Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is a type of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). RPE is a last defence in protecting the wearer from different forms of airborne contaminants.

When managing health and safety risks arising from respiratory hazards, knowing the correct form(s) a hazardous substance takes is important in ensuring the most appropriate and effective control measure is implemented.

Solid particles Particles of solid material, including aerosols, dusts, fibres, smokes and fumes. Asbestos
Crystalline silica
Diesel exhaust
Welding fume
Fungal spores and parasites
Bacteria and viruses
Liquid particles Fine sprays, mists and aerosols made up of small droplets of liquid. Sprayed liquids: Mists:
  • chrome acid
  • cutting fluids
  • oil mist
Vapour Gaseous forms of a solid or liquid Solvent
Gas  Carbon monoxide
Diesel exhaust
Under certain conditions, a substance can exist in more than one form at the same time e.g. paint spraying can produce fine mists of liquid droplets and also solvent vapour.

Supplying workers with RPE can be costly to implement, maintain and replace. Over time, substitution or engineering control measures such as local exhaust ventilation (LEV) or water suppression may be more cost-effective.

However, if you intend to use RPE to minimise an exposure risk, there are factors that you must consider when selecting the most appropriate RPE in your circumstances. You must ensure suitable RPE is used for the work being undertaken and the associated hazard. The RPE must be the correct size and fit and is comfortable for the worker who will use it.

All workplaces that implement RPE as a control measure must ensure:

  • the level of exposure is known
  • the correct selection of appropriate RPE
  • training is provided in the correct use and maintenance of RPE
  • fit testing and fit-checking of tight-fitting RPE
  • health monitoring of RPE users is undertaken, if required
  • inspection, maintenance, repair and storage of RPE
  • records are kept.

If you use PPE such as RPE to minimise health and safety risks, you must not charge, levy or deduct from an employee's wage any costs associated with the supply and maintenance of PPE.

Further information