What Kind of Protection do Respirators offer?
A respirator is a gear that protects people from inhaling dangerous substances such as infectious particles and chemicals like silica. Respirators are protective equipment one can use when working in a hazardous environment.
They can either be half mask respirators or full face mask respirators.
To select suitable safety masks respirators, you need to assess the workplace operations, environments, and processes that can create a respiratory hazard.
You need to identify the risk as well as its airborne concentrations before you can decide on the right respirator. The assessment should be done by a professional safety personnel or an industrial hygienist.
How do respirators work?
Respirators work in three ways. They can filter particles from the air, chemically purify the air and also supply clean air from outside sources.
Here are different types of safety respirators:
Particulate respirators (Dust Masks).
Dust masks are the most simple, less expensive and least protective respirators. They will only protect you against particles. You will not be protected against vapors, chemicals or gasses. These respirators are ideal for low hazard environments.
You will find this kind of respirators mostly in hospitals. Dust masks are air- purifying respirators since they clean particles from the air while a person is still breathing. But, there are always many particles in the air for the particulate respirator to offer adequate protection.
Chemical cartridge respirators (half & full face gas mask).
This is a gas and chemical mask that filters or cleans chemical particles and gasses from the air while you breathe. Also known as an air filtering respirator, these respirators include a half face masks, a full face mask, and a cartridge/filter.
Its straps help in keeping the face piece to the users head. The cartridge sometimes has a filter for removing particles like biological weapons or any other kind of chemical component. When you breathe the air passes through the filter.
A chemical and gas respirator will only be effective when it is used with the ideal filter or cartridge for certain chemical or biological substances. Note that there are cartridges that can protect you from numerous hazards while others cannot.
Others will offer protection against all substances. This makes the process of selecting a filter or cartridge very complicated. It’s a must for you to know the dangerous materials you want to protect yourself from so as to opt for the right cartridge or filters.
Emergency breathing apparatus respirators.
These respirators are designed for an emergency and can only be used when a person is escaping to a safe area. You will find several types of escape respirators in the market today. Instead of having a face piece, most of them have a hood that has a neck seal.
This kind of escape mask is designed to be used once and for a short period (15 minutes to an hour). These masks come in different sizes although people with very large or small necks should confirm with the product supplier before buying them.
Powered air-purifying respirator.
A powered air-purifying respirator makes use of a fan to blow the air through its filter to the user. These respirators are easy to use, but you will require a fully charged battery for it to work well. They use similar filters like the ones for gas masks, so ensure you know the hazard as well as how much of it is in the air.
Self-contained breathing apparatus.
This is the respirator that is used commonly by a firefighter. The device uses its own clean air supply, so there is no need to have a cartridge or filter. The respirator will also protect you from dangerous chemicals that are highly concentrated.
One disadvantage about these respirators is that it is heavy. You will also need to be trained on how to use this respirator.
The air tanks can only manage to do their job for an hour or even less. This depends on how you breathe and their rating.
What are they made from?
Generally, dust masks are made using a cloth-like filter material. Chemical respirators are made using various materials such as neoprene, silicone, and rubber. Rubber and neoprene are long-lasting and rigid materials.
Usually, silicone is liked because it is flexible, comfortable, and easy to clean. Full mask respirators come with ratchet suspensions or strap harnesses. Ratchet suspensions are easy to adjust, but the harness type may be worn under a hat.
Should the respirator fit me?
If the respirator doesn’t make a tight seal around the face or nose, there is a high chance that you’ll breathe in contaminated air. The air will leak through the openings. Most respirators will come in numerous sizes and styles so that they can fit different people with different faces. The best way to know if the respirator fits is by first testing the respirator. This can be done by a health and safety expert before you can wear it in a dangerous environment.
Cautions when using respirators.
Some limitations apply when using respirators. Each kind of respirator varies, and they all have their own set of restrictions, cautions, and limitations of use. A tight-fitting respirator will need fit testing to make sure it fits adequately to the face.
Certain emergency respirators utilize a mouthpiece and nose clip, which is clenched between the teeth. Some respirators will prevent you from talking where else others have electronic communication gadgets or speaking diaphragms. Any respirator that has been contaminated with hazardous chemicals must be cleaned and disinfected or disposed of properly.
You need to be trained to use any kind of respirator, maybe with the exception of dust masks. Some respirators come with a package that contains some instructions on how to use the device. This is even more critical when you’re using a device like a spray paint mask respirator.
Training is vital because it will keep you informed about how you will use, store, maintain or dispose of the respirator. This information is usually presented by the manufacturer, vendor or distributor. If you don’t use your respirator correctly, you will not be protected from the danger, and you can still get hurt.