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How to Choose The Right Respiratory Protection PPE?

Best PPE For Respiratory Protection!

People wearing PPE for respiratory protection

The COVID-19 pandemic was a terrible catastrophe. It was during this pandemic when people came to know about the respiratory protection PPE like the N95, FFP2, KN95 respirators, or surgical face masks, and other such related equipment. This personal protective equipment is responsible for respiratory protection. They do not allow pathogens to enter the respiratory tract. 

Apart from this respiratory protection PPE, some other respirators and masks can help to breathe in extreme situations (like a fire hazard, underwater, and other similar situations). There are many other PPE for respiratory protection that restrict smoke, dust, asbestos, and other such dangerous materials from inhaling. Industries often house many hazards. Many industrial workplaces have high concentrations of smoke, particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide, and other dangerous gases. In such extreme working conditions of workplaces, respirators or face masks are always recommended. 

People wearing PPE for respiratory protection

Individuals working at these industrial workplaces are often educated & trained about these hazards, possible mishaps, and prevention from them. PPE plays an important role in protection against perils & hazards. So, it becomes important that an individual working in industrial workplaces are well aware of the possible accidents, its prevention, and the right use of PPE against the perils. In this article, we are discussing different types of respiratory protection equipment used in various circumstances.

Why Do We Need PPE For Respiratory Protection?

Workplace & Other Hazards

The industry is the hub of many unit processes & operations like blending, grinding, acid treatment, welding, blasting, and many others. These processes & operations often involve the conversion of the raw materials to marketable products along with some greenhouse gases, and in some cases harmful gases as well. Industries like construction, manufacturing, mining, metallurgy, agriculture, fertilizer, food processing, energy generation, agro-based industries, and many more release or utilize toxic gases. The quantities vary from industry to industry, but anyways these gases can be dangerous if they are inhaled even in small quantities. 

People wearing PPE for respiratory protection

Also, industries like research and healthcare use PPE for respiratory protection against pathogens. During the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing a face mask was one of the mandatory guidelines implemented across the globe. Wall painting is another occupation where respiratory protection PPE must be used. In the cities with high pollution, even ordinary citizens wear respirators or dust masks to protect themselves from the poisonous gases.

Person wearing PPE for respiratory protection

PPE for respiratory protection is responsible for protecting against these dangerous toxic gases, pathogens, and dust from entering our respiratory tract. PPE for respiratory protection differs based on the type of the hazard, the extent of the hazard, the degree of protection required, and the level of comfort required.

Why is PPE Training important?

An individual must undergo training related to occupational safety & health. This is where the individuals are trained about the PPE. It is the responsibility of the employer that his employees are well aware of all the circumstances. Proper training of PPE is quintessential. Moreover, if we take a keen look at PPE used for respiratory protection, then proper training is necessary. This is due to the peril involved in the absence or the ineffectiveness of the PPE used for respiratory protection. 

Check out the following article for more details on PPE training.

Person wearing PPE for respiratory protection

PPE for respiratory protection must be handled, stored, and worn properly for maximum effectiveness. This can only be possible due to proper training. Also, this eliminates any chances of accidents due to a lack of information on accidents & improper training. In short, proper training ensures the reduction in the injuries and fatality rate in case of any mishap.

Why should an employer worry about PPE for respiratory protection?

Humans are sensitive to many gases. Even dust and particulate matter beyond a certain concentration range can damage the lungs. Constant inhaling of fumes, vapors, and smoke can also be harmful. Asbestos, silica, and other chemicals are also some of the most dangerous pollutants for the human respiratory tract. These may cause work-related respiratory diseases. Industries are often responsible for occupational respiratory illness and disorders like lung cancer, pneumoconiosis, COPD, asbestosis, fibrosis, silicosis, alveolitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, allergic reactions, and many others.  

Check out the blog for more information on occupational respiratory illnesses.

Person wearing PPE for respiratory protection

Individuals working in an industry are often in repeated contact with the same pollutant that can harm the respiratory tract due to congested workplaces and lack of ventilation. Without any of these proper protection methods, the working individuals eventually fall prey to work-related respiratory disorders. For an employer, it has two major ill effects. The foremost issue would be the worker compensation that he would be paying the individual. The duration of this compensation can be as long as 240 weeks. Next, the employer would obviously lose the services of his employee who has fallen prey to an occupational respiratory illness. Also, the suffering of the employee must also be taken into account.

What should be the efforts taken by an employer about PPE for respiratory protection?

Woman wearing PPE for respiratory protection

Employers can take necessary efforts to avoid most occupational respiratory disorders by implementing simple procedures. In some cases, completely avoiding may not be possible. In such cases, the employer should take efforts to at least reduce the chances or severity of these occupational diseases. To reduce the risk of occupational respiratory illnesses, an employer must do the following:

  1. Reduce exposure (especially constant repeated exposure) to pollutants by the introduction of measures to monitor as well as limit the exposure.
  2. Educate the individuals about the ill effects of occupational hazards, disorders, and their prevention.
  3. Ensure proper ventilation in the workplace.
  4. Ensure the workplace is large and is not congested.
  5. Prepare industrial workplace safety guidelines with a set of precautions and protection methods.
  6. Regular health checkups that include evaluation of lungs.
  7. Most importantly, use of respiratory protection PPE like face masks and respirators. Proper training must also be provided.

Note: Individuals should stop (or at least reduce) smoking.

Person wearing PPE for respiratory protection

Employers should understand that many nations, including the US, have very stringent laws regarding worker compensation. The severity may increase when the mishap has occurred due to the negligence of the employer. Lack of provision of PPE as well as training related to PPE is considered to be negligent behavior from the employer.

Curious ones can check out our blog on different types of PPE that are worn in an industry.

Why is it better to don PPE for respiratory protection?

In the US, occupational respiratory diseases are the sole largest contributor to occupational disorders in terms of fatality, severity, and even preventability. Repeated exposure to pollutants is the major reason for occupational respiratory disorders. According to the WHO, the global impact of occupational respiratory disorders is a staggering 50 million individuals. Most of these individuals fall prey to these respiratory illnesses due to a lack of awareness, training, and PPE for respiratory protection.

Man wearing PPE for respiratory protection

It is estimated that around 3 percent of individuals working as coal workers in the US fall prey to occupational respiratory disorders. These workers fall ill because of working in high-risk conditions without proper safety gear. This is the situation of one of the most developed industrialized nations. The situation could be way more worse in other developing and under-developed nations.

So, to protect the individuals from such hazards, it becomes essential that they must wear proper PPE for respiratory protection. PPE for respiratory protection should be chosen properly after analyzing the hazard conditions of the workplace. The individual may also take account of the comfort aspect. Accordingly, a well-designed and proper PPE for respiratory protection must be chosen. PPE for respiratory protection should also be donned properly so that it can work at its highest potential.

Woman wearing PPE for respiratory protection

What Are The Different Types Of PPE for Respiratory Protection? 

There are different gases, vapors, fumes, smoke, and other elements that can damage our respiratory system. Depending upon the severity of exposure, and multiple other factors, we need to choose appropriate PPE for respiratory protection. Broadly classified, the respiratory protection PPE are face masks and respirators.

If you are curious, then read our article on the difference between a face mask and a respirator.

In most scenarios, respirators are preferred as they provide more protection than face masks. Face masks are picked over respirators in situations where comfort is more important. Face masks and respirators both are available as disposable and reusable. 

Let’s look at a few types of PPE for respiratory protection in detail.


Man wearing PPE for respiratory protection

A respirator is a special respiratory protection PPE that protects an individual by restricting the entry of pathogens, particulate matter, dust particles, carcinogenic particles, radioactive particles, gases, vapors, and other fine particles. Depending upon the element against which protection is intended, respirators are tailor-made accordingly. 

There are different types of respirators based on the regulatory agency that approves the respirator. N95 respirators have to pass the stringent regulations of the US standards. FFP respirators follow the European standards while the KN95 respirators have to be approved by the Chinese regulatory. 

For more details, check out our blog on Ultimate Guide on Respirators.

Woman wearing PPE for respiratory protection

Face Masks:

Face masks are a protective covering around the mouth and nose. They are classified as general cloth masks, surgical masks, dust masks, and mist masks. Surgical masks are FDA-approved cloth masks used by doctors, scientists, and researchers. They restrict the passage of pathogens and saliva droplets and are made of non-woven fabric. Surgical masks are disposable.

Person holding a dust mask

Dust Mask is a paper pad mask with elastic straps. It is an effective barrier for pollutants, allergens, and dust particles. They are widely used by construction and cleaning employees for protection against dust particles. Mist or paint masks are used for the protection against fumes or mist of pollutants.

For more details, check out our blog on the Definitive Face Mask Guide.

Other Types:

Firefighter wearing PPE for respiratory protection

There are various other types of respiratory protection PPE like the SCBA, Full Face Airline, PAPRs, SARs, and many others. In fire accidents, emergency escape breathing devices are used.

How And When Do We Use PPE for Respiratory Protection?

Woman wearing PPE for respiratory protection

PPE for respiratory protection is widely used in industrial workplaces for protection and prevention against occupational respiratory disorders. Depending upon the extent and type of hazard, there are different types of PPE for respiratory protection. Donning and doffing the respiratory protection PPE requires proper training. Once, an individual has undergone training, the donning and doffing process becomes quite simple.


The industry is a risky place with several hazards lurking to strike. Many unit operations and processes release gases, vapors, fumes, smoke, dust, particulate matter, and other such elements that can potentially harm the respiratory tract. Any damage to the lungs due to occupational hazards can trigger a worker’s right to compensation. This means that the employer should take necessary actions for the protection of his employees. 

Firefighter wearing PPE for respiratory protection

PPE for respiratory protection is a compulsory requirement in industries with respiratory hazards and risks. Depending upon the extent, severity, and type of the hazard, one must choose between different types of PPE for respiratory protection. The two major types are respirators and face masks. With proper training, donning and doffing of PPE for respiratory protection is quite easy.