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Is Your Respirator Keeping You Safe?

Posted On August 15, 2018

When used correctly, respirators are an effective way to protect workers in certain types of work environments where air quality is compromised. However, when workers use the wrong type of respirator, or do no use one correctly, they are at greater risk for long-term illnesses because of their exposure to dangerous contaminants. Regardless of whether a respirator is worn, workers who suffer work-related illnesses have the right to seek damages with the assistance of workers compensation lawyers.

Using the Right Respirator

Depending on the type of respirator, there are two types of functions performed. An atmosphere-supplying respirator provides the wearer with clean air that comes from a self-contained or remote source. SCUBA tanks and airline respirators are examples. Air-purifying and particle respirators use a filtration process to remove contaminant particles or purify the air. This is done by either a canister attachment or filtration cartridge.

Another factor to consider is whether the respirator is full or half-mask. Wearing a half-mask respirator will not provide complete protection for the wearer’s face if the person is working around airborne debris or dust particles. In that situation, it is recommended to wear a face shield with the respirator or switch to a full-mask model.

Proper Fit is Critical for All Users

A respirator cannot provide full protection if it does not fit properly to make a seal between the wearer’s face and the mask. Facial hair limits the effectiveness of using a respirator because it interferes with the face-to-facepiece seal. Therefore, a full beard should never be worn if the worker uses a respirator.

Users should be fit tested annually to ensure a proper fit of their respirators. The testing should be done using qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative testing methods rely on the user’s senses to determine if they are experiencing irritation or can smell or taste a contaminant that the respirator should be blocking. Quantitative methods would rely on testing the effectiveness of the respirator with instruments that measure leaks between the mask and the user’s face.

Establish a Maintenance and Change-Out Schedule

Lax maintenance routines including neglecting to clean the mask or change-out filters regularly lessen the effectiveness of respirators and could lead to workplace illnesses. Depending on the hazard that the apparatus is protecting the wearer from, filters may require frequent changing. It is recommended that a change-out schedule is established.

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