Types of RPE

RPE is divided into two main types:

  • Respirator (filtering device) – uses filters to remove contaminants in the workplace air , there are two main types:
    • Non-powered respirators – rely on the wearer's breathing to draw air through the filter
    • Powered respirators – use a motor to pass air through the filter to give a supply of clean air to the wearer
  • Breathing apparatus (BA) – needs a supply of breathing-quality air from an independent source (eg air cylinder or air compressor)

Both respirators and BA are available in a range of different styles, which can be put into two main groups:

  • Tight-fitting facepieces (often referred to as masks) - rely on having a good seal with the wearer's face. These are available as both non-powered and powered respirators and BA. Examples are filtering facepieces, half and full-face masks.
  • Loose-fitting facepieces – rely on enough clean air being provided to the wearer to prevent contaminant leaking in (only available as powered respirators or BA). Examples are hoods helmets, visors, blouses and suits.

WARNING: Only BA is suitable for use in oxygen deficient atmospheres

Further information

HSG53 - Respiratory protective equipment at work - A practical guide

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Updated: 2022-03-22