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P1, P2 & P3 Respiratory Protection - Choose the right respirator filter for the job!

Whats the difference between P1, P2 and P3 respirator filters?
Which level of respiratory protection do you require?
Are you asking yourself these types of questions? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about respiratory protection levels!


Introduction

Harmful substances such as silica dust, asbestos, molten metals etc, can enter into your respiratory system when the air surrounding you contains dusts, mists, fumes, gases and/or vapours. (This is heightened when you are in an oxygen deprived environment).
Using Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) to protect yourself against these harmful substances is an essential safety measure within these working environments. 
Australian Standards now cover respiratory protection and risk management. These standards outline a basis for the selection, use and maintenance of RPE in Australia and New Zealand. 
AS/NZS Respiratory Protection Standards:
  • AS/NZS 1715:2009 Selection, Use and Maintenance of Respiratory Protective Equipment
  • AS/NZS 1716:2012 Respiratory Protective Devices

Types of Respiratory Hazards

Australian Standard AS/NZS 1715:2009 classifies contaminated air into the following categories:
  • Particles
    • Dust / Fibres - Particles generated by mechanical means such as crushing, cutting and sanding. 
      • Examples include: calcium carbonate, cement (silica) dust, sulphur, coal, clay, ferrous metals (steel, stainless steel, cast iron), wood dust and asbestos
    • Mists - Airborne droplets of liquid usually formed by condensation of a vapour or by splashing, spraying or atomising. 
      • Examples include: oil mists, acid mists, condensation of water vapour to form fog and paint mist
    • Fumes - Fine particles usually less than 1.0μm in diameter, formed from a volatilised solid that has condensed in cool air. Fumes are often associated with molten metals especially in welding practices. 
      • Examples include: welding, soldering and bushfire smoke 
  • Gases - Formless fluids that expand and occupy the space in which they are confined (e.g. a room)
      • Examples include: nitrogen, oxygen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide
  • Vapour - The gas form of a substance which is usually in the form of a solid or liquid when at room temperature and pressure. 
      • Examples include: methylene chloride, toluene and mineral spirits. 

Choosing the right RPE

According the AS/NZS 1715:2009, when selecting your RPE you should be considering the following:
  • Complying with the requirements of AS/NZS 1716:2009
  • Medical evaluation of wearer
  • Contaminant factors
  • Tasks wearer will be doing
  • Wearer factors e.g. comfort

Factors to consider when selecting RPE

The following factors will influence the selection of RPE:
  1. Contaminants 
  2. Task
  3. Operator/Wearer
  4. Product Limitations

1. Contaminants
When trying to select the correct RPE, first identify the contaminant that you will be working with. When choosing your RPE, your respirator needs to have capabilities against the physical form of the contaminant. 
Particulates require a filter web and gasses & vapours require sorbents to 'soak' up the contaminant. (Different gases and vapours require different sorbents).
Factors and Exposure Standards
The reduction in exposure that a respirator can provide is all dependent on the level of contaminant withing the environment you are working and the type of respirator you have chosen to wear. 
Mechanically Generated Particles

Required Minimum Protection Factor

Suitable RPE

Up to 10

P1, P2 or P3 filter half facepiece – replaceable filter

P1 or P2 disposable facepiece

PAPR – P1 filter in PAPR with any head covering or facepiece

Up to 50

P2 filter in full facepiece

PAPR – P2 filter in PAPR with any head covering or full facepiece

PAPR – P3 filter in PAPR with any head covering

Half facepiece with positive pressure demand or continuous flow air-line

Half facepiece – air-hose RPE with electric blower

Up to 100

P3 filter in full facepiece

Full facepiece air-hose (hose mask) natural breathing type

100+

PAPR – P3 filter in PAPR with full facepiece or head covering and blouse

Head covering air-hose with electric blower

Head covering air-line respirator – continuous flow

Full facepiece air-line respirator – positive pressure demand or continuous flow modes

Full facepiece air-hose with electric blower


Thermally Generated Particles

Required Minimum Protection Factor

Suitable RPE

Up to 10

P2 or P3 filter half facepiece – replaceable filter

P2 disposable facepiece

Up to 50

P2 filter in full facepiece

PAPR – P2 filter in PAPR with any head covering or full facepiece

PAPR – P3 filter in PAPR with any head covering

Half facepiece with positive pressure demand or continuous flow air-line

Half facepiece – air-hose RPE with electric blower

Up to 100

P3 filter in full facepiece

Full facepiece air-hose (hose mask) natural breathing type

100+

PAPR – P3 filter in PAPR with full facepiece or head covering and blouse

Head covering air-hose with electric blower

Head covering air-line respirator – continuous flow

Full facepiece air-line respirator – positive pressure demand or continuous flow modes

Full facepiece air-hose with electric blower


Gas and Vapour Concentration

Required Minimum Protection Factor

Maximum Gas/Vapour Concentration Present in Air p.p.m. (by volume)


Suitable RPE

Up to 10

1 000

Class AUS, 1, 2 or 3 filter with half facepiece – replaceable filter or disposable facepiece

Class PAPR-AUS, PAPR-1 or PAPR-2 filters in PAPR with any head covering or facepiece

Up to 50

1 000

Class AUD or Class 1 filter with full facepiece

Up to 50

5 000

Half facepiece air-line respirator with positive demand – or continuous flow

Half facepiece air-hose, with electric blower

Up to 100

5 000

Class 2 filter with full facepiece

Class PAPR-2 filters, with full facepiece PAPR

Up to 100

10 000

Class 3 filter with full face respirator

Full facepiece air-line respirator – negative pressure demand

SCBA negative pressure demand

Full facepiece air-hose (air mask) natural breathing type

100+

 

Full facepiece, head covering or air-supplied suit with air-line respirator – positive pressure demand or continuous flow

SCBA positive pressure demand

Full facepiece air-hose with electric blower


2.  Task
You also need to consider the task at hand before selecting appropriate RPE. 
Factors that relate to this include:
  • Will the respirator be used regularly? If so, comfort and convenience is a significant factor. Using negative pressure respirators for long periods of time can cause some discomfort and fatigue. 
  • For long periods of use, or where strenuous activity is involved negative pressure respirators can decrease the wearers level of performance caused by the extra energy required to breath.
  • Vision needs to be considered. Where good peripheral vision is required you want to ensure your respirator does not restrict this. 
  • The resources available to maintain respiratory protection devices need to be considered. 

3. Operator / Wearer
Ensure when selecting your RPE you take into consideration the person wearing the respirator. 
  • Wearing a respirator can be hot, strenuous work and cause a level of fatigue to the wearer. The ability for the wearer to cope with this needs to be considered. 
  • Facial fit is prominent to obtaining adequate respiratory protection when using disposable, half face or full face respirators. Facial hair can cause respirators to not give you a full seal and allow leakage of contaminants into the respirator and therefore into your respiratory system. 
  • Confidence is key! The wearer NEEDS to be confident in the respirator they are wearing. It needs to be comfortable, not obstructing their vision and not disrupting the ability to communicate. If the wearer does not trust their respirator, they WILL NOT WEAR IT, which then increases their risk of exposure to harmful contaminants. 

4. Product Limitations
RPE is only ONE strategy for complete respiratory protection. RPE does not control the contaminant at the source. Other strategies include eliminating or reducing harmful airborne contaminants, increasing ventilation and changing/improving work methods.

Does your RPE conform to standards?

It is important to ensure your RPE conforms with the appropriate standards. Look for Australian Standard markings on the RPE or its packaging. (AS/NZS 1716:2012 Respiratory Protective Devices)
Classification of Filters
    • Particulate Filters - Particulate filters (dust, mist, fume and smoke) are classified according to their ability during a test to filter different sizes particles as defined in AS/NZS 1716:2012.
      • Class P1 Filters
        • P1 filters protect against mechanically generated particles. P1 filters are available as the powered type, replaceable filter type and disposable type. 
      • Class P2 Filters
        • P2 filters protect against mechanically or thermally generated particles (or both). P2 filters are available as the powered type, replaceable filter type and disposable type. 
      • Class P3 Filters
        • P3 filters are to protect against highly toxic or irritant particles. P3 filters are available as the powered type and replaceable filter type. 
        • To achieve P3 filter classification a FULL FACEPIECE is required (for non powered air), OR a HEAD COVERING or FULL FACEPIECE for a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR).
        • Note: When a P3 filter is used in conjunction with a half facepiece, the protection level is equivalent to a P2 filter.

Class

Efficiency

Penetration

Application

P1

80% (Particles to 1μm micron = 0.001mm size)

Not more than 20%

Dusts

P2

94% (Particles to 0.3μm micron = 0.0003mm size)

Not more than 6%

Toxic dusts, including welding fumes and asbestos

P3

99.95% (Particles to <0.3μm micron =less than 0.0003mm size)

Not more than 0.05%

Toxic dusts including asbestos, welding fumes (Only achieved with PAPR or Full Face)


    • Gas Filters - Classes for gas filters are distinguished by how much gas they're able to absorb.
      • Gas filters are classified by one of the following classes:
        • Class AUS - low absorption capacity filters
        • Class 1 - low to medium absorption capacity filters
        • Class 2 - medium absorption capacity filters
        • Class 3 - high absorption capacity filters

Class

Efficiency

Application

A (All classes)

Organic Vapours

Solvents (with boiling point above 65°C)

B AUS of B1

Acid gases

Chlorine/sterilization of water; chemical manufacture; hydrogen chloride/chlorinated organic chemical manufacture; steel pickling

B2

Acid gas and hydrogen cyanide (HCN)

Plastics manufacture; gold ore refining

B3

Acid gas and hydrogen cyanide (HCN)

HCN fumigation

E

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

SO2 /casting of metals; bleach manufacture; manufacture of sulfuric acid; fertiliser manufacture; metal cleaning; petroleum refining

G

Agricultural Chemicals

Low vapour pressure (below 1.3Pa at 25°C) organic vapours, pesticide spraying, mixing, manufacture

K

Ammonia (NH3)

NH3/refrigeration; manufacture of fertilisers, explosives, plastics; low boiling point amines/chemical manufacture

Hg

Mercury

Metallic mercury/chemical industry; inorganic mercury compounds

NO

Oxides of Nitrogen

Oxides of Nitrogen

MB

Methyl Bromide

Fumigation

AX

Low boiling point organic compounds (below 65oC)

As specified by the manufacturer, e.g. dimethyl ether, vinyl chloride

Specific Chemical Type

Specific Chemical Name

For use against specific chemicals not falling in the above type description as specified by the manufacturer, e.g. hydrogen fluoride


Does your respirator have a proper fit?

Respiratory fit testing is the most important responsibility when using RPE. Ensuring your RPE fits properly and has a tight seal around your face means you are preventing the possibility of breathing in contaminants that are in the air. 
Respiratory fit testing is now mandatory under Australian Standards. Respiratory fit testing is to ensure your RPE fits properly, forms a tight seal and will keep you safe from dangerous contaminants. 
Facial fit tests need to be carried out every year OR when there is a change in the wearers facial characteristics e.g. excessive change in weight, loss of teeth etc.
Facial hair will affect the seal of your RPE, this can lead to leakage of the contaminant into the facepiece. Even having just a few days growth will cause excessive leakage of the contaminant. Individuals who have facial hair including; a beard, mustache, sideburns or stubble should not wear a respirator that requires a facial seal as they will NOT pass a fit test and will be at risk of inhaling contaminants in the air. 
If the wearer does have facial hair and is reluctant to getting rid of it, they will need to opt for a powered air system. (PAPR) e.g. Versaflo / Jupiter system. 
Fit Testing Methods
There are two current fit testing methods. Qualitative and Quantitative.
  • Qualitative
    • A qualitative fit test is a pass/fail test that relies on the wearers taste and smell senses. 
  • Quantitative
    • A quantitative fit test numerically measures the amount of leakage into the respirator to determine the respirators fit.
Facial Fit Checks
Wearers are required to complete a fit check each time they use their RPE.
  • Negative Pressure Fit Check
    • The wearer covers the intake on the filters or squeezes the breathing tube so that air cannot pass through. They then inhale so that the facepiece collapses slightly. If the facepiece remains collapsed, no inward leakage is detected and the wearer feels the tight seal formed the RPE is well fitted. 
  • Positive Pressure Fit Check
    • The wearer closes the exhale valve and exhales into the facepiece. If the respirator gets built up with the positive pressure and no outward leakage is detected the RPE is well fitted. 

Maintaining and Storing your RPE

Maintaining and storing your RPE correctly is crucial to ensure it keeps performing and protecting you they way it is intended to. This can include regular inspections, testing, cleaning, disinfecting, repair, replacement and safe storage. 

Looking for defects? Here's a simple checklist to follow.

Inspection

Action Required

Disposable RPE

Physical damage to filter

Get new RPE

Straps – for elasticity or deterioration

Get new RPE

Metal nose clip – for deterioration

Get new RPE

Reusable Half or Full Facepiece

Facepiece

Dirt

Clean away all dirt

Cracks, tears, holes or stickiness

Get new facepiece

Cracked, scratched or loose lenses

Source possible replacement or get new facepiece

Distortion

All facepiece to ‘sit’ alone and see if distortion disappears or get new facepiece

Straps

Breaks or tears

Get new head harness

No elasticity

Get new head harness

Broken buckles or attachments

Source possible replacement parts or get new head harness

Serrations which may cause facepiece to slip

Get new head harness

Inhale and Exhale Valves

Dust particles or dirt on valve

Clean with soap and water then rinse

Cracks, tears or distortion in valve

Contact manufacturer

Missing or broken valve cover

Source new valve cover

Filter Elements

High filter resistance

Replace filter

Missing or worn gaskets

Replace gasket

Worn filter and facepiece connections

Replace

Cracks or dents in filter housing

Replace filter

Deterioration of gas filter support harness

Replace harness

Expiry date

Replace filter

Blocked pre-filter

Replace pre-filter (this helps extend the life of the main filter)

Breathing Tube

Hardening or cracks

Replace breathing tube

Missing or defective hose clamps

Source new clamps

Defective or missing end connectors

Source new connectors


Replacement of Filters
It is best to replace particulate filters when it becomes difficult to breath or the filter becomes dirty or physically damaged OR when they expire (whichever comes first). Each individual wearer will need to change their filters to suit their own personal use.
It is best to replace gas and vapour cartridge filters when the expiry date on the sealed packet has passed, once opened maximum use time is 6 months and/or when the user can smell or taste the contaminants.

Cleaning your RPE
  • Remove filters if applicable
  • Disassemble according to manufacturers instructions
  • Replace any broken or missing parts
  • Wash in warm soapy water (A stiff bristle brush can be used to dislodge dirt)
  • Rinse in clean water (preferably running) drain and let air dry
  • Reassemble in accordance with manufacturers instructions and store appropriately
Storing your RPE
You should first check the manufacturers instructions for any information regarding storage. You should also always adhere to the below:
  • RPE should be stored so it is readily available therefore encouraging use
  • Keep  your RPE clean, dry and away from dust
  • To avoid deterioration store RPE in an airtight container
  • Store so as they are not subject to distortion



Is there anything we missed? 
If you require any further information regarding respiratory protection and RPE please contact us.

The information provided above is intended as a guide to assist you with RPE. 

ABL Distribution offers Australia wide distribution of all respirators and masks.

In many areas of Brisbane, Logan, Gold Coast, Tweed and Northern NSW, ABL offers free delivery. 

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