Whenever an item of personal protective equipment (PPE) is considered, it’s always important to start with a needs analysis to determine exactly why the item is required, and what degree of protection is required. This will be determined by the risk/exposure.
Face masks are no different, and many types are available on the market, for different applications and degrees of protection. It is important to carry out the analysis, as the correct protection is vital when it comes to breathing and the risk of inhalation of hazardous substances.
Respiratory protection generally refers to the part of PPE that protects the wearer from respiratory poisons and environmental pollutants.
Respiratory devices are subdivided into filtering devices and breathing apparatus. Filtering face masks filter out harmful substances from the air, while breathing apparatus provides the wearer with their supply of oxygen-independent from the ambient air. If the harmful substance is known and there is sufficient oxygen in the ambient air (at least 17% vol.), filtering face masks are sufficient to work with. Otherwise, breathing apparatus such as forced-air respirators or compressed air breathing apparatus must be used.
A dust mask protects workers against airborne particles such as dusts and powders. EN149 makes reference to 3 different types, as shown below:
|Protection level||Typical OEL Protection|
OEL or occupational exposure limits vary depending on the substance and some of these are published in the local regulations dealing with hazardous substances. These regulations must be adhered to.
FFP1 will typically be used for low levels of dust as found when doing basic sanding and drilling.
FFP2 will typically be used for moderate levels of dust and is ideal for basic tasks such as sanding and plastering.
FFP3 will typically be used for high levels of dust and normally for work with hazardous powders.