Disposable Respirator Masks

Disposable Respirator Masks play a critical role in protecting individuals from inhaling harmful airborne particles and contaminants, including dust, pollen, chemicals, and infectious agents like viruses and bacteria. These masks are a key component of personal protective equipment (PPE) used in various industries and healthcare settings.

You can read more about Respiratory Protection, both Disposable and Reusable, in our Respiratory Protection Guide here.

Here at Cromwell, we stock a wide range of Disposable Respirator Masks from leading brands 3M, Alpha Solway and Moldex.

What are my responsibilities as an employer?

It is the duty of the employer to protect workers from exposure to hazardous substances.

Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) are GB occupational exposure limits approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). They are set to help protect workers' health. WELs are concentrations of hazardous substances in the air, averaged over a set period of time.

Where substances have been classified as carcinogens, mutagens or asthmagens, to comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), exposure must be controlled to as low as is reasonably practicable (ALARP).

What are FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 masks?

These masks, classified under the European standard EN 149:2001, offer different levels of filtration efficiency. The higher the number, the better level of protection that is offered. FFP3 masks provide the highest level of protection, followed by FFP2 and FFP1.

FFP1 masks possess an Assigned Protection Factor (APF) of 4, FFP2 masks offer a protection factor of 10, and FFP3 masks have an Assigned Protection factor of 20. The number denotes the amount that the Disposable Respirator Mask should reduce exposure to airbourne particles by. For example, an FFP1 mask with an Assigned Protection Factor of 4, will reduce your exposure to airbourne particles by a factor of 4 when worn correctly and when the wearer has undergone a certified Face Fit test.

Considerations when choosing a Disposable Respirator Mask

When selecting a disposable respirator mask, it's essential to consider several factors.

• Level of Protection - Evaluate the mask's ability to filter out hazardous particles, dust, fumes, and other potentially harmful substances. Look for masks that are certified by regulatory bodies and adhere to the appropriate safety standards in your industry.

• Comfort - Comfort is crucial as the mask may need to be worn for extended periods. Look for masks that have adjustable straps and nose clips to ensure a secure and comfortable fit.

• Fit - A good fitting disposable respirator mask prevents leakage and ensures that no contaminants enter through gaps. Tight-fitting respirators (such as disposable masks, reusable half masks and full-face masks) rely on having a good seal with the wearer's face. A face fit test should be carried out to ensure the respiratory protective equipment (RPE) can protect the wearer.

Fit testing should be conducted by a competent person. Competence can be demonstrated by accreditation under the Fit2Fit RPE Fit Test Providers Accreditation Scheme. This scheme has been developed by the BSiF, together with industry stakeholders, and is supported by the HSE.

A fit test should be carried out before people wear RPE for the first time. Inadequate fit can reduce the protection provided and lead to immediate or long-term ill-health or can even put the RPE wearer's health and life at risk. A fit test should be repeated whenever there is a change to the RPE type, size, model or material or whenever there is a change to the circumstances of the wearer that could alter the fit of the RPE.

• Ease of Breathing - Opt for disposable respirator masks that offer low breathing resistance, especially if the work involves physical exertion. Masks that make breathing difficult can cause discomfort and reduce overall productivity. Valved masks are easy to breathe in due to their one-way valve, which reduces moisture and heat build up however they only offer one way protection, protection for the wearer, but not necessarily to those around.

Unvalved masks may be more restrictive, however they provide a tighter seal and a two-way protection to both the wearer and those around.