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What is an Industrial Respirator?

Tess C. Taylor
Tess C. Taylor

An industrial respirator is a device worn on the face to aid in breathing and to protect a person from inhaling harmful chemicals, particles, or substances while in an industrial setting. There are many types of industrial respirators available, each of which is designed to provide a certain kind of protection while on the job. Some occupations require the use of industrial respirators while performing duties that involve exposure to dust, chemicals, vapors, gases, fumes, and smoke.

Generally, there are two main types of industrial respirators. The first is the air-purifying respirator and the second is the air-supplied respirator. Both forms of respirators include a mask that is secured to the face and filters made of a safe porous material. Respirators may be full face, half face, or full hood styles to protect the breathing, eyes, and head of the wearer.

A man wearing an industrial respirator.
A man wearing an industrial respirator.

The type of industrial respirator that should be used depends on the environment in which the wearer must endure certain types of exposure and if the air is safe enough to breathe through a filtering system or if oxygen must be supplied. Respirators essentially work by taking advantage of positive and negative air pressure from the outside. That is, air that is clean is maintained inside the respirator while heavier air containing particles stays outside to keep the wearer safe.

The air-purifying industrial respirator includes a mask that is secured to the wearer’s face with ties or straps. A filter made of a porous material and a charcoal-based component is inserted, which keeps harmful particles out and allows fresh air to be breathed in and out safely. Some industrial respirators include two filters on each side to double the effect. Prior to use, government safety agencies require that a respirator fit test must be performed to make sure the respirator is working properly and that the wearer has adequate oxygen. This type of industrial respirator is most often used by health and safety workers, policemen, biologists, and industrial workers.

An air-supplied respirator is similar to the more simple type of industrial respirator, except that an alternate source of oxygen is connected via tubing so that the wearer does not have to breathe in any outside air. Instead, the wearer breathes out through the filter and breathes in through an attached oxygen tank while the industrial respirator is in use. This type of respirator is most often used by firemen, chemical workers, and anyone exposed to deadly fumes or vapors in the environment.

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    • A man wearing an industrial respirator.
      By: loraks
      A man wearing an industrial respirator.