So, what is a respirator, and why should one be added to your workshop safety gear? It is a device designed to be worn on the face to prevent the wearer from inhaling dangerous or harmful air. In order for a respirator to be used safely, it must cover both the mouth and the nose, as humans breathe through both of them. It also has to form a tight seal against your skin; otherwise, air will find its way into the device.
In addition, respirators filter out airborne particles from getting inhaled by you, which may be helpful for those who have a resin allergy. There are two basic types of respirators. You have the air purifying respirators and the air supplying respirators. Their names already explain their functions. However, both of them have one common function, which is to prevent the wearer from inhaling surrounding air.
The air purifying respirators will take air from the atmosphere and filter it before passing it across to you. On the other hand, air supplying respirators already have their air sourced elsewhere. They will supply you with the air in their tank.
Each category of respirators also has subcategories. Let’s start with air purifying respirators.
Categories of Air Purifying Respirators
Particulate respirators: This category of respirators is also known as mist, fume, or dust masks/respirators. These respirators only have power to trap dust particles. They may not be able to protect you from certain types of contaminants.
Chemical cartridge respirators: These respirators have both dust pre-filter and chemical cartridges. With these two features, they are able to protect you against different airborne contaminants. It is important to remember that they are more effective than particulate respirators.
Gas masks: These respirators absorb more contaminants than cartridge respirators. So, they provide a higher level of protection.
Powered air purifying respirators: These are the best because they are the most sophisticated respirators. They will protect you against all kinds of contaminants. They are also battery-powered.
Categories of Air Supplying Respirators
Self-contained breathing apparatus: These respirators are the lowest in this category. They come with air and feed you with it. They are ideal for areas with low oxygen or locations with harmful gases.
Airline-supplied air respirators: These are the types of respirators supplied by airlines. Passengers will have to use them when the source of air in the plane fails.
Protective suits: These encapsulate the whole body, and it usually has a life-support system in it. This category of respirators is usually used by astronauts.
The third major category of respirators belongs to the ones that combine the features of an air purifying respirator with that of an air supplying respirator. They are more effective than the other categories, but they have a big drawback. They can’t work in areas with low oxygen.
Types of Filters
What makes respirators effective is their filter. That’s why a respirator is virtually useless if its filter is clogged or not functional. Filters are categorized by their level of resistance to oil. Here are the three main types of filters.
N Series: This type of filter is not resistant to oil at all. It can trap other particulates, but it can’t trap oil particulates. So, you should not use it in areas where there may be oil particulates.
R Series: This kind of filter is resistant to oil, albeit to a certain extent. In other words, this respirator will filter off oil particulates for only eight hours. After that, it may no longer be able to hold oil particulates back. However, it can easily shield off other air particulates.
P Series: This category is for filters that are fully resistant to oil. They are the ideal filters for locations with oil particulates, and they can protect you for more than eight hours. However, you need to change this type of filter more often. In fact, it is necessary to find out from its manufacturer how often you should change the filter.
Now that you know the different types of respirators, you should be able to select the best one for your situation. Always consult the Material Safety Data Sheet to reference what type of respiratory filtration is necessary for your project.