Disposable vs Reusable Masks: Understanding the Basics of Respiratory Protection

Disposable Masks are primarily designed for single use and are ideal for protecting against dust and mists. They come in different ratings, such as FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3, with FFP2 and above recommended for mining activities due to their higher protection factor. FFP2 masks are suitable for environments with moderate levels of fine dust and other non-oil based particles. Commonly used in construction, pharmaceutical, and agricultural sectors.

Reusable Masks, on the other hand, offer a more durable solution. They are designed to offer low breathing resistance and already have an inner face seal to provide more protection in terms of fit and leakage. Reusable respirators can be equipped with combination filters that protect against gasses, vapours and particulates. Many brands of reusable masks are also available in different sizes and styles (e.g., half-face and full-face), enhancing their fit and effectiveness. They are particularly recommended for long-term use and could potentially save your company money over a period of time.

Selecting the Right Respirator/Mask

If you have established the need for respiratory protection, then the choice between reusable and disposable masks should be informed by a thorough risk assessment. This involves understanding the type of work being done, the area it is being done in, specific chemicals present, the concentration of harmful substances, and the duration of exposure. It is also important to select PPE that is not only fit for purpose but also compatible with other safety equipment being used by the worker. This holistic approach to safety ensures that all pieces of PPE work together without compromising the effectiveness of one another.

Importance of Proper Fit

Regardless of the type of mask chosen, proper fit is paramount. Fit testing will ensure that the mask provides the intended level of protection. For disposable masks, this would involve selecting a model that best fits the face shape of the wearer. For reusable masks, this includes choosing the correct size and conducting regular fit checks. Our team of experienced professionals are available to conduct fit tests on site.

Maintenance and Care

Reusable masks require regular maintenance to ensure their effectiveness. This includes proper storage in a reasonable bag or sealable container when not in use and stored out of the area where the contaminants are, cleaning, and timely replacement of filters. Disposable masks, while not requiring maintenance, must be properly disposed of after use to prevent contamination.

South Africa Regulatory Compliance and Standards

Adhering to regulatory standards is crucial in selecting appropriate respiratory protection. South Africa follows European standards, which are considered to be the most rigorous. Masks should meet the EN149 standard for disposables or relevant EN standards for reusables. Please note that KN95 and N95 do not comply with South African regulatory standards.

Contact us on +27 11 453 7374 to assist with your respiratory protection needs, to conduct fit tests or assist with a feasibility assessment to see the potential cost savings on disposable vs reusable mask selection.

View our reusable mask options or disposable mask options for sale below.

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