Keyline Safety: 3M's Guide to Choosing Reusable Respirators

Reusable respirators represent a cost-effective and comfortable method of protecting workers from the harmful effects of gases, vapours and particulate hazards found throughout many working environments. So if you’d like to know more about reusable respirators and how they can help to protect your workers, we’ve put together some frequently asked questions and answers to guide you through the things you need to know.

Q: What are the hazards that reusable respirators can protect me from?

A: Depending on the filters fitted, reusable respirators can protect you from common respiratory hazards including gases, vapours, dusts, mists, metal fumes and certain gases and vapours.

Q: How can I tell if my reusable respirator protects against different types of gases or vapours?

A: Gas and vapour filters are classified as organic, inorganic, acid gas or ammonia, or a combination of two or more of these categories. The appropriate filter for your reusable respirator will feature an industry standard colour and letter code by category. For example, acid gas filters will be colour coded yellow and marked as ‘E’ filters.

Q: What kind of workplaces require the need for reusable respirators?

A: Typical activities where hazardous gases and vapours can be found include painting, roof felting, timber treatment, earth moving, road surfacing and many similar tasks. A reusable respirator may also be required for any activity involving adhesives and sealants.

Q: What are the risks of being exposed to gas and vapour hazards in the workplace?

A: The effects of exposure can be both acute (immediate), and chronic (longer term). Depending on the compound present, serious damage can be caused to vital organs including the brain, liver and kidneys through the inhalation of gases and vapours. It’s therefore vital to adequately control exposure at all times when working in hazardous environments.

Q: How can I be sure the reusable respirator being worn is fitted correctly and works sufficiently?

A: Always refer to the user instructions for fitting guidance. Train your employees in how to fit and remove their respirator and ask them to demonstrate that they know how to fit them properly. Before every use, perform a fit check to ensure that the respirator is fitted correctly. Remember: If a respirator doesn’t fit properly, it can’t protect properly! A pre-use fit check should not be confused with fit test which is required for wearers of tight-fitting respirators. 

Q: Which filters should be used with a reusable respirator?

A: The appropriate filter to use depends on the hazards present in your work environment. Choose a particulate filter, a gas/vapour filter, or a combination filter to protect your workers from multiple hazards. Gas/vapour filters are colour coded according to the type of gas or vapour they should be used for, including organic, inorganic, acid gas and ammonia. Use our filter selection software to help.

Q: How should I maintain my reusable respirator?

A: Clean the face piece after each use. Perform visual checks before and after use. Any tears, cracks or distortions should be reported and dealt with. Records of inspection and maintenance must be kept for respirators used for more than 1 month. Damaged parts should be replaced as required.

Q: How can 3M help you choose reusable respirators for your workers?

A: 3M has a wide range of reusable respirators including our best-selling 3M™ Maintenance Free Half Mask Respirator 4000 Series and our 3M™ Reusable Half Mask 6500 Series, which features a quick-latch feature allowing the respirator to be removed and re-fitted without disturbing other PPE.

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