Depending on the type of site you are working on, you may need to wear Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) to protect you from dust, debris, toxic gases or poor ventilation. Harmful fumes and vapours could cause respiratory problems and more serious illnesses and employers should work to minimise these risks, providing breathing apparatus such as respirators.
Types of breathing apparatus
There are various different types of RPE – here are some of the more common ones:
- Dust mask/filtering facepiece – this is a facemask with a filter included in it
- Air purifying respirator – this has a cartridge or filter that removes contaminants from the air
- Atmosphere-supplying respirator – this supplies air from a source separate from the natural atmosphere (such as a tank)
- Escape-only or emergency-only respirator – this is designed to be worn only when evacuating a building or worksite and will provide short-term protection
Respirators have an ‘assigned protection factor’ which lets you know the level of protection they offer. Most will also have an end-of-service-life indicator which warns the user that the respirator will soon no longer be effective. It is vital that respirators and face masks are checked regularly and replaced if they are worn, broken or approaching their expiry date. After the expiry date, the filters or cartridges inside the respirators will no longer provide the stated protection.
Using breathing apparatus safely
The Health and Safety Executive provides information to help employers comply with The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002. These state that:
- Employers must ensure the worker is medically fit to wear RPE
- RPE must fit the person and this fit should be checked every time it is worn
- RPE must be regularly cleaned and checked and should be maintained once every 3 months – this means replacing worn parts, face seals and valves
- Expiry dates should be checked regularly
- Training must be provided so that workers know how to check and wear RPE
By following the above guidance, those using breathing apparatus at work are less likely to be involved in an accident.
Accidents involving breathing apparatus
Used incorrectly, breathing apparatus can lead to serious injury and even death. If equipment at your workplace has been poorly maintained and you have been injured as a result, or if you have not been properly trained in the use of RPE and have suffered, you could claim for compensation. You’ll need to prove that your employer has been negligent, so contact Accident Advice Helpline to see how we can help you.