Why and how to use respirators?

by Apr 28, 2020

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, the demand for various respiratory protective equipment and masks has increased exponentially. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) says that healthy people do not need to wear a mask, in the case of respiratory complaints (coughing, sneezing) it is still recommended for everyone to avoid transmission of the infection. These individual devices can serve to protect not only the health of the population but also the health of workers. However, it doesn’t matter what type of mask we choose, nor does it matter how we use it.

Some of the masks belong to personal protective equipment, but there are also some that are classified as medical devices. Masks worn by citizens are mostly personal protective equipment, however, the role of surgical mouth masks in COVID-19 epidemic control has also increased in the population.

Respiratory protection devices can be divided into two groups. Are

  • filter type (FFP1, FFP2, FFP3),
  • and insulating respirators (eg compressed air bottle respirators, fresh air hose respirators).

The protective ability of surgical masks is not appreciable

Surgical masks have a bacterial filter and can sometimes provide up to 98% protection. If they get wet, it is advisable to replace them immediately, as a humid environment increases the risk of infection. These masks are primarily used to protect our environment from the cough drops and other pathogens exhaled by the wearer. However, since it does not fit our face completely, it cannot completely prevent suction, so its ability to protect cannot be determined either.

Respiratory protection protects against contaminants and O2 deficiency

The filter in the filter-type respirator filters out contaminants from the inhaled air, reducing the level of contamination below the permissible level. However, it is important to be aware that due to suction, these masks do not provide complete protection for their wearers either. These include particle filter half masks, known as FFP (Filtering Facepiece Particulare). They also have valve and non-valve versions. Based on their performance and degree of protection, we distinguish 3 levels:

  • FFP1 filter respirator non-reactive, inert powders, non-hazardous solids;
  • FFP2 is a fine, fibrogenic, mineral powder, a moderately hazardous chemical powder, a solid, liquid phase aerosol;
  • FFP3 provides protection against toxic dusts, solid, liquid phase aerosols, droplets and sprays.

FFP3 mask has the highest protection, it is recommended to use up to 50 times the permissible concentration in the workplace, as opposed to 5 times FFP1 and 10 times FFP2

How to properly put on and wear respirators?

  • The hair on the face prevents the edges of the face and the respirator from fitting properly. Bearded workers therefore shave their faces smoothly before putting on the mask.
  • Long-haired workers wear their hair in braids, thus increasing the effectiveness of the air defense device.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap before putting on the mask!
  • If you are using a rubber surgical mask, place your fingers on the straps first, then put the mask on your nose and mouth, only then fasten it to your ears with the help of the straps. Tighten the mask at the top and bottom to completely cover your face, then adjust the nose brace on the saddle of the nose to minimize air leakage.
  • For filter-type respirators, the strap must be placed on the headgear. Shape the nasal plate to fit the contours of the nose and face, then place the lower strap under the ear. Then check with a few breaths that only air passes behind the mask through the filter.
  • Surgical masks and particle filter half masks are also used only once. It is important to wash your hands thoroughly before removing the mask and disposing of it in a sealed trash can!

The use of respirators, regular and thorough hand washing, and maintaining social distance are absolutely necessary in the current circumstances, but this alone is not enough to keep your workers completely safe. Work safety must also be ensured during a pandemic.

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