Respiratory Protection

In certain working environments, dust and fumes can be a risk - one it’s important to protect workers from. Respiratory protection is available in a range of forms, including dust masks and air-purifying filter respirators, to enable employees to work in these areas without damaging their health.

Different levels of protection will be necessary for the individual environments, and it’s essential to understand the risk factors that are present before specifying what personal protective equipment (PPE) is required.

At Seton, we stock a wide range of respiratory products, enabling you to choose the specific type needed for your workforce (please see our buying guide).

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As an employer, you have a responsibility to your workforce to control the level of hazardous substances that are present in the environment and to both prevent and manage the degree of exposure to these materials.

Respiratory protective equipment is an essential piece of kit within working environments where there are high levels of dust, fumes and chemicals present. When the correct type of respirator is provided and worn properly, it can protect employees from these hazards and create a safer workplace.

Where the right safety equipment is not used, it can result in immediate health problems as well as longer-term conditions.

Hazardous substances



There are several activities that can particularly increase exposure to these hazards, including cutting materials such as stone, concrete or wood, which creates harmful levels of dust; handling liquids that contain volatile solvents; and the use of dusty powder.

For respiratory equipment to be effective at managing exposure to these materials, it needs to be appropriate for the hazard present and reduce the level of exposure so as not to cause health issues. It also needs to be suitable for the individual wearer, the environment they’re working in and the task they’re undertaking. This will ensure the employee can conduct their duties without being impeded by respiratory equipment.

When using any type of PPE, including respiratory equipment or hand protection, this should only be needed as a last resort, to minimise any risks left after other safety measures have been implemented.

Buying Respiratory Protection Equipment



It’s essential to understand the individual hazards that are present in the environment before selecting respiratory equipment. These can be produced by a liquid or solid and be present as particles, gases or vapours, or a combination of forms in some instances.

There are varying types of respirators that can be used to filter out a range of substances. The filter material that is used to remove the risk will differ according to the hazardous substance that is present and the form that it is in.

The two main styles of filters are particle and gas or vapour filters, and it’s imperative to understand that those designed for a one type of substance will not protect against the other. There are filters that can protect wearers from a range of different substances at the same time.

Another factor you need to consider when choosing respiratory protective equipment is the needs of the user. For instance, do they suffer from asthma or any other respiratory condition? Do they have skin allergies? Is there any heart problem present? These health issues may limit their choice of protective equipment.

When selecting respiratory products, you need to think about the work rate of the individual - how long they’ll be wearing the PPE for- and their vision needs, such as whether they wear glasses and if the respirator block their view.

The use of other head-worn PPE, for example, ear muffs or hard hats, can impact the wearing of respirators, and it’s important to check that it is fitted tight against the skin to prevent any gaps appearing.

Maintaining respiratory protection



All forms of respirators and dust masks will only be effective if the product is maintained correctly and taken out of use when it is no longer in a good working condition. A thorough maintenance programme should be conducted regularly by trained professionals, and occasional-use respirators need to be checked before each use.

Key tasks that should be conducted as part of the maintenance include changing any filter cartridges that are replaceable, cleaning the equipmentand accessories, maintaining and repairing the valves, examining the straps for any signs of damage, and checking the flow rate and battery charge on powered devices.

When the PPE is not in use, it must be kept in a clean storage area to reduce the risk of damage, deterioration or contamination. This should be easily accessible by workers to allow them to store the equipment during their breaks. Before they are stored, respirators need to be cleaned so that the storage area isn’t contaminated.

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