit, and it will vary depending on the capacities of each respirator model and the hazard concentration. You should replace your respirator's filters after six months of use when it becomes hard to breathe through them.