There is a clear difference between a mask and a respirator. Check out this technical bulletin, “Respirators and Surgical Masks: A Comparison” or hear more about it from the products themselves as an N95 Respirator walks into a bar to meet his old friend, Dust Mask (DM) and they compare and contrast their uses to each other.
N95: Dust Mask, so good to see you; you haven’t changed a bit.
DM: Yep, still thin, and single band—simplicity is my game. How about you?
N95: I’ve been working out [flexes]. Ahh. I’m still NIOSH-approved and double-banded to fit tightly across a wide range of faces… How’s work been going?
DM: Boss only sticks me in non-hazardous dust situations. Kind of a dead-end job—I really wish I could do more.
N95: Did you ever go back and get your certification?
DM: No, I’m just a dust mask, still don’t have any certifications. How ‘bout you?
N95: I’ve been in all sorts of particulate applications! Sanding, grinding, painting… Employers treat me nice, put me in a full respirator program including medical evaluations and fit testing so they know how to wear me the right way.
DM: No way. I never get that kind of treatment.
N95: Let’s be honest, you’re not a respirator and aren’t intended to help protect the wearer. But hey, I know how you feel. I still get looked down on a bunch.
DM: What, you? You’re NIOSH-certified!! You have all those workplace protection factor studies and OSHA assigned you the same protection factor as reusable half mask respirators.
N95: Yes, I am a 10! An APF 10, if used correctly.
DM: But some people still don’t treat you right? Why is that?
N95: Well… [nervously pauses]
DM: It’s me, isn’t it? People are prejudiced cause they associate you with me, don’t they?
DM: That’s not fair. I get what I get, and that’s what I deserve. But that’s no reason to stereotype you! Why do people judge by appearances? Why can’t they look at the data?
N95: Don’t be too hard on yourself. Even respirators have to be part of an OSHA compliant respirator program to achieve their full potential.
DM: At least we could still work together in voluntary use areas.
N95: Yes, that’s true.
[Both turn to notice two particles that just walked in.]
DM: Do you think we could still pick them up?
N95: I know I could!
Do you still have questions about the difference between N95 respirators and masks? Read this other blog for more information, please see this technical bulletin entitled, “Respirators and Surgical Masks: A Comparison” and download this respiratory selection guide.
We also encourage you to contact one of our health and safety specialists with any questions you may have or for assistance about how to select the right respiratory PPE for your job or work site.