What is a Respirator Hood?

Mary McMahon

A respirator hood is a safety device designed to protect the head and neck while a person breathes through a respirator in environments where there are concerns about exposure to pollutants, hazardous organisms, and other threats. Respirator hoods are usually worn with other protective garments. They can be reusable or disposable and come in a variety of styles for different purposes, along with designs intended to work with different respirator styles. They are available through scientific and safety supply companies.

Respirator hoods are worn as part of hazmat suits.
Respirator hoods are worn as part of hazmat suits.

The respirator hood consists of a hood pulled over the head and made from a strong, flexible material like Tyvek®. A clear viewing window is provided over the face so the person can see and it may be treated with anti-fog products to keep the window clear as the person works. In a supplied air respirator hood, the device connects to an air supply worn on the body or piped into the room, while others are worn with filtration masks, where the person breathes normally through a mask and particulates are trapped in a filter.

Respirator hoods are designed to fit snugly but comfortably, and they can be intended to work with specific protective gear for the rest of the body. Hazardous materials or hazmat can also be dangerous for the body, and it's important to wear full protection and to follow protocol when putting on protective gear. There is typically a specific order people must use when layering gear and closing it to confirm that the inside of a hazmat suit cannot be penetrated from the outside.

In the case of a disposable respirator hood, after a single use, the gear can be discarded. This may be used in heavily contaminated environments or situations where equipment for sterilizing is not available; people working in the field, for example, will find it easier to simply discard gear than to try to manage sterilization needs. Reusable gear can be sterilized between uses to eliminate any contaminants and used again. It is carefully inspected before being put on to confirm that there are no holes or other compromises that could put the wearer at risk.

Wearing a respirator hood can be hot and uncomfortable. People usually sweat heavily inside hazmat suits, and because the garments do not provide ventilation, the garments can start to feel clammy and unpleasant. Anti-fogging treatments are especially important, as people may get frustrated with poor visibility through the viewing window, and having a fogged view can present a safety risk, as people may not be able to clearly see their working environment.

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