How to Use Respiratory Protective Equipment Correctly

Following on from our blog ‘The Importance of Personal Protective Equipment’, we are going to look at how to use Respiratory Protective Equipment correctly (RPE).

Construction and production workers will face tasks such as cutting materials, handling equipment that causes dust and using a liquid that can contain volatile solvents. This is where Respiratory Protective Equipment comes in, to protect workers breathing in any of these hazardous particles.

There are two types of RPE which are respirators, and breathing apparatus.


Respirators are a filtering device that use filters to remove air contaminants being breathed in.

It is important to know there are two different respirators:

  • Non-powered respirators – Relies on the breathing of the wearer to draw air through the filter
  • Powered respirators – Uses a motor to pass air through a filter, to give a clean supply of air to the wearer

Breathing Apparatus

A breathing apparatus is a device that needs a supply of a good quality air, which is breathable from an independent source such as an air cylinder or compressor.

Both Respirators and Breathing Apparatus (BA) are available in a wide range of different styles, which are separated into two different groups:

  • Tight-fitting face pieces – Known to most as masks, these rely on having a secure seal with the wearer’s face. They are available as both non-powered and powered respirators, along with a BA. A test to make sure the RPE fits around the wearer’s face, to ensure that they are protected is essential
  • Loose-fitting face pieces – Examples are hoods, helmets, visors, blouses, and suits. They rely on clean air being provided to the wearer, to prevent any contamination leaking using powered respirators or BA


Safety is a big factor with RPE, without precaution workers could suffer from long-term health issues.

  • Make sure that all RPE is suitable for the kind of work and that workers select a make and size that fits them correctly
  • RPE masks are not suitable for workers with beards or stubble, ensure they use hooded respirators
  • The equipment is not recommended for long periods if workers are going to be in the workplace for a long period, use power-assisted respirators


To ensure the safety of all staff, make sure that they are trained on how to use the RPE correctly.

Training should cover:

  • How to put on RPE correctly
  • How to check it is working properly
  • How to check it fits the wearer
  • How to identify any damage or faults to the equipment
  • Know the limitations the RPE can do
  • Understand that if they feel the equipment isn’t working properly to leave the working area
  • Understand that some RPE is disposable as they can contain hazardous chemicals such as asbestos


When planning the work that is going to be carried out, don’t forget to plan the safety of the workers.

  • Have a plan and practice it in case of an emergency if the RPE fails to work or is damaged
  • Ensure you have medical checks and history of staff, to ensure they are fit for the type of work
  • Arrange a test and training session for all staff using RPE
  • Arrange a fitting to get all workers correct size

If you would like more information on Respiratory Protective Equipment, please contact our Membership Advisors on 01565 626001.