How to Choose the Right Respiratory Protection

Monday, 7 January 2019

Solid and liquid particles, including nanoparticles, such as dust, fumes, mists, fibres, radioactive particulates, vapours, gases, and micro-organisms, can cause significant hazards to health when inhaled. Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is part of personal protective equipment (PPE), which is dedicated to protecting against life threatening situations or hazards that may cause serious and irreversible health damage. This educational guide is here to keep you informed about all the available options when choosing your respiratory protection, and ultimately help you to pick the right one for your work needs.

EN Standards for Respiratory Protective Equipment

The same as any other type of PPE, respiratory protective equipment comes with a set of standards that inform you of its suitability and protection levels. Most commonly you will come across the following standards:

  • EN 136 - Respiratory Protective Devices (Full Face Masks): specifies minimum requirements for full face masks for respiratory protective devices.
  • EN 140 - Respiratory Protective Devices (Half Masks and Quarter Masks): specifies minimum requirements for half masks and quarter masks for use as part of respiratory protective devices, except escape apparatus and diving apparatus.
  • EN 14387 - Respiratory Protective Devices (Gas Filters and Combined Filters): refers to gas filters and combined filters for use as components in unassisted respiratory protective devices.
  • EN 143 - Respiratory Protective Devices (Particle Filters): specifies particle filters for use as components in unassisted respiratory protective devices with the exception of escape apparatus and filtering face pieces.
  • EN 148 - Respiratory Protective Devices (Threads for Facepieces): standard thread protection

Identifying the Hazard

Most often, RPE will protect you from either solid particles or airborne substances. Solid particles consist of:

  • Dust: Solid particles of several sizes generated by crushing solid materials.
  • Mist: Particles of evaporated liquid of water or organic basis.
  • Fumes: Small size particles of evaporated or melted solids, generally coming from combustion.

Airborne substances, on the other hand, are gas and vapour. They can be fluid, generated by the passage from liquid or solid status to airborne, through evaporation or boiling.

Dust and Aerosol Filters

When it comes to protection against solid particles, there are three types of filters used with RPE that offer different levels of protection. These are:

  • FFP3 - protects against solid aerosols and/or liquids listed as toxic. It offers 99% filtration, 2% total inwards leakage (TIL), 50 x TLV nominal protection factor (NPF), and 20 x TLV assigned protection value (APV).
  • FFP2 - protects from slightly toxic or irritating solid aerosols, and/or liquids. It offers 94% filtration, 8% total inwards leakage (TIL), 12.5 x TLV nominal protection factor (NPF), and 10 x TLV assigned protection value (APV).
  • FFP1 - protects from non-toxic dust and/or water-based aerosols. It offers 80% filtration, 22% total inwards leakage (TIL), 4.5 x TLV nominal protection factor (NPF), and 4 x TLV assigned protection value (APV).

Gas and Vapour Filters

Airborne substance require a different type of filters altogether. Below is a list of common gas and vapours filters, and their applications:

  • A - Organic vapours and gases with a boiling point of 65°C and above (solvents and hydrocarbons).
  • B - Inorganic vapours and gases (excluding carbon dioxide/monoxide).
  • E - Sulphur dioxide and other acidic vapours and gases.
  • K - Ammonia and its organic ammonia derivatives, vapours and gases.

Glossary of Terms

The world of personal protective equipment is full of confusing terms that are important to understand if you want to find the right protection for the hazards you are facing. We hope you find our glossary of terms useful when searching for your ideal respiratory filter.

  • Total Inward Leakage (TIL): Leakage of the ambient atmosphere into the respiratory interface.
  • Nominal Protection Factor (NPF): Nominal level of protection given by respiratory PPE (in laboratory conditions).
  • Assigned Protection Value (APV): Level of protection which can realistically by expected in the workplace conditions.
  • TLV: Contaminant concentration to which the user may be exposed without health effects.

These are some of the most important factors to consider when purchasing your respiratory protection. Do you have any specific requirements for your workwear? We'd love to hear from you – why not leave us a comment below!