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CHOOSING RESPIRATORY PROTECTIVE DEVICES


Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBAs) are respiratory protective devices that completely insulate the wearer from the environment, the air being stored in cylinders at pressures of 200-300 bars.

Filtering respiratory protective devices use environmental “air” for breathing, after passing it through appropriate filters to retain pollutants.

Hazardous substances such as dusts, fibers, fumes, vapors, gases, micro-organisms, particles and radioactive gases in the workplace can cause health problems and can, in extreme circumstances, lead to death. This often occurs from inhalation of large volumes of hazardous substances present in the workplace. In addition to inhalation exposure, dermal exposure to hazardous substances can also lead to skin disorders and sensitization and to systemic effects.


Reliance on appropriate integrated safeguards is generally the first choice to reduce exposures. These measures protect everyone in the workplace while respiratory protective devices protect only the person wearing them. When appropriate source protection or other administrative measures are not reasonably possible or when deemed insufficient to limit exposure by inhalation, proper respiratory protective devices should be used.


Choosing respiratory protective devices is a complex activity, in which many factors should be taken into account:


The employer or the self-employed worker is completely responsible for the choice, maintenance, use and management of the respiratory protective devices. It must assess and identify dangerous phenomena, select the appropriate respiratory protective device, properly instruct and train staff involved, maintain and manage the devices.


In terms of risk assessment, at least the following must be taken into consideration:


Facepiece


Filters:

Filters’ working life:

There are no simple rules on replacing filters. Working life of filters depends on several variables: type of filter used, its capacity (class), environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity, nature and concentration of substances, filter absorbing medium filtering capacity, potential interactions between different substances, wearer’s breathing speed and respiratory flow. It is clear that working life assessment is a complex process and a nominal working life or a fixed range cannot be given for a certain filter cartridge. Storage conditions also influence working life.