Respiratory Protection

Respiratory Protection: Two Major Categories

  1. The first category is Air Purifying Respirators (APRs) which are particle (dust) chemical cartridges but NO visor plate
  2. The second category is Atmosphere Supply Respirators, including self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), air line systems and protective suits that completely enclose the worker and incorporate a life support system.

Air Purifying Respirators (APRs)

Only APRs will be dealt with here as SCBA respirators requires much more specific information and training. If you need to use Atmosphere Supplying Respirators, you should get expert advice. There are two basic types of APRs. The choice depends on your job, labor, cost, and your maintenance facility:

  1. Disposable fibre type with or without charcoal or chemical filter "buttons" and
  2. The reusable rubber face mask type with disposable or rechargeable cartridges

An APR is only as good as its seal and its ability to filter out the contaminants it was designed to filter. It's Important to remember that APRs are limited to areas where there is enough oxygen to support life. APRs don't supply or make oxygen. The service life is affected by the type of APR, the wearer breathing demand, and the concentration of airborne contaminants. When an APR is required, consult the Material SafetyData Sheet (MSDS), OH&S or supplier for the exact specifications for the APR.

Facial hair can prevent a good seal and fit of an APR: One to three days growth is the worst. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter regarding the mask, filters, cartridges and other components. Workers who must use respiratory protection should be clean shaven.

Combination Respirators for Painting & Welding

This type of APR combines separate chemical and mechanical filters. This allows for the change of the different filters when one of them becomes plugged or exhausted before the other filter (usually the dust filter plugs up before the chemical filter). This type of respirator is suitable for most spray painting and welding. For more information check the:

  • Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)
  • OH&S Act, Regulation & Code
  • The local OH&S office
  • The safety equipment supplier

For more information, look at: Alberta OH&S Act, Regulation & Code CSA Standards "Compressed Breathing AID" Z180.1 - M1978 “Selection, Care and Use of Respirators" 294.4 - M1982 Chemical Hazards Regulation (Alberta Reg. 8/82)

Respiratory Protection: Best Practices
Do Don't
  • Train workers very carefully in the APR's use, care and limitations
  • Ensure that respirators are properly cleaned and disinfected after each shift, according to the manufacturer's instructions
  • Dispose of exhausted cartridges and masks in sealed bags or containers
  • Keep new, unused filters separate from old, used filters
  • Monitor APR use; they are useless just hung around the neck
  • Replace filters when breathing becomes difficult
  • Use for protection against materials which are toxic in small amounts
  • Use with materials that are highly irritating to the eyes
  • Use with gases that can't be detected by odor or throat or nose irritation
  • Use with gases not effectively halted by chemical cartridges regardless of concentration (read the cartridge label)
  • Use respirators or masks if the serviceability is in doubt ,
  • use APRs where oxygen content in the air is less than 18 % or 18 kilopascals (partial pressure or greater)