Respirators serve to protect the user from breathing in contaminants in the air, thus preserving the health of one’s respiratory tract. There are two main types of respirators.
- One type of respirator functions by filtering out chemicals and gases, or airborne particles, from the air breathed by the user. The filtration may be either passive or active (powered). Gas masks and particulate respirators are examples of this type of respirator.
- A second type of respirator protects users by providing clean, respirable air from another source. This type includes airline respirators and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). In work environments, respirators are relied upon when adequate ventilation is not available or other engineering control systems are not feasible or inadequate.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), NHS Health Scotland and Healthy Working Lives (HWL) have jointly developed the RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment) Selector Tool, which is web-based. This interactive tool provides descriptions of different types of respirators and breathing apparatuses, as well as “dos and don’ts” for each type.