Choose the correct respiratory protection

When exposed to substances, gases, vapors, viruses, fungi and spores, it is important to properly regulate the respiratory protection. A good mask can be vital. The importance is emphasized once again during the corona crisis. Respiratory protection is suddenly scarce. Good face masks are offered at extortionate prices. Tips for making a good choice.

Choosing the right respiratory protection requires knowledge of both products and work processes. This article lists a number of points for attention that must be taken into account in the choice and use of respiratory protection.

The EN529 (ISO / DTS 16975-2) is a guideline for the selection and use of respiratory protection; recommendations for selection, use and maintenance of respiratory protective equipment, available.



Employees can be exposed to many things, such as substances, gases, vapors, viruses, bacteria, fungi, spores or a combination of one or more. These can cause problems in the airways, blood and / or various organs after inhalation. Ignorance, improper maintenance, poor information and less well-fitting equipment considerably increase the risk of exposure.


Respiratory protection in the RI&E

Working with respiratory protection requires an RI&E with more depth in this aspect. Map well:

• which activities must be carried out
• which substances can play a role in this
• what the degree of exposure is
• assess exposure against the limit value (s)
• determine on the basis of this whether control measures are necessary

The occupational hygiene strategy must of course be followed and must be included dynamically in the respiratory protection program. If an alternative, less harmful product or method is available, this should be switched to. In occupational hygiene strategy, the use of PPE is the last resort. Let yourself be supported by a specialist in this field.


The right choice

The EN 529: 2005 (ISO / DTS 16975-2) provides guidelines for making the right choice. It is evident that masks, which derive their protective effect from a close-fitting seal on the face, must have the correct size. The most suitable respiratory protection mask must be determined by means of fit tests. This applies to all products with a so-called Tight-Fit (disposable masks, half and full face masks).


Limit value

The limit value is the maximum permitted concentration of a hazardous substance in the individual respiratory zone of an employee. The limit value applies for a defined period (usually 15 minutes or 8 hours). No adverse health effects are expected at concentrations below the limit values. This does not apply to the limit values ​​for carcinogenic and mutagenic substances. No safe limit value can be established for this. The basic principle in determining the value is that the health of employees and their offspring is not harmed by exposure in any form or duration of the period. Think for example of asbestos or chrome 6 paint.

If there is no statutory limit value, the company or industry must derive a private limit value itself. As more and more is becoming known about the harmful effects of certain exposures, limit values ​​are regularly adjusted downwards or even expired. You should also take this fact into account when choosing the protective equipment.


The choice for respiratory protection

As mentioned, careful consideration must be given to the choice of protective equipment. A distinction is made between:

1. dependent respiratory protection (breathing air from the immediate environment is filtered) and

2. independent respiratory protection (use of air from bottles or from a compressor)

First of all, the danger to which one is exposed must be assessed. Actual exposure must also be measured or at least accurately estimated. This exposure must be divided by the limit value to which the worker may be exposed. The result is the required protection factor and influences the choice between disposable masks, half, full face masks or aspirated systems, etc.


Depending on work

In addition, the activities that are performed and the workplace in which the activities are performed must also be taken into account, for example, labor-intensive activities or confined spaces and the like.

A distinction is made between the following systems:

1. dust masks – disposable

2. half face masks

3. full face masks

4. breathing air systems / fresh air hoods

5. escape and evacuation masks

6. in addition, the different filter cartridges


Tips for choosing respiratory protection

A small sized half mask with a single exhalation valve allows less air to flow than a sufficiently sized mask with two exhalation valves. Someone who does heavy work pumps quite a few liters of air per minute. If the mask is too small, this mask is perceived as uncomfortable and there is a risk of the mask being disposed of in the dirty environment, with all its consequences. If heavy work is required, it is strongly recommended to work with aspirated systems. Then you do not have to draw air through the filter, which increases comfort even further. This has a great positive impact on productivity and is simply safe outside.


The choice of filter is also important

A filter is often chosen because it is said that it is the best or more comfortable than the heavier filter that you do not need.

An ABEK filter, filters organic, inorganic and acidic gases and vapors and ammonia.

If one is not exposed to ammonia, an ABEK filter is not necessary. In that case, an ABE filter is sufficient, which saves considerably on costs.

A P3 filter does not have to have a higher inhalation resistance than a P2 filter. A P3 filter filters a lot better than a P2, so you enjoy higher protection. If the comfort is equal, why would you choose less protection?


And further

When choosing respiratory protection, be well informed, preferably by several parties. Although every respiratory protection seller has a commercial interest, there are commercial respiratory protection consultants on the market who take their work seriously and put the importance of proper protection above their commercial interest. Ensure that you implement a respiratory protection program as defined in standard EN529: 2005 (ISO / DTS 16975-2) in your management system. Let information and training play an important role in this. After all, well-informed and trained respiratory protection users are by definition better protected.