When it comes to personal protective equipment, respiratory protection is one of the most important. Whether you’re working in a dusty environment or trying to avoid exposure to harmful chemicals, or viruses and bacteria, a suitable respirator can help keep you safe. But, with so many different types and sizes available, it can be tough to figure out which one is right for you. This article shares everything you need to know about respirators. Read on!

What Is A Respirator?

A respirator is a device or material whose primary purpose is to filter out harmful airborne particles. They’re commonly used in healthcare and industrial settings, and even for everyday activities, like painting or gardening.

For the healthcare sector, respirators protect workers against infectious airborne particles, such as during a TB outbreak. That’s why you’ll likely find upgraded respirator,  like a MOPP suit, in hospitals during infectious disease outbreaks. When it comes to the industrial sector, respirators filter harmful chemicals or fumes, such as during welding or painting. When compared to those used in the medical field, industrial respirators are made to filter out a wider range of particles and often have a longer shelf life. However, it’s important to note that respirators can only protect against particles, not gases or vapors. You’ll need to use a gas mask for those types of hazards.

Types Of Respirators

Now that you know what a respirator is, it’s essential to understand that there are different types of respirators available. These include: 

N95 Respirators

N95 respirators are designed to filter out at least 95% of airborne particles, including viruses and bacteria. The ‘N’ in N95 stands for ‘not oil-resistant,’ meaning that the respirator can be used in both oil- and non-oil-based environments. The ‘95’ indicates that the mask filters out at least 95% of particles that are 0.3 microns in size or larger.

In other words, N95 respirators are designed to protect your lungs from contact with harmful airborne particles. And, while they’re not 100% effective, they’re certainly better than nothing!  So, whether on the treadmill in your crowded local gym, trying to shed some weight, or in a different situation where you need to protect your lungs from harmful air particles, be sure to reach for an N95 respirator.

Surgical Masks

As their name implies, surgical masks are mainly used in medical settings, such as operating rooms and dental offices. They function to protect both the patient and healthcare workers from potential infections that can be spread through saliva or respiratory secretions during surgery or any medical procedure.

Surgical masks also have filtration capabilities, but don’t give the same level of protection as N95 respirators. It’s important to remember that surgical masks shouldn’t be used in place of N95 respirators.

Other types of respirators are also available, including P100, R95, and PAPRs (powered air-purifying respirators). However, these are typically in situations where N95 respirators aren’t suitable or available. Also, it’s essential never to substitute industrial or PAPR respirators for N95 respirators, as they may not offer adequate protection against viruses and bacteria.

Proper Use And Disposal Of Respirators

It’s also crucial to understand how to use respirators properly. The CDC offers guidelines on proper usage, including:

Before Putting On A Face Mask

Before putting on a face mask, ensure your hands are clean. Then, cover your mouth and nose, ensuring no gaps between your face and the mask.

During Use

While using the face mask, avoid touching it as much as possible. But, if you need to, such as to adjust the mask, wash your hands before and after doing so.

After Use

After using the face mask, remove it from behind (don’t touch the front of the mask) and dispose of it immediately in a closed bin. Then, clean your hands thoroughly.

It’s also important to note that respirators should be discarded after each use or if they become damaged or difficult to breathe through. Don’t attempt to clean and reuse disposable respirators. It’s also important to note that not all face masks are created equal. Only use respirators that are certified.

When To Use Respirators

In general, respirators are only necessary when working in an environment that contains particles that could harm your respiratory system. Examples of such instances include when sanding wood or working with fiberglass insulation. However, it’s essential to consult your local safety regulations to be sure, as the specific requirements can vary in different locations.

In addition, be sure to properly fit the respirator before use, as a poor seal can reduce its effectiveness. If you have doubts about whether you need to wear a respirator or not, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. After all, it’ll help to be on the safe side than be sorry when protecting your lungs.

Final Words

Respirators are essential in protecting people’s respiratory health and preventing the spread of harmful airborne particles. By understanding the different types of respirators and how to use them properly, you can ensure that you’re effectively safeguarding yourself and those around you. Stay safe!

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