Respiratory protection is a necessary part of many jobs throughout many different types of industries—disposable respirators, reusable respirators, powered air purifying respirators (PAPR), self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). Protecting workers from certain hazardous particulates, gases, vapors, fumes, and other contaminants is an important concern that should be top of mind.
People may be familiar with disposable respirators, which are commonly confused with non-approved masks. In other settings, industrial customers may have a compressor on site used for creating a supplied air system. But, this is an option that may not be available based on your worksite.
Enter the powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR). OSHA defines this type of respiratory protection as an air-purifying respirator that uses a blower to force the ambient air through air-purifying elements to the inlet covering. A PAPR system typically includes a motor/blower, filter/cartridge, battery, headgear, and a breathing tube.
Although there may be a higher capital expenditure when choosing to implement PAPRs into an employers’ respiratory protection program, this expense may be justified in the sense that PAPR respiratory systems may:
- Eliminate fit testing if used with loose-fitting facepieces, hoods or helmets.
- Potentially increase comfort to the wearer.
- Potentially integrate multiple types of PPE into one NIOSH-approved system (head, eye, face and respiratory protection).
Let’s explore these and other benefits when it comes to picking a PAPR system as your respiratory protection while on the job:
Easier, More Comfortable Breathing
PAPR system uses a blower instead of lung power to draw air through the filter. This lets the user breathe more naturally due to the airflow being delivered into the headgear from the blower.
Options for Use with Limited Facial Hair
With some respiratory protection, beards and other types of facial hair can be a problem, compromising the seal of tight-fitting facepieces. But, PAPR systems with loose-fitting headgear are designed to accommodate limited facial hair. This can benefit workers who want to keep their facial hair for style, medical or religious reasons or other purposes.
No Fit Test Required
Both loose-fitting headgear on PAPRs and supplied air respirators do not require a fit test, unlike disposable or reusable respirator options. This can save time and money since fit testing takes time and must be performed at least annually.
Integrated Eye Protection
Integrated face shields on certain headgear for PAPR systems can help protect eyes and faces from exposure to debris, sparks, and other hazards. At the same time, they offer optical clarity and a wide field of vision, which can help the wearer easily view their surroundings. This can also help with interpersonal communication.
Users can also wear eyeglasses under many loose fitting headgear options.
Integrated PPE from the Neck Up
Non-integrated PPE that workers put together from various companies are often not designed to work as a cohesive “system”. For example, you may wear a hard hat from Company A, eyewear made by Company B, respirator from Company C and earmuffs sold by Company D. The respirator you wear may push your glasses up your face and nose. Your earmuffs may push up against your hard hat, etc. But, there are some PAPR systems that may include integrated hard hat protection, limited eye protection as well as face and respiratory protection all incorporated into one.
PAPR Systems are Designed to be Integrated and Work Together as a Single Unit
When using a PAPR system, approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), this respiratory system is designed to work together, as one integrated system of respiratory protection. Furthermore, certain PAPR systems may allow you to choose from a wide range of headgear, breathing tubes and air sources, so you can customize a PAPR solution that works for your environments.
For instance, certain PAPR blowers are compatible with half-face, full-face, or loose fitting headgear, including welding helmets. In some instances, if you currently use tight-fitting negative pressure respirators, select PAPR systems may offer similar protection through the use of their respective filters/cartridges. Also, just like other types of respiratory protection, with proper care, cleaning, maintenance and storage, these types of respiratory systems may last a long time.
Certain work environments may require the use of electrical equipment that limits the electrical and thermal energy of the system, preventing ignition in certain hazardous atmospheres. Electrical components of specific PAPR systems meet certain intrinsic safety requirements that provide respiratory protection while also helping to minimize the risk of ignition that could lead to fire or explosion in these sensitive environments.
All Day Comfort
Many PAPR systems can deliver filtered air all shift long, which provides comfort and protection your employees will want to wear. Continuously filtered air flow provides respiratory protection and lasting comfort, which can help you focus on the task at hand. This can be of benefit for professionals in all types of industries from healthcare to welding, construction, or mining.
High Levels of Protection
PAPRs help protect against certain airborne contaminants. Many loose fitting headgear models may, when paired with an approved PAPR system, also help to provide Assigned Protection Factor (APF) values of 25 or 1,000 (see our Tech Bulletin on APF 1,000), depending upon the headgear or facepiece used, which is more than most other types of negative pressure respiratory protection other than full face tight-fitting respirators that have been quantitatively fit tested.
Protection for Professionals in Dangerous Conditions
PAPRs are useful and often necessary in many types of hazardous jobs and conditions. For instance, PAPRS are often used by emergency workers, such as first receivers, healthcare, military, and public health professionals during events like natural disasters, mass casualties, or acts of terrorism.
Likewise, there are specific PAPR systems that are often used for first receivers, patient decontamination programs and may be approved to the chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) loose-fitting PAPR standard (we talk about in this blog) developed by NIOSH for gases and vapors.
Need Help Picking a PAPR System?
Before use, it is important to remember that the wearer must read and understand the User Instructions provided as a part of the product packaging. A written respiratory protection program must also be implemented that meets all the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.134. To learn more about how to implement and manage a program, please see our Center for Respiratory Protection.
For guidance on how to set up a respiratory program and to learn more about what PAPR systems may benefit your workforce, please do not hesitate to contact our health and safety specialists at 1-800-243-4630 today.