Proper inspection, maintenance, repair and storage is essential to ensure the Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) works correctly and provides the appropriate level of protection. The goal is to maintain the equipment in a condition that provides the same effectiveness as it had when it was first manufactured.
RPE should be inspected for signs of damage before each use and during cleaning. An inspection should cover manufacturer’s instructions. When carrying out inspection and maintenance, check that:
- connections are tight
- there are no holes or tears
- there is no distortion of the face seal
- there is no deterioration or loss of elasticity in the straps
- there are no broken or malfunctioning buckles
- inhalation and exhalation valves are clean and operational
- the valve and valve seat are free from dust, dirt and hair
- the filters are properly secured and filter housing is not cross threaded
- there is nothing that would impair vision on a full-face respirators
- there are no faults in the connections on powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) and supplied air respirators
- powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) and supplied air respirators have the correct settings
- there is adequate battery charge and flow rate when using a powered respirator.
RPE that have failed inspection need to be taken out of service. Repairs should only be undertaken by a competent person.
Disposable respirators are for single use and should be disposed after use. Ongoing maintenance is not required.
Particulate filters should be replaced when it becomes:
- difficult to breathe through (this will vary from individual to individual), or
- the filter is visibly dirty or damaged e.g. from welding sparks.
A particulate filters’ performance may be degraded without a noticeable increase in breathing resistance, therefore clogging will not give adequate guidance for filter replacement.
Gas and vapour filter replacement depends on a number of factors including the:
- class of the filter – Class 1 filters can absorb less total contaminants than a Class 3
- level of contaminants in the workplace air – the higher the level of airborne contaminants the shorter the service life of the filter
- intensity of the work – higher breathing rates will reduce the filter service life
- temperature and humidity – high humidity can significantly decrease filter life
- manufacturer's instructions – expiration date.
Once the capacity of gas and vapour filters is reached, gas or vapour will pass straight through and provide no protection to the worker.
Cleaning a reusable facepiece is required after each use to remove contamination, moisture build-up and microbes.
The manufacturer’s instructions should provide advice on cleaning the RPE, including the appropriate cleaning materials and disinfectants to use. The use of cleaning products other than those recommended by the manufacturer may cause problems with the RPE.
Cleaning and drying should be carried out in a clean area to avoid contamination of the RPE.
Disposable respirators and dust masks should not be cleaned, while cartridges and filters cannot be cleaned.
All RPE should be stored in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to protect them from damage, contamination, dust, sunlight, extreme temperatures, excessive moisture and hazardous chemicals, you should:
- store RPE in a clean dry place ensuring the RPE doesn’t get crushed
- remove filters and cartridges from the respirator and store in separate bags to prevent cross contamination
- keep gas and vapour filters in containers or bags with air tight seals as they continue to absorb airborne contaminants even when not being worn
- store half-face respirators or full-face respirators fitted with gas cartridges in a sealed container between uses
- ensure RPE is readily accessible and convenient to the place of work.