So, life has led you to undergo potentially hazardous breathing scenarios on a daily basis, and you're wondering what the best solution to ensure safe breathing is. If that's the case, respirators can be a lifesaver.
Approximately 3% of all private-sector employees are forced to wear a respirator, either by choice, in an emergency, or to follow authority standards. Respirators provide total breathing protection, allowing you to do your job without risking your health.
Whether you're an employee exposed to a hazardous breathing environment or a business owner seeking safe-breathing solutions for your personnel, you must have a basic idea of how respirators are utilized in real-world scenarios.
However, respirators come in a variety of shapes and sizes. So, you're probably thinking about which type of respirator to use in which situation. Thus, in this post, we'll talk about who uses respirators and why, so you can determine what kind of respirators you'll need for your situation.
A Beginner's Guide to Respirators
Before we begin to discuss the use of respirators, let's shed some light on what they are and how they can help you in toxic breathing situations.
Respirators can filter dust, fumes, gases, vapors, or chemicals from the air as the wearer breathes through it, or they can supply fresh air from an outside source to ensure safe breathing. It forms a tight seal around the skin's border, covering the nose, mouth, and, in extreme circumstances, the entire face.
Respirators come in different types for different hazardous circumstances. These circumstances can be differentiated by the contamination level in the air, the type of contamination, and the safety capacity of the respirators.
While respirators are designed to protect you from respiratory disorders in general, not all types of respirators are appropriate for all situations. As a result, understanding the types and their applications can help you decide where to apply which one.
If you'd like to gain a thorough grasp of respirators, please check our complete guide to respirators.
Types of Respirators
Respirators are classified into two types based on how they work. It either decontaminates the air by filtering out toxic substances or supplies safe, breathable air from an outside source. The first is air-purifying respirators (APRs), and the second is atmosphere-supplying respirators (ASRs).
Air-purifying Respirators (APRs)
Air-purifying respirators are the most common and widely used type of respirator. These respirators filter or absorb harmful substances from the air, allowing the user to breathe safe air.
Particulate respirators (essentially the face masks we're all familiar with), gas masks, escape hoods, and powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) are all examples of air-purifying respirators (APRs).
Atmosphere-supplying Respirators (ASRs)
Atmosphere-supplying respirators use an external source to provide breathable air to the user. If the pollution level exceeds the filtration capacity, atmosphere-purifying respirators are used to supply safe air straight to the user.
Atmosphere-supplying respirators are classified into three types based on whether or not the user carries the source of fresh air. The first one is a supplied-air respirator (SAR), where the user is connected to an air source outside the work area. The second type is known as self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), where users carry the supply of air with them.
The third one is basically a hybrid of both SAR/SCBA.
Check out our in-depth article on Types of Respirators to discover more about the different types and their sub-categories.
Who Uses Respirators and Why?
I hope you now have a basic idea of what respirators are and how they differ. Now, let's look at why someone would need one and who uses one.
The basic idea behind respirators is to protect against toxic breathing situations. These devices are widely employed in a variety of professional and personal domains.
Workers exposed to gases or vapor, such as those in the chemical industry, should, for example, wear respirators to prevent major health risks. Again, people working on construction sites, in farming, or in the woodworking sector should wear respirators to protect themselves from dirt, dust, pesticides, or fertilizer fumes.
Some respirators are extremely useful for military people, miners, mountaineers, firefighters, or even mechanics– in short, anyone who may be exposed to low oxygen levels, toxic sprays, mist, or smog.
Any airborne threat can harm one's health, resulting in cancer, lung illness, or even death. As a result, using respirators in potentially hazardous breathing settings is a must.
However, as previously stated, not all respirators are appropriate for all hazards; thus, let us look at who should use particular respirators and why.
Particulate Respirators are the most widely used Air-purifying respirators. Also, these respirators are the cheapest, simplest, and less protective respirators out on the market. From surgical face masks to the N, R, or P series, respirators fall under this category.
These respirators are useful against microparticles (0.3 microns) only. Typically, these masks are worn by healthcare workers to protect them from airborne viruses. And, since the epidemic, everyone has been compelled to wear these masks for personal safety.
Along with the healthcare sector, let’s take a look at who uses these respirators most for respiratory protection:
- Healthcare Professionals
- Construction Workers
- Carpenters and Craftsmen
- Painters, etc.
Gas Masks/ Chemical Cartridge Respirators
When particulate respirators fail, gas masks or chemical cartridge respirators come in handy if dangerous chemical compounds are present in the air. These air-purifying respirators are color-coded and available with different filters and canisters depending on the type of hazard.
Each color-coded canister and filter represents a different hazard. And, these filters are only effective against the threats represented by the color-coding. It should be noted, however, that there is no all-in-one filter or canister for every harmful hazard. So, you must know the hazard before you pick a filter or canister for your Gas Mask.
Those who are working in the farming industry often have to deal with toxic pesticides. Here, these respirators can save the user from serious lung diseases. Again, those working in the chemical industry can also use these respirators for their safety.
Let’s see where these respirators are used.
- Farming Industry
- Chemical Industry
- Armed Forces
- Emergency Responders
Powered Air-purifying Respirators (PAPR)
These respirators use a fan to pull air through the filter to the user. The filter for these respirators is quite the same as the ones used in the Gas Masks. So, even here, one has to know the hazard they are facing.
Those who have breathing difficulties can use these respirators. It is easier to breathe with these respirators because they pull air mechanically. However, it should be noted that these respirators require the battery to be fully charged, or else the user may experience problems.
To sum up, these respirators are an extension of the previous category and intended for special uses. Let's take a look at who benefits the most from these respirators.
- Elderly Persons and Children
- People with Breathing Difficulties
These respirators are specially made for emergencies only. These are often used by miners, emergency responders, the chemical industry, and military personnel in the event of an emergency evacuation due to low oxygen levels or dangerous compounds that cannot be filtered.
These respirators are usually designed for a short-time use that typically lasts from 15 minutes to an hour. Some even come with the instruction to only open their container in an emergency. Thus, potential users must be taught with dummy Escape Respirators to prepare for these scenarios.
So, who uses these devices most? Let’s jump into the highlights.
- Military Personnel
- Emergency Responders
- Firefighters, etc.
Self-contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)
These atmosphere-supplying respirators have their own air supply that the user can carry with them. When the air is contaminated beyond the filter's capacity, or there is a lack of oxygen in the air, these respirators can be used to receive fresh air.
However, because of the linked air tank, these respirators are heavy and require particular training to use and maintain. Let’s see where these respirators are commonly used.
- Military Personnel
- Pilots and Flight Attendance, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
So far, we've discussed why respirators are necessary and who uses them in certain situations. Let's take a look at some of the most often asked questions.
Question: What respirators are used in hospitals and why?
Answer: Particulate respirators are extensively used in the healthcare field to protect both patients and healthcare professionals from airborne viruses, microorganism transmission, and body fluids.
Question: What is respirator fit testing, and who does it?
Answer: Fit testing for respirators includes fitting and testing the respirator for the best performance. If there's a leak or damage in the respirator, it might do more harm than good.
According to the Worker Protection Standard, respirators must be fit tested once a year. However, always remember to fit test your respirator in the presence of a safety and health care professional.
Question: Will a Gas Mask keep me safe if there is not enough oxygen in the air?
Answer: Regrettably, it will not. In such instances, you must employ atmosphere-supplying respirators such as SAR or SCBA, which supply fresh breathing air from an external source.
Question: What is a HEPA filter?
Answer: A HEPA, or high-efficiency particulate air filter, is nearly 99.97 percent efficient at removing monodisperse particles with diameters of 0.3 micrometers.
So far, we have attempted to explain who uses respirators and why. We hope you now have a better understanding of respirators and can assess whether or not you require one.
While you're here, feel free to check our other articles. Stay careful, stay hydrated, put on your masks, and we'll see you later!