What is RPE?

The two main types of RPE are respirators and breathing apparatus.

Respirators (filtering devices) use filters to remove contaminants from the air being breathed in. They can be either:

  • non-powered respirators – relying on the wearer's breathing to draw air through the filter; or
  • powered respirators – using a motor to pass air through the filter to give a supply of clean air.

Breathing apparatus needs a supply of breathing-quality air from an independent source (eg air cylinder or air compressor).

Respirators and BA are available in a range of styles, dividing 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. A face fit test should be carried out to ensure the RPE can protect the wearer.
  • 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.

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Updated: 2021-04-26