Respirator Safety

What is a respirator?

  • A respirator is any device that covers the mouth and nose or entire face or head designed to keep airborne contaminants out of the worker’s respiratory system.
  • There are several different types of respirators. Selection of appropriate respirator type is critical to the safety of the worker.

What contaminants does a respirator protect a worker from?

  • Depending on the style of respirator and selection of cartridge will determine the type of protection from airborne contaminants. Selection of appropriate protection will be discussed during the mask fit test and with the supervisor according to the individual needs of the worker. Common hazards are dusts and fibers, mists, smoke, fumes, gases, vapors and biological exposures.

Who needs to be fit tested?

  • The use of any style of respirator requires workers to be fit tested. This includes the common N95 respirator. Many people incorrectly refer to the N95 respirator as a dust mask. They are different. The fit test is to ensure the mask is fitting properly to the face providing the desired protection. If the mask does not fit properly, worker will not be effectively removing the contaminants, exposing themselves to harm.

I use a dust mask, isn’t that OK?

  • No. Dust masks are not accepted by WorkSafeBC as a respirator. Dust masks do not form a seal around the face and the filter may not provide adequate protection.

What is a fit test?

  • A fit test involves exposing a worker to a nuisance mist. The worker will perform a series of tasks to ensure movement of the head and face does not break the seal. A properly fitting mask will prevent the user from tasting the mist.
  • Workers must be clean shaven for the fit test and use of the respirator. There are alternative options for workers with facial hair.

 

To arrange a fit test please contact David Zinz, david.zinz@ubc.ca.