Filters For Your Respirator Equipment: 5 Facts That You Need To Know

A person wearing a reusable full-face mask that uses filters to protect against particulates or gas and vapours

Respiratory Protective Equipment plays a crucial role in protecting individuals from harmful respirable hazards, such as dust, vapours, fumes, and infectious agents. A key component of RPE is the filter which acts as a barrier to prevent hazardous particles or gases from entering the user’s respiratory system.

In this article, we will discuss the importance of using the right filters in respiratory equipment and to safeguard users from harm.

1. What Is Respiratory Protective Equipment?

Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is a form of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is used to protect users against inhalation of dangerous or noxious substances. It is necessary when other control measures, such as the elimination of the substance, cannot be achieved, or when after these control measures have been applied there remains a residual risk  Often it is required in the case of an accidental or uncontrolled release of substance such as spillage or other mechanical failure.

There are two main types of RPE – Breathing Apparatus and Respirators.  

  • Respirators use a filter to remove the hazardous substance from the air before it is inhaled, the key point being that the wearer is breathing air taken from the working area.
  • Breathing apparatus (such as SCBA) supplies the worker with clean, breathable quality air from a known clean air source such as a cylinder or dedicated breathing air system; the key point being that the wearer is NOT breathing the air taken from the work area.  Sometimes these two systems are known as “Air Supplied” or “Air Filtered”.

2. Filters Protect Users Against Contaminated Air

The filters in respiratory equipment form part of a system which should provide a robust barrier between the user and the surrounding air. Contaminated air is drawn (or blown mechanically) through the filter which should then remove harmful particles or gases before it can reach the user's lungs.

Filters used in RPE are typically available as one of three types. As contaminants occur in many forms it’s essential to understand the differences between these types of filters to ensure you choose the right one for the application and setting:

  • Particulate filters protect against particles such as dust, mists, fibres, and fumes, including substances such as asbestos, silica, flour, wood dust, animal dander, fine powders and paint spray as well as many biological agents, bacteria, viruses and aerosolised body fluids

  • Gas/Vapour filters protect from certain types of gas and vapour such as chlorine, ammonia, and solvent vapour such as acetone or alcohol.  There are many types of gases and vapours and many types of gas and vapour filters; correct matching and selection are critical!

  • Combination Filters protect from a combination of hazards.  Particle filters will not protect from gases and gas filters will not protect from particles.  Some activities (such as paint spraying) may present a combination of both gas and particulate hazards at the same time in which case a combination filter may be required. 

3. Regular Replacement Is Essential For Continued Effectiveness

RPE Filters have a limited lifespan and need to be replaced regularly to ensure that they offer effective protection. Over time, gas filters will become saturated with harmful contaminants which will reduce their ability to effectively remove gases or vapours. They will also degrade with age having a similar impact on their performance. Particle filters can clog up with particles meaning they become more difficult to breathe through or worse could be damaged in use meaning they no longer will filter out the particles as intended.  

For these reasons, it is critical that filters are replaced regularly. Failure to properly follow the manufacturer’s guidelines will result in a lower-than-intended level of protection and may result in ill health or serious injury. Industry best practices will provide important information about the replacement schedule that you should follow.

4. Proper RPE Maintenance And Cleaning Will Improve Filter Efficacy

If masks are reusable, proper cleaning and maintenance are essential to ensure their effectiveness and serviceability. Masks and filters should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions as well as visually inspected and function tested by a competent technician using manufacturer-approved test equipment to ensure they are free from damage or degradation. Regular maintenance checks are vital to identify any issues and ensure that the equipment is in proper working condition. Moving parts that can become damaged, especially exhale valves, should be checked and replaced as required.

5. Inspection And Maintenance Should Be Carried Out By Trained Individuals

The inspection and maintenance of respiratory equipment and self-contained breathing apparatus, including masks and filters, should only be carried out by trained and competent individuals. At Fire Safe International we offer a range of services including respiratory protective equipment training, servicing, and maintenance. By arranging for professional inspection and maintenance, you can be reassured that the equipment functions correctly and is in good condition. Any necessary repairs are promptly completed using manufacturer-approved spares and replacements.

Contact Fire Safe International For Your RPE Filters

At Fire Safe International, we supply an extensive range of filters for respiratory equipment and breathing apparatus. To find out more, please get in touch today either via our website or you can give us a call at 01743 761000.



Image Source: Canva