Respiratory Gear FAQ

Is the use of respiratory equipment required by law?

In certain hazardous conditions or in a workplace where fumes or dust particles are present, O H and S regulations, and company policies require that appropriate respiratory is worn.

Is a disposable mask all that is needed to protect against harmful airborne material?

No. There a six types of airborne hazards – Dust, mist, fume, vapour, gas and oxygen deficiency/enrichment.

Respiratory gear is designed, manufactured, tested and certified for use against a number of different hazards and should be selected for a specific purpose. Charts are available to choose the appropriate protection. Check the charts and the label/type of each respirator.

A P1 rating protects against mechanically generated particles. P2 rated respirators protect against mechanically and thermally generated particles. Respirators fitted with an Active Carbon Filter protects against nuisance-level organic vapours.

How do I recognise the six forms of airborne hazards?

Dust
Formed by the breaking down of solid materials, normally when materials are altered. For example, sanding, cutting, grinding and brushing. In general, the smaller the dust particle, the greater the hazard that it presents. Fibres from materials should also be treated as dusts.

Mist
Formed by the processes that involve atomisation (such as spraying, cleaning and cutting/grinding using coolants) and consist of tiny liquid droplets rather like steam in a bathroom.

Fume
Formed by the vapourisation of a solid material by the application of intense heat. Extremely fine particulates are formed as the fume cools and condenses. Many processes form fume, such as smelting, pouring metals and many welding applications.

Vapour
A gaseous state formed by evaporation from substances that are normally solid or liquid at room temperature. Generally released at room temperature (petrol, methylated spirits), many industrial processes used in degreasing vapourise particularly quickly once heated.

Gas
An air like substance at room temperature. Gases can travel far, very quickly.

Oxygen Deficiency/Enrichment
When an atmosphere is likely to contain less than 19% oxygen (or where conditions may exist in the future for this to happen); and in certain circumstances where the risk may be oxygen enrichment, which can lead to explosion and severe impairment of operatives. Note: Monitoring devices should always be used to check oxygen levels of an unknown environment. Conventional dust masks are not suitable for oxygen deficient situations.

Which type of mask should I use?

Type of mask Description When do you use it
Disposable Mask A Disposable Respirator is a maintenance free, single shift , single use item. This means that when you put it on and start your shift and then take it off (for example a tea break), the shift is over and the mask should be replaced. The mask can be used for a maximum of an 8 hour shift. When a maintenance free form of respiratory protection is required or preferred.
Combination Mask A device combining the filtration capabilities of gas and particulate filters. When the filtration of multiple types of substances is required and are likely to be present in the environment in which you will be working.
Half Mask Respirator A close fitting device to cover the nose, mouth and chin and can be secured in position by suitable means, such as a head strap. These are to be used with the appropriate Filter Cartridges. When certain gases and vapours are required to be removed from the inhaled air.

What is a Disposable Respirator?

A Disposable Respirator is a maintenance free, single shift, single use item. This means that when you put it on and start your shift and then take it off (for example a tea break), the shift is over and the mask should be replaced. The mask can be used for a maximum of an 8 hour shift.

When should I change my disposable masks?

Disposable masks are designed to last for a maximum of an eight hour shift, however in hot, dusty, humid conditions, or where the wearer is removing or adjusting the mask frequently, the EFFECTIVE life of the mask will be much reduced.

Replace the respirator with a new one if: - The respirator is removed in a contaminated area; excessive clogging of the respirator causes breathing difficulty; the respirator becomes damaged; the smell of vapours becomes apparent.

A mask should fit snugly for the entire shift, if not, the mask should be replaced, and the old one disposed of in an approved rubbish receptacle.

What is a ‘Combination Mask'?

A device combining the filtration capabilities of gas and particulate filters. eg: PC531

When should I use a combination mask?

When the filtration of multiple types of substances is required and are likely to be present in the environment in which you will be working.

What is a half mask respirator?

A close fitting device to cover the nose, mouth and chin and can be secured in position by suitable means, such as a head strap. These are to be used with the appropriate Filter Cartridges.

When should I use a half mask respirator?

When certain gases or vapours are required to be removed from the inhaled air.

Can a half-mask with organic filters be used to protect against in-organic compounds?

No. The levels at which inorganic material can be detected by taste or smell are much higher than the maximum exposure limit, so it would be impossible to detect when exposure is occurring. In these environments an air-fed system should be used.

What is technically meant by oxygen deficiency?

Oxygen deficiency occurs when the percentage of oxygen in the air falls below 18% by volume. It may be caused by fire or when chemicals replace the oxygen in the air. Places of poor ventilation or in confined spaces such as silos, ships' holds, storage tanks, unventilated workspaces, are likely environments for oxygen deficiency.

Is the use of respiratory equipment required by law?

In certain hazardous conditions or in a workplace where fumes or dust particles are present, O H and S regulations, and company policies require that appropriate respiratory is worn.

What is meant by a 'combination Mask'?

A respirator designed to protect against more than one contaminant or form of contaminant at the same time. (ie. a P2 mask)

Can a half-mask with organic filters be used to protect against in-organic compounds?

No. The levels at which inorganic material can be detected by taste or smell are much higher than the maximum exposure limit, so it would be impossible to detect when exposure is occurring. In these environments an air-fed system should be used.

What is technically meant by oxygen deficiency?

Oxygen deficiency occurs when the percentage of oxygen in the air falls below 19.5%. It may be caused by fire or when chemicals replace the oxygen in the air. Places of poor ventilation or in confined spaces such as silos, ships' holds, storage tanks, unventilated workspaces, are likely environments for oxygen deficiency.

How should respirators be stored?

Keep unused respirators in their closed box in a dry, uncontaminated area. They can be kept for up to 2 years in this way.

What is the standard for respirators and how are they tested?

AS/NZS1716:2003 is the standard that dust masks must comply with in Australia and New Zealand. Each device must be tested to show that it provides effective respiratory protection against certain hazards. The respiratory device should be issued as part of a full respiratory protection program that covers: Hazard Control, Selection of PPE, Fit Testing, Maintenance and Storage Procedures.

Resistance to flame testing – This is where the respirator is assessed for its resistance to heat for respirator used in hot work environments

Inward leakage of assembled respirators – quantitative sodium chloride test – A panel of people assess the performance of the respirator against sodium chloride (a gas which has much smaller particles than those found in the workplace). The test is for fit and does not indicate the performance of the respirator.

Breathing simulator test – This is where the respirator is tested on a breathing machine which simulates natural breathing in one of a number of environmental and test conditions such as carbon monoxide, temperature rises, carbon dioxide accumulation, resistance to breathing, positive pressure and exhaled air humidity.

Exhalation valve leakage test – This is where the respirator is checked for potential leakages with a leakage meter apparatus.

Breathing resistance test – Breathing resistance is measured under continuous flow conditions at specified flow rates at a temperature of 23 +/- 3C.

Simulated rough usage test – This tests the respirators under conditions for rough usage and handling such as vibration and impact from falls.

Particulate filters – A test for filtering efficiency – A test for initial filter penetration using an aerosol of sodium chloride.

Simulated works test – This test is designed to assess the suitability of self rescue and supply-air respirators for a variety of work situations.

Cylinder valve requirements – Valves are assessed for construction, materials, pressure rating, valve stem thread, valve outlet connection and manufacturer markings.
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