What types of respiratory protection are there?
Inhaling clean air is vitally important. However, air quality in the workplace is not always adequate; it can contain hazardous substances, gases and vapours. Using the right respiratory protection makes inhaling clean air possible.
Types of respiratory protection
Respiratory protection can work in different ways. For example, it can filter the ambient air (dependent respiratory protection) or independently supply clean air (independent respiratory protection).
Dependent respiratory protection
With dependent respiratory protection the air is filtered. This is done by filters that are geared towards the type of particle or gas that is present in the air where the work is being carried out. There are four types available:
- Filter masks: these masks offer protection against particles, gases and vapours.
- Dust masks: These masks offer protection against dust, smoke and aerosols.
- Filter cans: There are three types available, namely combination filters, gas filters and dust filters. Filter cans can offer protection against gases, vapours, and solid and liquid particles.
- Motor-powered systems: These offer protection against all forms of air contamination. These systems feed a ventilator with clean air, which increases the comfort for the user.
Independent respiratory protection
The independent respiratory protection does not rely upon filters, and so can offer a higher degree of protection. The use of such systems is compulsory if there is less than 19% oxygen in the atmosphere at the workplace or if there are higher concentrations of hazardous substances present. If the concentration of hazardous substances rises above the legal limits, independent respiratory protection will have to be worn. There are three types of independent respiratory protection:
- Air breathing apparatus: This form of respiratory protection is the safest independent respiratory protection for spaces with low concentrations of oxygen. The bottles contain air that is supplied in the right dose to the mask.
- Breathing air line: It is also possible to supply a room or area with a breathing air line. Users can connect onto this using a hose.
- Closed circuit breathing apparatus: These generate oxygen and are usually used in emergencies, such as escape masks.
The type of protection apparatus that is necessary depends on the work and health risks. The equipment also has to fit the worker wearing it. Masks that are too large, or if a person is wearing glasses, may cause the face protection not to seal properly, resulting in leaks. That is why we recommended that you always carry out the face fit test.
Breathing protection comes under the category of personal protective equipment (PPE). This is what Dutch law stipulates about this:
- General care for health and safety at work.
- The employer has to identify and evaluate the risks in writing.
- The employer has to make PPEs available to employees.
- The employer has to provide the employees with the necessary information and instruction.
- The employee has to use the provided PPEs properly.
- The necessity to wear breathing protection apparatus is shown by the legally required risk inventory and evaluation (RI&E).