Respiratory Protection Equipment

Legislation relating to the workplace must be complied with and employers have a duty to do so. At the top of the list is a requirement to ensure the health and safety of employees are not compromised and that all the necessary rules are followed, and the safety equipment and clothing required by law is provided.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) at work

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (as amended) requires employers to provide equipment to mitigate health and safety risks. Every workplace has risks, some more than others, and an employer must reduce the risks by providing personal protective equipment for employees. Such equipment includes respiratory devices, safety footwear, hard hats, gloves, eye protection and high-visibility clothing.

Carrying out a risk assessment of every area of your workplace will enable you to decide what health and safety protection equipment your employees need.

Respiratory protection guide

A risk of exposure to potentially hazardous dust and fumes in the workplace makes respiratory protection essential for workers in environments where that threat is present. It’s particularly important to have equipment that matches the specific requirements of the person wearing it – one size does not fit all.

So, what types of occupation are likely to require respiratory protection?

Industry areas for respiratory protection

The construction industry, automotive workplaces and foundries are the most likely sectors where this type of protection is necessary. Employees working with welding equipment, cutting gear and similar, will need to be protected, as will those working in foundries where silica is used, and those carrying out abrasive blasting, cutting paving and kerbstones, or working as stonemasons.

If you don’t provide the necessary respiratory protection for jobs that require it, you could be liable for prosecution and a compensation claim from an employee who has been injured.

Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) types

Breathing apparatus and filtering devices are the two types of RPE commonly used in the workplace.

Filtering devices remove and protect from contaminants present in the workplace. The product range includes dust masks, face masks, half and full-face respirators and powered respirators that use a fan. If you have a negative pressure device, an air-purifying filter is attached, and contaminated air is drawn through it.

Breathing apparatus includes airlines, fresh-air hoses and demand valves, all designed to use an independent supply of quality air for breathing, which is delivered by a compressor or cylinder. Known as positive pressure devices, they are used for workplace exposures that are more hazardous and where a reliable air supply is needed.

When you carry out a workplace risk assessment, consider if you need filtering devices to protect your employees – such as masks that are unpowered but purify the air – or breathing apparatus that supplies clean air via a powered mechanism.

Maintaining a safe workplace

Safety in the workplace is paramount for any employer, and where respiratory protection is required, it is important to ensure the equipment provided is fit for purpose. Researching what is appropriate for your needs and supplying the correct equipment will protect your employees’ health and benefit your business.

Disclaimer: The information provided through Legislation Watch is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Legislation Watch is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.

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