Updated: Dec 20, 2021
RPE, respiratory protective equipment, is a type of PPE, which helps to protect people
from breathing in substances that are hazardous to health. Some people find RPE a
confusing topic as there are a lot of options. Consider these factors when selecting to
use RPE as your control against hazardous substances.
Airborne substances hazardous to health can be found in dust, mist, vapour or gases. You may or may not be able to see it in the air. If these hazardous substances are inhaled, workers or other people (visitors) could become unwell.
Depending on the substance, the effects can be immediate or long term. Common immediate effects can include headaches, feeling dizzy and sick, and eye and skin irritation. Long term effects include cancer, organ damage and death.
Managing Risk Using RPE
To manage risks arising from respiratory hazards, all appropriate and effective control
measures which are reasonably practical need to be considered. With a preference of
control measures that protect multiple people at once. PPE, such as RPE, should not
be the first or only control measure considered.
RPE is not a quick and easy solution. RPE can be costly to maintain and replace.
Engineering controls, such as exhaust ventilation may be more cost effective long term.
If RPE is the selected control measure, there are some factors to consider when
selecting the most appropriate RPE for your circumstance.
• Is the RPE appropriate for the hazardous substance? (check SDS)
• Is the RPE suitable for the work involved?
• Will the RPE create another risk?
• Does the RPE work with other PPE the worker uses?
There are a few types of respirator protection equipment to select from. It is important
research options and identify the best respiratory system for your work.
Respirators: Use filters to remove contaminants from the air the wearer breathes.
Powered Air Supply: (PAPRs) Contaminated air is forced by a powered fan through filters
to provide purified air for the wearer.