Selecting the right type of respirator for your employees can be as difficult as deciding whether or not you require respiratory protection in the first place. However, the wrong respirator can have terrible consequences, with in providing no protection in the best case scenario and causing medical issues with your employees in the worst.
To choose the correct type of respirator you must understand all the variables of each job and especially the type of particles that are present in the air as well as their quantity. There are many factors that can influence your choice of respirators some of which are employee comfort, costs, training and many others. 3M respirators come in a wide range of choice that will suit any operation and any budget, making for one of the best brands of protective equipment available.
When buying 3M respirators, you will receive recommendations regarding the correct choice of respirator, either via a guide or even an onsite analysis, however it is vital that you know what you need before hand as it is your responsibility after all. You will also be responsible to make certain that your employees are using their 3M respirators and that they conform to all the enacted local, state and Federal regulations. There is a valuable tool to help you choose the right respirator on the OSHA site, at www.osha.gov, that will walk you through the whole decision process of choosing the best respirator for your working conditions.
You should take into consideration that certain applications will require you to use special types of 3M respirators, for example abrasive blasting requires the use of a respirator that provides protection for the neck and torso to avoid injury from any blast debris that is deflected.
The next step is to identify the exact contaminants as well as their quantity which will help you determine the right respirator to use, whether supplied air respirators, powered air-purifying respirators or self-contained breathing apparatus. However, the most widely used respirator is the negative pressure air-purifying respirator (APR) which can be either a filtering piece or an elastomeric face-piece that has cartridges and filters. These are useful in environments with a reduced degree of hazardous contaminants as they have a low protection factor.
The more powerful respirators afford a higher degree of protection and since they are operated either by batteries for some other form of independent power generator they make life easier for your employee as there will not tire as quickly as in the case of APRs which require workers to fill the air through the filters themselves. However, they also have drawbacks as the air-supplied is limited, full face-pieces can lead to claustrophobia and they also require a high degree of maintenance.
All the different 3M respirators have advantages and disadvantages depending on the work environment, but they are all highly efficient in protecting your employees from disastrous consequences. Of course, their value is reduced if they are not worn under the proper circumstances, as well as if they're not routinely maintained.