Spectacles may also interfere with the fit of half-masks, which means that contact lenses may be preferable in these situations, although they bring their own problems. For example, if the contact lenses are dislodged, the wearer may remove the RPE to replace them while still in the hazardous area, leading to exposure. In addition, dislodged lenses can become jammed in RPE valves, leading to loss of protection, and contact lens wearers may be more susceptible to discomfort from the drying effects of air flows.
As a result, careful consideration and additional training should be provided for contact lens or spectacle wearers who require RPE.
Practical Guide to Respirator Usage in Industry (2nd ed.)
Different forms of head-worn PPE can, for instance, interfere to prevent one or more of the components from working correctly — such as when goggles are combined with a half mask, or the harness of a mask and a safety helmet. Therefore, when possible, employers should choose integrated PPE — such as eye, face, head and respiratory protection provided by a fan-assisted helmet respirator. However, if different forms of PPE are worn with respiratory protection, employers should check they work effectively together.
However, CE marking does not automatically mean an item of RPE is suitable for a task, and employers must still carefully select the right type of RPE for the job and hazard in hand.
Once the appropriate type of RPE has been identified, it is a good idea to give wearers a choice of several different models so they can choose the one they like. Respirators are the first of the two major categories of RPE, and there are many types available, including:.
The correct type of filters must be used for respirators, depending on the substances workers may be exposed to. For example, most gas filters only filter a single type of gas, and need to be used accordingly. Meanwhile, respirators with particle filters do not trap gases or vapours, including organic liquid mists and sprays, while gas filters tend to break down when faced with airborne particles. Combined filters are available for situations where protection is needed against both particles and a gas or vapour.
However, employers should be aware that filters do have a number of limitations:. They have a limited working life because the adsorbent, which attracts the contaminant, rapidly becomes saturated. Many gases and vapours are toxic at low concentrations, so people wearing a filter respirator cannot rely on their own sense of smell to detect contamination if their filter has failed. Many gases and vapours have immediate and serious effects if inhaled, even at low concentrations. Respirators may not always provide the necessary level of protection and instead breathing apparatus may be required — for example, in oxygen-deficient environments.
As the air supply comes from a separate, uncontaminated source, the protection is much more robust. As with respirators, there is a wide variety of breathing apparatus to choose from.
These include fresh air hose equipment, continuous flow compressed air line equipment, compressed air line equipment with a demand valve and self-contained breathing apparatus. Breathing apparatus is more complicated to use than a respirator; users will require more in-depth training, and a more rigorous maintenance regime would be needed. All breathing apparatus requires a source of clean air either located nearby or incorporated into the equipment, such as a compressed air cylinder. In some work areas employers will need to provide an emergency breathing facility in case the selected breathing apparatus fails to operate properly.
Nuisance dust masks usually consist of a thin metal plate which holds a piece of gauze over the nose and mouth or a lightweight filter that looks similar to a disposable dust respirator. However, unlike appropriate half mask respirators, nuisance dust masks are only designed to catch large particles and must not be used for work involving harmful dusts and other dangerous substances.
Workplace respirator testing - Wikipedia
One of the major dangers when wearing RPE is the mask leaking, and one of the main causes of this is poor-fitting equipment. As a result, the initial selection process for tight-fitting facepieces, such as full- and half-face masks, and for filtering facepieces, must include a suitable fit test by a competent person, with periodic re-testing carried out as good practice. In addition, since people come in all shapes and sizes, it is unlikely that one particular type and size of RPE facepiece will fit everyone, and fit testing will help ensure the right equipment is selected for each individual.
Fit testing is also a useful way of highlighting to RPE users the consequences of wearing poor-fitting RPE and its misuse. Fit testing should be carried out at the initial selection stage, when individual users can be given a choice of adequate models of RPE.
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The make, model, type and size of facepiece the individual wears during a successful fit test must then be made available for their use at work. If an employee wears more than one type of tight-fitting facepiece, then each type should be fit tested. Repeat fit testing will be required if the user changes to a different model of RPE or to a different-sized facepiece, or if there is a significant change in their facial characteristics — for example, if they experience a loss or gain in weight. Fit tests involve using a test agent to determine the extent of face-seal leakage while the respirator is being worn under test conditions, and must be carried out by a competent person.
Employers should therefore ensure that the person who carries out the fit test is appropriately trained, qualified and experienced, and is provided with appropriate information to undertake each particular test. The British Safety Industry Federation BSIF has established an accreditation system to make it easier for employers to confirm the competency of individuals performing facepiece fit testing. To be registered under the Fit2Fit scheme, fit testers must pass an industry-recognised examination proving they have a thorough knowledge of the HSE guidance on fit testing and know how to carry out fit tests in practical circumstances.
Further details on the scheme can be found at: www. Detailed guidance on fit testing can be found in the HSE document, Fit testing of respiratory protective equipment facepieces — see www. Once the correct type of RPE has been selected, employers must take further steps to ensure its correct use, include user training, supervision and monitoring and the establishment of adequate maintenance systems.
The extent and detail of information, instruction and training for RPE users will depend on the complexity of the equipment and the environment it will be used in, but a typical training programme should cover the following:. RPE suppliers can provide information on the training required to use and maintain their products, and in many cases will offer literature, videos and training courses of their own. The training should also stress how employees have a legal duty to use and maintain the RPE in accordance with the training and instruction provided, and to report any defects or problems with it immediately.
RPE should always be examined before it is put on to check it is safe to use or whether it needs to be cleaned or disinfected.
If it is not in perfect working order, it should not be worn. Therefore, workers using respirators should carry out a thorough visual examination of potential problem parts, such as seals and visors, and check the age and condition of the filter.
Respiratory equipment with a face seal should also be checked every time it is used to ensure it fits correctly. In addition, anyone using breathing apparatus should ensure that there are adequate flow rates for powered or air-fed devices, while users of fresh-air hose equipment and compressed air line breathing apparatus also need to carry out pre-operation checks.
Certain types of RPE are reusable and must therefore be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
What is RPE?
Rubber facepieces can usually be cleaned with soap and lukewarm water, and after washing, they must be thoroughly rinsed to completely remove any soap or detergent. The equipment should then be fully dried, reassembled and placed in a protective container, like a re-sealable polythene bag. Generally speaking, rubber items should not be heated to more than 60 degrees Celsius, and chemical solvents should not be used as they can cause damage. It may also be necessary to decontaminate RPE at the exit of a contaminated area, to minimise the spread of a hazardous substance.
As well as cleaning RPE and carrying out pre-use checks, an overall maintenance system must be established to ensure the equipment continues to provide the necessary level of protection. For a start, most types of RPE — other than single use equipment — should be thoroughly maintained, examined and, where appropriate, tested, at least once a month.
However, if the RPE is used only occasionally, an examination and test should be carried out before use, although the test interval should not exceed three months. Simple maintenance procedures — such as replacing filters — can be carried out by the wearer following adequate instruction. However, repairs to more complex equipment such as breathing apparatus will have to be carried out by someone with specialist training. Only spare parts from the original manufacturer should be used during maintenance and repair of damaged RPE, and a sufficient stock of spare parts — from filters to head harness straps — should be available at all times that staff might need them.
In addition, records of examination and testing for RPE must be kept for five years as a general rule. Workers should also be trained never to leave RPE lying around in dirty work areas as this increases the risk of exposure to hazardous substances due to contamination on the inside of the facepiece. Finally, used RPE must be correctly disposed of.
The equipment, its components and the materials used to disinfect and clean it may need to be considered as hazardous waste, depending on the nature of contamination, and special rules may apply to their disposal. Working with hazardous substances in confined spaces, such as a liquid storage tank, chamber, silo, pit or trench, should be avoided whenever possible. Vapours do not escape easily from a confined space and can build up to dangerously poisonous, flammable or even explosive levels very quickly.
The Confined Spaces Regulations therefore require employers to ensure, wherever possible, that a confined space is safe to work in, without the need for RPE. Where a risk assessment does identify the need for RPE while entering a confined space, it should be used in addition to other control measures such as ventilation, and as part of a full safe system of work.
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In most cases, breathing apparatus is the only type of RPE suitable for work in confined spaces. Respirators are not appropriate because they do not provide adequate protection against high concentrations of hazardous gases or vapours and should never be used in oxygen-deficient atmospheres. In some situations, workers can be provided with escape breathing apparatus or self-rescue escape sets to ensure safe entry or escape from a confined space in the event of an emergency.
However, since these usually only supply breathable air for a short time, they are unsuitable for normal work in confined spaces. Employees carrying out work on asbestos-containing materials will also need RPE, and there are strict legal controls requiring employers to prevent workers being exposed to asbestos fibres in the first instance and to reduce any exposure to below a specific legal level. Although RPE is widely used throughout UK workplaces, it must only be used as a last resort measure — controlling or eliminating hazardous substances at source is not only more effective, but can turn out to be cheaper than issuing items of RPE to staff.
However, if a risk assessment shows that respiratory equipment is a suitable control measure, employers must ensure it is suited to the demands of the job, fits the wearer correctly, is used by competent and trained people and is properly cleaned and maintained. It is also vital that respirators and breathing apparatus are comfortable and do not interfere with the performance of other personal protective equipment, since removing RPE even for a few minutes can expose workers to respiratory hazards.
Related Practical Guide to Respirator Usage in Industry, Second Edition
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