Q&A Series #02: Interview with Richard Harrison

The topic of discussion: Respiratory protective equipment

Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) can be segmented into air-purifying respirators and self-contained breathing apparatus which are personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to protect the wearer from airborne contaminants such as –

In this article, we learn more about RPE from Richard Harrison, Managing Director of Harrisons of Hull Ltd in the United Kingdom (UK). 

Q1: Which applications use respiratory protective equipment?

Any work environment where airborne contaminants compromise the respiratory system, require occupational health and safety protocols to be followed to comply with respiratory protection standards. These are some of the applications that use RPE

  • Oil & Gas
  • Metals and Mining
  • Construction
  • Healthcare
  • Defence
  • Fire Services

Q2: What are the types of respiratory protective equipment?

RPE falls into air purifying and air supplied categories. The air purifying options are further divided into unpowered and powered RPE.

Therefore, RPE comes in many forms, commonly these include:

Are environmental regulations, health and safety concerns or potential profit loss a concern right now?

  • Filtering Facepieces, 
  • Reusable Half Masks, 
  • Full Face Masks  
  • Loose Fitting Visors/Hoods.

Respiratory protective equipment

Q3: What are the lessons you have learnt in your experience dealing with respiratory protective equipment?

Lesson 1:  It’s great when companies and workers identify the correct filter type to protect themselves against the respirable hazards they face.

Lesson 2: Unfortunately, most are unaware that whilst the filter type may be correct, if the respirator does not seal against the wearer’s face properly, the filters are not given the opportunity to work and protect as effectively as they should, as the air, when breathed in travels through the break in the face seal and not the filters. Unbeknown to the wearer, this results in the hazard entering the respiratory system. Two main causes of this are respirators that do not fit the wearer and the wearer’s ability to put the respirator on correctly.

Lesson 3: Facial hair also significantly affects the contact of tight-fitting respirators against the skin. It is a requirement in the UK that those wearing tight-fitting respirators should be clean shaven in the area of the face seal. Face fit testing should also be performed with the wearer in this clean shaven state.

Lesson 4: The human interface with the respirator is crucial for its performance but this is neglected by users across the globe. Changes in fashion have seen it become common place for male workers to wear facial hair which is a significant issue in industries like construction where protection against silica and wood dust is crucial.

Lesson 5: Any employee wearing tight-fitting respiratory protection in the UK as a risk assessment control measure should have passed a face fit test and be trained on the equipment they are being provided. Quantitative and Qualitative face fit testing methods are used to determine if the respirator fits the wearer properly and is able to offer the right level of protection should it be maintained and worn properly.

Lesson 6: The Quantitative (Condensation Particle Counting) method of testing compares the amount of particles found within the respirator, in the wearer’s breathing zone, against the amount of particles in the ambient air around them. This method provides a numerical value for the level of fit.

Lesson 7: The Qualitative method relies on the wearers ability to sense a bitter or sweet testing agent by taste whilst wearing the respirator. This method does not provide numerical values but assumes a numerical level has either been achieved or not achieved. This method is not suitable for full face masks. It is essential that face fit testing be carried out by competent testers. In the UK this can be demonstrated by achieving Fit2Fit accreditation. 

To learn more about respiratory protective equipment, visit – https://www.harrisonsofhull.com/