Respirator Trusted-Source Information
Frequently asked Questions and Answers about respirators, the Science behind Respirator Function and Performance, and a listing of all NIOSH-approved and FDA-cleared surgical N95 respirators.
- What is the appropriate respirator to use in a particular environment?
- What do you do with employees who have facial hair? (What if the beard or mustache is small enough that it is contained inside the respirator?)
- What is the difference between air-purifying and air-supplied respirators?
- What is the difference between a filtering facepiece respirator and an elastomeric?
- We are having a hard time getting our usual brand of N95 respirators. If we purchase another brand or model, do we need to fit test all of our employees again?
- Respirator Manufacturer Prior Names
- Can I use an N95 filtering facepiece respirator for protection against exposures to gases or vapors, such as glutaraldehyde or formaldehyde?
- Why do I need to know the concentration of a contaminant that may present an inhalation hazard?
- How do I figure out what protection I need the respirator to provide? Why can’t I just buy a respirator that will protect me from everything?
Your employer is responsible for selecting an appropriate respirator for you. Your employer’s designated respiratory protection program administrator can assist you with respirator selection. He/she administers and oversees the respiratory protection program at your workplace according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) respiratory protection standard at (29 CFR 1910.134).
The following resources may also be helpful:
- A series of questions in the NIOSH Respirator Selection Logic Sequence that will allow you to determine the appropriate class of respirator to use.
- The NIOSH Trusted-Source web page for more information on everything about respirators.
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Respiratory Protection Program.
- OSHA Respirator Types Video
What do you do with employees who have facial hair? (What if the beard or mustache is small enough that it is contained inside the respirator?)
Tight-fitting respirators require the wearer’s face to be clean shaven where the respirator’s seal comes in contact with the skin. If the facial hair does not extend far enough to interfere with the device’s seal in any way, or interfere with the function of the exhalation valve, the wearer may wear it with the approval of the respiratory protection administrator. Loose-fitting respirators, such as Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) with loose-fitting hoods, do not form a tight seal with the face and, therefore, do not require the wearer to have a clean shaven face. Loose-fitting respirators (i.e. respirators with loose-fitting hoods or helmets) are the only type of respirators that may be worn with facial hair and do not require fit testing.
Air-purifying respirators (APR) work by removing contaminants from the air. APRs include particulate respirators, which filter out airborne particles, and “gas masks,” which filter out vapors and gases. Air-supplying respirators (ASR) protect employees by supplying clean breathable air from another source. ASRs include airline respirators, which use compressed air from a remote source; and self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs), which include their own air supply. View more information about air-purifying and air-supplied respirators.
As the name implies, a filtering facepiece respirator is one in which the entire facepiece is comprised of the filter material. Elastomeric respirators are comprised of a molded facepiece to which replaceable filtering cartridges are attached. View more details and photos of the different types of respirators.
We are having a hard time getting our usual brand of N95 respirators. If we purchase another brand or model, do we need to fit test all of our employees again?
Yes. A fit test only qualifies the user to put on (don) one specific brand/make/model/size of respirator. However, it is only necessary to fit test those employees whose duties require them to wear a respirator. Therefore, you may not need to fit test “all” of your employees. If “all” employees are likely to be at risk of exposure to airborne contaminants you may want to consider a phased in fit testing program allowing the facility to have more time to eventually properly fit test the employees.
You should only wear the specific brand, model, and size respirators you wore during successful fit tests. [Note: respirator sizing is variable and not standardized across models or brands. For example, a medium in one model may not offer the same fit as a different manufacturer’s medium model.]
Due to the transitive nature of company holdings, if the manufacturing company you are looking for does not appear, please refer to the parent company listed under the notes column for product information. A list of Respirator Manufacturer Prior Names is provided as a service to users and may not be all inclusive due to NIOSH not being notified of name changes, mergers, etc.
Can I use an N95 filtering facepiece respirator for protection against exposures to gases or vapors, such as glutaraldehyde or formaldehyde?
N95 filtering facepiece respirators do not provide protection against gas and vapor exposures. N95 filtering facepiece respirators should not be used for respiratory protection in workplaces where hazardous gases or vapors are present, unless the concentration of the gases or vapors is below the NIOSH recommended exposure limit (REL) or OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL). An N95 is designed to remove particles from the air you breathe, such as metal fumes (for example, fumes cause by welding), mineral or dust particles, or even biological particles like viruses; however, it will do nothing to remove glutaraldehyde, formaldehyde, or other gases or vapors. If harmful gases are present in amounts greater than the exposure limits, you will probably need a respirator that uses special cartridges or canisters containing specially treated charcoal to remove the harmful gas before you inhale it into your lungs. To find what level of a particular chemical is harmful and what protection you should use, consult the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards or the chemical’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
The concentrations of harmful gases, vapors, or particulates is part of the information used to determine what type of respiratory protection (i.e., the class of respirator) is needed to protect you from inhaling them in hazardous concentrations. The concentrations of infectious bioaerosols are generally not easily measured or determined. Therefore, the determination of an appropriate type of respiratory protection to be used for bioaerosol exposures is generally made using professional judgment.
How do I figure out what protection I need the respirator to provide? Why can’t I just buy a respirator that will protect me from everything?
An air-purifying respirator (APR) that would remove all types of hazardous contaminants from the air you breathe (universal respiratory protection) just does not exist. The respirator that comes closest would be an air-supplying respirator (ASR), which uses “clean” breathing air either from a remote source or carried by the wearer. ASRs are either self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) with cylinders of breathing gases or supplied air respirators (SAR), also known as airline respirators that use air supplied from a remote location. For most healthcare situations, ASRs require significantly more maintenance and provide much higher protection than needed for the respiratory hazards.
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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