Different Types of Respirators
Millions of people around the world wear different types of respirators to filter the air they breathe and protect their lungs. In heavily populated areas, pollution is a concern. Some work applications require respiratory protection by law. Even at home, people wear filtering face-pieces to protect their lungs from allergies, common sicknesses like the cold, or other health reasons. Depending on the application, specific types of filtering protection will be required. Let's take a closer look at the different types of Respirators and their purpose.
OSHA, the governing agency created to protect workers' safety, requires workers to wear respiratory protection anytime air quality conditions are hazardous. Part of a proper respiratory safety program includes identifying the potential hazards within the work environment. A risk assessment should be made to determine if respiratory protection is required. Training and education will follow which includes the proper use, maintenance, and fitting of these respirator devices. All respirators must be approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The appropriate markings should be displayed on the respiratory device. NIOSH creates performance guidelines for the different types of respiratory devices and OSHA enforces them.
Below is a basic list of the different types of respirators commonly used by consumers and workforce alike:
Single Strap Masks - These are not officially considered respirators and are not approved by NIOSH. They are classified as "Comfort Masks" because they are not rated to protect you. These are disposable.
Approved filtering Dust Masks - These are NIOSH-approved and display the approval markings. They are designed for particles, some mists, and even some fumes depending on the type of approved dust mask. These are disposable.
Half-face masks - These usually include some type of respirator cartridge filtering system that is designed to protect the worker from specific types of contaminants ranging from acid, gas fumes, or other chemicals. Particulate media or cartridges can also be used with many of these masks to protect against various types of particles. Some half-mask respirators are disposable but many of the face-pieces are reusable and offer replaceable cartridges. These types of face-pieces require maintenance.
Full-face masks - The entire face is protected from the contaminants. Filtering cartridges are generally used to protect the worker from acids, gas fumes, or chemicals that are hazardous. The cartridge systems are often similar to half-mask respirators. These types of face-pieces require maintenance.
Powered Air Purifying Systems - These blow filtered air into a hood or helmet system and the positive pressure blows out the openings below the face. The filtering system is worn by the user.
Self-contained Supplied Air - These systems supply air through tanks worn by the user. Commonly seen worn by firemen, these are designed to supply life-saving air because the environment lacks the necessary air to breathe safely.
As with any safety device, it is important you know your risks and the hazards within your work environment. 3M recommends these 6 elements be included in every respiratory protection program:
- Exposure Assessment
- Written Program
- Respirator Selection
- Medical Evaluation
- Fir Testing
- Training & Maintenance
3M is the leader in respiratory protection. Contact them with your technical questions or training needs.
MFASCO Resources for Respirators & PPE Mask Protection:
Protecting yourself against foreign contaminants & bio-hazardous materials with personal protection masks & clothing is essential for healthcare workers, first responders, and emergency personnel. Here are a number of our resources, to help you select the right respirator & PPE mask protection:
Respirator (PPE) Products & Accessories:
Additional Resources for Workplace Head Protection: