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Respiratory protective equipment at work guide


(Official hse guide at bottom of page in an iframe)

Many workers wear respirators or breathing apparatus to protect their health in the workplace. These devices are collectively known as respiratory protective equipment (RPE). Respirators filter the air to remove harmful substances and breathing apparatus (BA) provides clean air for the worker to breathe.

The Law

The laws governing the control of harmful substances in the workplace, and their supporting approved code of practice, say that you should only use RPE after you have taken all other reasonably practicable measures to prevent or control exposure. By going through the risk assessment process required by these laws, you can determine whether the use of RPE is necessary in your workplace. If you write your justification for using RPE on your risk assessment record you should remember the reasons behind your chosen control regime and be able to adapt it in the future as necessary. If you have fewer than five employees you are not legally required to record your risk assessment.

You should only select and use RPE:

■ where an inhalation exposure risk remains after you have put in place other reasonable controls (residual risk);

■ while you are putting in place other control measures (interim measures);

■ for emergency work or temporary failure of controls where other means of control are not reasonably practicable;

■ for short-term or infrequent exposure, such as during maintenance work, where you decide that other controls at the source of the exposure are not reasonably practicable. 21 There are situations where specialist advice may be needed to select the right RPE.

These include:

■ emergency escape – where you need to provide RPE for safe exit from an area where hazardous substances may be released suddenly after control systems fail;

■ emergency rescue. 22 Under the law, RPE is the last line of protection. Remember, RPE can protect only the wearer and if it is used incorrectly, or is poorly maintained, it is unlikely to provide the required protection. Note also that RPE can be uncomfortable to wear and may interfere with work, which can lead to incorrect use



A full  extensive guide to standards and markings can be found on the HSE website


Selection Criteria Examples for Respiratory Protection

Identify all hazards 

Dust - Dry fine powdery matter formed from the breakdown of solid materials, easily inhaled if airborne for long periods of time.

Metal Fumes - These fumes occur when metals are vaporized under high temperature during processes such as welding, the vapours condense and form particles which then become airborne and can be breathed in causing illnesses such as "metal fume fever"

Mist - Can often be a combination of several hazardous ingredients and are formed during atomisation and condensation processes.

"Oil mist may form when high pressure fuel oil, lubricating oil, hydraulic oil, or other oil is sprayed through a narrow crack, or when leaked oil connects with a high temperature surface vaporizes and comes in contact with low air temperature.

This happens while the fluids interact with the moving parts during machinery"  (

Gases - Airborne at room temparature - expand rapdily and move freely - guide to most common gas hazards

Vapours A vapor is the gaseous phase of a substance that, under ordinary conditions, exists as a liquid or solid.



 Choosing your respirator - Types of respirator

There are a number of styles of respiratory protection available, each offering its own features and benefits:

  • Cup-shaped respirators are simple in design and suit a wide variety of face shapes due to their convex shape, nose clips and twin-strap design. They are very durable and hold their shape well even in humid conditions.
  • Foldable respirators are very comfortable ,soft and flexible. They are easy to store are hygienically packed in singles.
  • Buckle-strap respirators contain a soft inner face seal along with adjustable headbands, allowing a highly tuned fit, they are robust and durable.
  • Valved respirators provide a high degree of ventilation and remove heat and moisture away from the face during heated area conditions. Because they allow the outward dispersion of breath , they are not suited for some environments such as clean rooms for example.
  • Disposable respirators offer protection against airborne particles and are portable and cost effective, allowing simple convenient protection. A single use throw away item.
  • Gas filters protect users from harmful gases and vapours. In most cases these tiny molecules are filtered by adsorption, collecting on the surface of the filter instead of being absorbed by it.

      Types Of Filter


      The iframe below follows a link to the HSE Respiratory protective equipment at work guide on their site.

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