Disposable Mask Respirator RPE Selection Guide

Disposable Masks

The style of RPE is the most common as it is easy to purchase relatively low in cost and generally speaking is maintenance free being discarded after use. Most often used for protection against dusts, mists and fumes it is available in three variants, FFP1,2&3. You may also come across "nuisance masks" which can look similar to FFP masks but offer no measurable protection and should not be confused with RPE as they offer little or no protection.

How Long Should the User Wear the Mask For?

Usually we would suggest a wear time of no more than 609 minutes without a break. If used for longer than this then the mask can become uncomfortable with the inherent risk of the wearer loosening or removing the mask. If used for long periods of time, air fed or powered respirators may be a better choice.

Conditions of Fit

Do they have facial hair which could allow the mask to leak, any pre-existing medical conditions, do they need to wear anything else with the RPE ehich may interfere with safe operation. You should also consider whether the user has been trained in safe use and most importantly, does the mask fit. We recommend a proper fit test be carried out as not all masks will be suitable for all wearers.

What Level of Protection is Actually Needed? And Against What?

The actual level of protection should be ascertained to ensure exposure stays well below prescribed limits. It is also important that you know what the hazard is, there may be more than one. It is pointless and dangerous to provide, for example, a particulate respirator to protect aginst gases. In some instances you may require a respirator toi protect against a combination of hazards requiring different or a combination of filters.

What are the Environmental Conditions?

In hot or humid conditions, tight fitting RPE can soon become very uncomfortable to wear. In these conditions, powered or air fed respirators may be a better choiuce. It is also easy to combine this type of respirator with other PPE such as helmets, visors or hoods providing a flow of cooler clean air to the user, particularly useful if the respuirator needs to be worn for long periods.

Levels of Exertion:

While tight fitting masks can be useful at normal levels of exertion,the user may soon feel uncomfortable as the breathing rate increases with exertion. Rapid breathiung causes a build up of heat within the mask, even if fitted with an exhalation valve, condensation can build up inside the mask making things even more uncomfortable

Nuisance Masks (non PPE):

A typical nuisance mask carries no FFP markings and is not certified to ENB149. These masks are used for product protection or against none harmful particles. They should not be used as RPE or for protection against any harmful products.

Levels of Protection:

Standard FFP masks come in several different versions with protection levels from:

  • FFP1, with an APF of 4 (reducing the hazard by a factor of 4)
  • FFP2, with an APF of 10 (reducing the hazard by a factor of 10)
  • FFP3, with an APF of 20 (reducing the hazard by a factor of 20)

Cup or moulded masks are usually performed into shape. Fold flats come folded flat which reduces their size and also enables them to fit easily into the pocket.

mask selection chart

Valved versus Non-Valved:

Valved versus non-valved is also an important issue to consider. While non-valved masks are less expensive they do have certain disadvantages. Resistance to air flow when exhaling is higher without a valve, particularly with FFP2 and FFP3 masks meaning the user finds it harder to to breathe. And also the warm, moist exhaled breath can make the mask uncomfortable to wear. This becomes a major problem once you reach FFP3 levels of protection and we currently only offer our respirators with valves at this level.

Gases and Vapours:

While most styles of disposable masks are designed to protect against particulates it is possible to obtain disposable masks to protect against gases and vapours as well. As a general rule this type of respirator is only designed to cope with gases and vapours with good warning properties. That is vapours with a strong or distinctive smell such that he user would immediately be aware that the filter medium is saturated and should be discarded. This style also protects against particulates and has a typical life of up to 28 days (once opened) but this could be significantly reduced at higher concentrations of contamination.

Potential Problems:

  • Spectacle sidearms and facial hair can prevent the mask sealing
  • Can be a source of ignition in certain atmospheres
  • Difficult to judge when saturated
  • Verbal communication can be difficult
  • Exhaust air from tools can affect valves
  • Masks can slip on the face during use

Download our Dust Mask Fitting Guide:

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