In the US respiratory protective equipment is addressed by OSHA in 29 CFR 1910.134. The European Union utilises several standards, including: EN149 (disposable filtering face piece respirators), EN 405 and 140 (half masks), EN136 (full face masks), EN141 (gas/vapour combination filters), and EN143 (particulate filters). Australia and New Zealand use AS/NZS Standard 1715. Canada uses CSA Standard Z94.4-03. These standards provide a solid foundation for any respiratory protection programme.
With a dust mask the entire face piece is composed of a filtering medium that traps airborne contaminants before they can reach the user’s respiratory system. These disposable masks provide effective protection against certain airborne hazards, but they have limitations. Toxic gasses and vapours are able to pass right through a dust mask to the user. Another important limitation to remember is that dust masks do not increase or supply oxygen. An environment with an oxygen level below 19.5 percent is known as oxygen deficient, and a dust mask provides no protection here. Air purifying respirators provide protection by filtering the air supplied to the wearer. They work by drawing inhaled air through a filtering medium which reduces the contaminant level in the air before it is inhaled.
Powered air purifying respirators (PAPR) rely on filters just like the negative pressure air purifying respirators but they are equipped with a battery powered blower to provide a positive pressure inside the mask. PAPR are generally more comfortable for long term use and have significantly higher APF.
Air supplying respirators provide protection by blocking ambient air and supplying stored air or oxygen to the wearer. The air or oxygen is supplied from a source different to the atmosphere the person is working in, such as a compressor, cylinder or air line.
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