Respiratory Protective Equipment Guide

May 11, 2018

Respiratory Protective Equipment Guide

by | May 11, 2018

Respiratory Protection Equipment is used in many workplaces to protect you when working with hazardous substances – gases or vapours and dust or particulates or any combination of these.

Understanding which type of respirator you need can be daunting. Therefore, we’ve written a useful guide that will provide you with a few pointers.

RPE is divided into two types:

1. Breathing Apparatus (BA) needs a supply of air from a clean source (for example, an air cylinder or air compressor). BA may be used in situations with reduced oxygen levels (less than 19%).

2. Respirators (filtering devices) use filters to remove contaminants in the workplace air and allow workers to breathe safely in hazardous environments.

NOTE: Respirators should never be used in situations with reduced oxygen levels such as confined spaces.

Respirators can be either: negative pressure (non-powered) respirators which rely on the wearer’s breathing to draw air through the filter; or positive pressure (powered) respirators that use a fan to pass air through the filter to give a supply of clean air.

Both types of RPE are available with a range of facepieces: masks, hoods, helmets and visors providing respiratory, head, face, eye and hearing protection

Negative Pressure Respirators

AVIVA Half Mask Respiratory Mask

Negative pressure respirators are tight fitting and therefore rely on having a good seal with the wearer’s face. In other words, there should not be any facial hair, make-up or clothing in the face seal region.

The downside to these masks;

  • These can comfortably be worn for an hour. Anything longer than an hour, requires the use of a positive pressure respirator.
  • These masks require a face fit test which, for some, is a burden

Did You Know?

According to HSE Guidance, all users of negative pressure should take a break at least every hour to reduce the risk of wearer fatigue. Wearing a powered air respirator removes this stoppage so employees can work continuously for longer durations thus improving efficiency.

• Powered Air Respirators are cooler. Heat levels within a powered air respirator head top are lower than using negative pressure as breath exhalation can cause heat build up within the mask.

• Powered Air Respirators allow for the use of multiple head tops, ensuring that the investment in one powered air respirator can be used for multiple applications, simply by changing the head top.

Positive Pressure Respirators

Powered air respirators

Positive pressure powered air respirators provide ultimate respiratory protection in the workplace. They allow you to carry on with the job in hand without worrying about breathing in airborne dusts and particulates or hazardous gases.

These respirators are available with a wide range of approved RPB Safety and Scott Safety head tops (full hoods, half hoods, visors) for protection of your head, face, eyes or hearing.

They are more favourable when being worn for long periods of time. Above all, they’re loose-fitting and are fan assisted, providing a comforting cooling effect for wearers.

Powered air respirators can be worn for those with facial hair as there’s no need for a face-fit test. The flexibility is why these respirators are fast becoming the most popular type of respirator.


4 Considerations

Before selecting RPE, a full risk assessment must be carried out in accordance with the relevant health and safety legislation. Where respirators are used in the workplace, a formal RPE plan should be implemented and reviewed at regular intervals.

1. Identify the potential hazard

Firstly, prior to the selection of any respiratory equipment, it is important to identify the hazard to protect against. These hazards are divided into particles, vapours and gas. Consideration must be given to oxygen deficiency and extreme temperature.

Remember that respirators fitted with particle filters will not protect against gases or vapours and vice versa.

2. Understand the health effects

Secondly, once the material against which to provide protection has been identified, it is important to understand how that contaminant can affect the human body.

This information forms a vital part of the training the users receive and allows them to understand why they should the equipment provided.

This is also an opportunity to assess the level of contaminant versus Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs)

3. Select the appropriate RPE

Thirdly, RPE comes in a wide variety of types, each suitable for certain applications. No respirator is suitable for all applications and care should be taken to understand the limitations of the respirator.

The selected respirator must be correct for the work, the environment and the wearer and not interfere with other PPE.

4. Train the wearer in fitting, use, maintenance and care

Lastly, once the RPE has been correctly selected for a hazard, the application and the individual wearer, it is essential to train the wearer in the correct fitting, use, maintenance and care of the respirator.

And remember, a face fit test should be carried out on wearers of tight fitting face mask respirators.

Respirator Head Tops

Respiratory Visors, Helmets & Hoods are popular because they are loose fitting and don’t require the wearer to have a face fit test. They offer increased comfort for longer duration wear due to the cooling effect of air circulation.

Z-Link Helmet

Z-Link Head Top form RPB Safety

The Z-Link from RPB Safety incorporates a fully-adjustable helmet suitable for welders that need to wear a hard hat continuously. By wearing the Z-Link, this negates the need to wear a helmet as the Z-Link completely protects the head.

The Z-Link is comfortably worn for long periods thanks to the internal air flow system.

T-Link Hood

T-Link Head top from RPB Safety

The T-Link large viewing window enables you to operate with a widened perspective, featuring exceptional downward and peripheral vision. A hood or cape option provides protection for the neck and shoulders.


Z4 head top from rpb safety

The Z4 features a flip-up welding visor which you can lift up to carry out intermittent welding. The helmet style head top provides protection for the face and ears. Choose between a neck shroud or shoulder cape for protection.

FH1 Hood

FH1 head top from 3M

Scott Safety Flowhood 1 (FH1) is an ultra-lightweight half hood, designed for applications where impact protection is not required. The FH1  allows straightforward donning and provides a cool flow of clean air over the head and down the face.

FH2 Full Hood

FH2 full respiratory head

The Scott Safety Flowhood 2 (FH2) is an ultra lightweight head top with a shoulder cape. It provides protection for your face, neck and shoulders. Designed for applications where impact protection is not required.


Respiratory Protection Equipment Selection Guide


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