The Basic Types of Respirators – And How to Select the Right One for Your Workplace

Respirators are a critical piece of personal protection equipment, and using the wrong type can have serious consequences. In this article, we’ll go over the different types of respirators and what you need to know about each before deciding which is right for your workplace.

Two Types of Respirators

There are two basic types of respirators: supplied-air respirators (SAR) and air-purifying respirators (APR).

The type of respirator a worker needs depends on the hazards they face. Respirators, moreover, should be only used when the hazards cannot be mitigated through elimination, substitution, or engineering and administrative controls. PPE is always the last line of defense.

Supplied Air Respirators

Supplied air respirators provide air either through an airline that is fed from an uncontaminated air source located away from the hazards or through a compressed air tank. Supplied air systems must be meet standards for purity and moisture content, and pressure must be regulated.

SAR systems either come as tight-fitting full- or half-face respirators. Which of these you need will depend on the type of environment they’ll be used in. For example, if you are working in a confined space with a lack of oxygen or hazardous contaminants, you will need a tight-fitting sealed respirator which will keep contaminants out. If you’re applying paint, however, you can use a loose-fitting hood that covers the head and neck and provides a constant supply of positive pressure air to keep contaminants out of your breathing zone.

The self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBAs) you see on divers or firefighters are one example of supplied air respirators. So are life support systems for space suits and the positive pressure personnel suits often used in biocontainment or maximum containment (BSL-4) laboratory facilities (if you’re picturing that scene from E.T., you’ve got the right idea).

Air Purifying Respirators

Air-purifying respirators don’t supply air; instead, they remove contaminants like dust, mists, and organic vapors by filtering out particulates through an appropriate filtration or absorbent cartridge or filter.

These types of respirators should not be used in atmospheres where there is a lack of oxygen, hazardous levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S), or other contaminants that are not suitable for an APR.

Air-purifying respirators come as one of the following:

  • Full-face mask (covering the chin, eyes, nose, and mouth – can sometimes replace the need for safety glasses)
  • Half-face mask (covering the chin, nose, and mouth)
  • Mouth bit respirators (normally used for escape only – think helicopter underwater breathing apparatus for emergency escape or self-rescue breathing devices for miners)
  • Filtering facepiece (disposable respirators used to protect against some particulate hazards)

Selecting the Right Type of Respirator for Your Workplace

Choosing the right type of respirator is critical. No respirator can filter out or protect against a hazard that it is not designed to address. It may be necessary to consult an industrial hygienist or an experienced and trained safety professional to determine the type of respirator that is right for your needs.

Here is the two-step process to determine the right type of respirator for your workplace.

1. Asses the Types of Hazard Workers May Be Exposed To

In environments that have a lack of oxygen or the presence of H2S, a supplied air system will be required. In situations where there are particulate hazards, such as dust, you will likely use a filter air-purifying respirator. In situations where you are exposed to vapors (say, from solvents) you may choose a vapor cartridge or a combination of both, depending upon the hazard.

An exposure assessment conducted by an industrial hygienist will determine exposure levels for the types of contaminants you are testing for. Reference those exposure levels against the ACGIH TLVs and BEIs booklets for your current year and OSHA requirements. These booklets are used worldwide as a reference for the evaluation and control of workplace exposures to physical agents and chemical substances.

2. Determine the Level of Protection Required

Under OSHA, only respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) can be used in the workplace, and all NIOSH-approved respirators have an assigned protection factor. Contact the respirator’s manufacturer or industrial hygienist to determine the right level of protection for your workplace.

Once you know your occupational exposure limits, your required protection factor, and the level of contaminants, you have all the information you’ll need to determine which respirator is right for your application.

Elements of Respiratory Protection in the Workplace

Of course, selecting the right PPE is just one part of ensuring workers’ respiratory safety. Other things employers and safety professionals need to do include:

  • Assess the hazards and evaluating other methods of controlling them
  • Conduct an exposure assessment (if necessary)
  • Develop a written respiratory protection program
  • Conduct medical evaluations (where required)
  • Perform qualitative or quantitative fit tests
  • Provide the appropriate level of training to workers who will use respirators

Respirator Maintenance

To ensure its optimal functioning, respirators must be used and maintain properly:

  • Ensure that all employees who wear respirators are cleanly shaved
  • Encourage employees to perform seal checks whenever they wear a respirator
  • Store respirators away from dust, sunlight, extreme temperatures, damaging chemicals, and excessive moisture
  • Clean and disinfect the respirator according to the manufacturer’s specifications
  • Inspect respirators for function, fit, the pliability of elastomeric part, and the overall condition of the facepiece

Written By Todd Wells and Originally Posted on Safeopedia

A Purveyor of Safety

Born on March 4, 1877 Garrett Morgan founded the National Safety Device Company and was best known for creating the first Safety Smoke Prevention Hood, the predecessor to modern Escape Hoods & Gas Masks; for which he was granted a patent in 1914. The invention was created after Morgan witnessed firefighters struggling from the smoke they encountered in the line of duty. The hood was sewn from heavy cotton and contained clear eye holes. A hose dangled to the ground which allowed clean air to enter into the hood (due to the hot, smoke rising upward). The device was used “to provide a portable attachment which will enable a fireman to enter a house filled with thick, suffocating gasses and smoke…and enable him to perform his duties…without danger to himself from suffocation”. Morgan went on to state, “The device is also efficient and useful for protection to engineers, chemists and working men who are obligated to breathe noxious fumes or dust derived from the materials in which they are obliged to work”

Morgan’s Hood (left). Early Gas Masks (middle). Modern Escape Hood (right)

In 1916 he put his invention into service when he personally rescued workers trapped within a water intake tunnel beneath Lake Erie. Eight men were saved and the mayor of Cleveland hailed Morgan as a hero and credited his safety hood for saving lives. The National Safety Device Company went on to sell Morgan’s hoods to several firefighting brigades across the United States and Canada. By World War I, his breathing device was refined to carry its own air supply, making it one of the first gas masks in use. Garrett Morgan also invented the modern day Traffic Signal with the first ever ‘warning’ position in 1922.

Morgan dons his device to rescue workers from a collapsed Lake Erie water tunnel in 1916

Today, an estimated 5 million workers are require to wear respirators in 1.4 million workplaces throughout the United States. Respirators protect workers against insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors and sprays. RPE is used in several industries such as firefighting, military, marine, manufacturing, construction, welding, machining, confined space and food service.

Ritz Safety is a reseller of Personal Protective Equipment with a catalog of over 20,000 products from 100 different suppliers.

Halloween Safety

With such a strong presence in the Personal Protective Equipment industry it’s no wonder that Ritz Safety has become synonymous with job site safety. We are also advocates for safety in youth athletics and personal/family safety which is why we thought this reminder from the National Safety Council was worth reblogging:

Costume Safety

  • All costumes, wigs and accessories should be fire-resistant
  • Avoid masks, which can obstruct vision
  • If children are allowed out after dark, fasten reflective tape to their costumes and bags, or give them glow sticks
  • When buying Halloween makeup, make sure it is nontoxic and always test it in a small area first
  • Remove all makeup before children go to bed to prevent skin and eye irritation

When They’re on the Prowl

  • A responsible adult should accompany young children on the neighborhood rounds
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review a route acceptable to you
  • Agree on a specific time children should return home
  • Teach your children never to enter a stranger’s home or car
  • Instruct children to travel only in familiar, well-lit areas and stick with their friends
  • Tell your children not to eat any treats until they return home
  • Children and adults are reminded to put electronic devices down, keep heads up and walk, don’t run, across the street

Safety Tips for Motorists

  • Watch for children walking on roadways, medians and curbs
  • Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully
  • At twilight and later in the evening, watch for children in dark clothing
  • Discourage new, inexperienced drivers from driving on Halloween

We want to thank the NSC for their tireless efforts in eliminating preventable deaths through education, research and advocacy.

CDC Issues Message for Hurricane Michael Cleanup

The CDC recently issued a message for those involved in recovery measures from Hurricane Michael. The document is titled, “Hurricane Key Messages for Employers, Workers and Volunteers.” It covers the potential dangers involved in cleanup work and proper safety precautions, with links at the end of each section to additional resources.

The topics addressed in it include carbon monoxide, chain saw use and tree removal, chemicals, electrical hazards, falls, fire ants, heat stress, mold, portable generators, motor vehicles, fatigue, and even working with livestock and poultry wastewater and sludge.
Fallen Trees are one of the larger nuisances when it comes to post-disaster cleanup. The equipment to remove these large obstacles can sometimes be intimidating for recovery crews – which is why it is a good idea to frequently review the following safety tips:

• Choose the proper size of chain saw to match the job.
• Operate, adjust, and maintain the saw according to manufacturer’s instructions.
• Take extra care in cutting “spring poles” trees or branches that have been bent, twisted, hung up on, or caught under another object during a high wind.
• Be sure that bystanders are at a safe distance from cutting activities.
• Check around the tree or pole for hazards, such as nails, power lines, or cables, before cutting.
• Wear proper protective clothing and glasses.

We recommend a nice pair of chaps, leather gloves, ear protection and hard hats for any falling debris. Having a face shield on hand for larger, projectile shavings isn’t a bad idea either.

Selecting FR Clothing for Cooler Weather

Originally posted at

As the winter months approach and the temperature drops, it’s important to keep workers warm by selecting the proper FR clothing. The cooler temperatures create a new hazard for workers: Coldstress. Similar to heat stress, this occurs when someone loses the ability to regulate their body temperature due to being exposed to extreme temperatures. As skin temperature drops, the core body temperature will eventually drop too. This can lead to a decrease in productivity and performance, but it doesn’t stop there. Cold stress can eventually lead to hypothermia, which can cause workers to lose coordination, a decrease in breathing and heart rate, and a loss of consciousness. To protect your workers from cold stress, it is important to select the proper FR clothing for the cold weather.

Below is a list of considerations to follow when selecting FR clothing for your team for the cooler months:

First and foremost when selecting FR clothing is remaining compliant to industry and employer standards for safety. The first step in remaining compliant is to identify all potential hazards. As outlined by ANSI, NFPA, and OSHA, employers are required to conduct an arc flash study and hazard risk assessment to identify all potential hazards. Once all hazards have been identified, the employer must take the necessary steps to engineer out potential hazards. For the hazards that can’t be eliminated, the employer must provide the appropriate PPE and educate employees on the potential hazards and the use of PPE. Potential hazards can be caused by the environment (heat/cold, gas/vapor exposure), work organization (unnecessary manual handling), equipment (ladders, moving equipment/vehicles), thermal hazards (welding, radiant heat), heights (ladders, elevated workspace, leading edge, confined space), and electricity (electric shock, arc flash). Understanding specific work practices and hazards will allow you to identify if you need daily FR work wear and/or task-based PPE.

One of the main reasons workers cite for non-compliance with PPE protocols is that the FR garments are just too uncomfortable so they don’t want to wear them. Other common complaints are that the PPE is too hot or has a poor fit. The best way to fix this problem is to provide workers with garments they actually want to wear and garments that improve productivity through comfort. Based on our end user research, a comfortable garment has three important characteristics: lightweight, breathability, and moisture wicking. A lightweight garment can add warmth when needed without weighing down the worker and hindering the range of motion. Breathability allows heat and air to flow through the garment to prevent overheating while moisture wicking fabric works to keep the worker dry. We combined these three characteristic into what we call the TECGEN Triangle. FR clothing that has this combination can improve worker safety and productivity by eliminating the distraction of physical discomfort.

It may be getting cold outside, but that doesn’t mean that workers stop sweating. Moisture and dampness from sweat can increase the rate of heat loss from the body, accelerating cold stress. The best way to combat perspiration and the resulted cold stress is to have FR clothing that is moisture wicking. This is an important part of not just comfort, but worker safety and productivity as well. Moisture wicking fabrics are created by using a blend of hydrophilic and hydrophilic fibers. The hydrophilic fibers are “water loving” – meaning they actively pull moisture in off the skin. Hydrophobic fibers are “water hating” – meaning they actively push moisture out to the surface of the garments, allowing it to evaporate. The combination of these two fibers creates a moisture wicking fabric that pulls moisture from the skin and effectively releases it back into the air, drying 2-3 times faster than cotton. Layering multiple moisture wicking garments from base layers to work wear creates a moisture management system that will help keep workers dry and comfortable.

Layering is a great way to take your FR work wear into the next season. From moisture wicking base layers to FR outerwear, layering garments allows workers to stay warm and avoid cold stress during the winter months. Our FR Control 2.0 base layers, including shirts, long johns, and balaclavas, work to keep workers warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot by proactively regulating skin temperature (+/- 3 degrees). Moisture wicking garments will help maintain skin temperature as well. To further prevent cold stress, OSHA recommends workers wear light, loose layers because they provide better insulation and are easy to remove. Trusted brands such as TECGEN Select and DRIFIRE make a variety of comfortable daily work wear options from FR pants and jeans to FR work shirts and coveralls that can be layered on top of the base layers. For added warmth on top, an FR sweatshirt is a great option. Available in three styles – zip front, crew neck, and pullover – our FR sweatshirts are arc rated and come in multiple weight options, allowing you to control the amount of warmth added.

As the temperature drops, it’s important to be aware of the potential hazards that can arise. Cold temperatures, decreased visibility, foul weather are just a few of the potential hazards workers can face as we enter the winter months. The best way to ensure safety and productivity is by supplying workers with FR clothing that keeps them warm and comfortable. Following these considerations, along with employer requirements, will help you select the appropriate FR clothing for the cold weather. For additional information on FR clothing for cold weather, contact our customer service team through email at or by phone at 1-800-553-0672.

Posted by Mike Cuppage of National Safety Apparel on September 20, 2018 at 9:15 AM

ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 Just Dropped. Here’s the Deal.

As you probably already know the American National Standards Institute publishes a voluntary set of standards and best practices for the construction industry. The latest standard addresses equipment used to tether and/or contain hand tools, components and other objects that could fall from at-heights applications. Increasing numbers of employees are finding themselves ascending to heights to complete their work often directly over or adjacent to their colleagues, by-standers and other individuals at lower levels. Protective equipment, such as hard hats, have long been available to minimize the effects of struck-by incidents only after an object has fallen. Active controls utilized to prevent falling objects by tying them off or containing them while at heights are a rapidly growing practice. Dropped objects include hand tools, instrumentation, small parts, structural components and other items that have to be transferred and used at heights.

Ritz Safety Fall Protection ANSI TetherANSI/ISEA is offering further guidance on the design and testing of products with anchor and connection points (after original manufacturer). Specifically, containers and tool tethers with carabiner or snaphook-type connectors should have locking gates and captive eyes. Containers should also have a minimum of a closure system, integral anchor points or integral tethers. Ritz Safety works with suppliers like 3M and Ergodyne to promote these voluntary, consensus standards across their fall protection products.

Silica Awareness Lunch & Learn – Indianapolis Location

Lunch & Learn Header

Silica Awareness – Tuesday, January 16th

Please register for this lunch & learn session by Friday, January 12th

This presentation is designed to benefit managers as well as employees. This session will cover:

  • What is respirable crystalline silica?
  • Why are we concerned?
  • What do the standards require for construction and general industry?
  • What is specified by the standards and what is not?
  • What are the 3 primary requirements in the standards that may not be readily obvious?
  • What are the steps toward compliance that we must take?
  • Where do we see the biggest shortcomings in compliance?
  • What do we anticipate enforcement to look like?

Schedule for our FREE Lunch & Learn Sessions:
Lunch – Begins at 11:30am
Class – Noon to 1pm

REGISTRATION REQUIRED – RSVP by Friday, January 12th
To reserve your spot, please contact Liz Frazier at 317-263-3500 or by email:

Trainer Bio – Trent Blake, ASP

As the Security, Health and Safety Director for KERAMIDA’s multi-disciplined service organization, Trent plays a pivotal role within the corporation. He has a proven track record of delivering effective and efficient management across complex global organizations. His career has included regional and international roles in environmental, health, safety, and security management for multi-faceted organizations such as Johnson Controls, Ingersoll Rand, and Clark Construction Group.

Trent holds a B.S. in Building Construction Management from Purdue University, is an authorized OSHA Outreach Trainer, and holds an Associate Safety Professional (ASP) designation through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP).

Ritz Safety Acquires Dallas-Based Lone Star Safety & Supply

DAYTON, OH — Dayton, Ohio based Ritz Safety LLC, one of the largest privately-held safety companies in the U.S., announces the acquisition of Lone Star Safety & Supply, headquartered in Dallas, TX and with additional branches in San Antonio, Texas and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, effective Dec. 1 2016.

Lone Star Safety has served the safety industry in the South Central region of the U.S. for 44 years with a motto of “We keep the people, who are building America, Safe”.  Lone Star Safety, a full-line personal protective equipment (PPE) and facility safety product distributor, offers a full array of rental equipment and is a certified repair center for self-retracting lifelines.

The acquisition of Lone Star Safety marks the fourth strategic acquisition in the past 18 months for Ritz Safety — after acquiring Mobile, AL-based Safety Source Inc. in July 2015, Portland, OR-based Public Works Supply Inc. in May, 2016 and Medina, OH-based Slate Rock Safety in June 2016. Ritz Safety has also grown organically, with new or expanded facilities in Tampa and Pompano Beach, FL; Houston, TX and Indianapolis, IN, over the past two years.

Ritz Safety’s acquisition of Lone Star Safety will continue to position the combined organization as a local, regional, and national supplier to the industrial, agricultural, construction, mining, manufacturing, service, waste, oil and gas, ship building and other industries that are looking for assistance with their PPE requirements and consistent employee safety compliance.

“The acquisition of Lone Star Safety continues to expand our national footprint and shorten lead times to our customers. We also like the strong service, repair and rental options that the Lone Star team can provide to our existing customers in Texas and Oklahoma. We are excited to have Lone Star Safety and their employees join the Ritz Safety family,” stated Ken Fisher, President of Ritz Safety.

Ritz Safety Enters the Pacific Northwest!

Ritz Safety Continues Strategic Growth with Strategic AcquisitionPWS-Acquisition

Ritz Safety is proud to announce the acquisition of Public Works Supply Inc. in Donald, Oregon, effective May 1, 2016!  Public Works Supply has served the Portland area for 25 years, and has come to be known as the regional leader in safety equipment and training.  This marks our second strategic acquisition in the past year, after acquiring Mobile, Alabama based Safety Source Inc. in July of 2015.

Ritz Safety’s purchase of Public Works Supply will continue to position the combined organization as a local, regional, and national supplier to the industrial, agriculture, construction, mining, manufacturing, service, waste, oil and gas, ship building, and other industries who are looking for assistance and consistency in keeping their employees safe.  The acquisition brings the total number of Ritz Safety locations to nine.

We look forward to better serving our customers through our continued growth!


The Quest for the Perfect Glove!

Written by Craig Wagner, CEO and President of Global Glove

Today, just like I stated 15 years ago, we find ourselves in the midst of a hand protection revolution.  Now cut resistance has become a more paramount part of hand protection and the flat dip glove dipping process. Quite simply, flat dip technology, combined with new cut resistant fibers like aramids (including brand names Twaron®, Kevlar®) and high density polyethylene also known as HDPE (including brands like Spectra®, Tuffalene® and Dyneema®), are again revolutionizing the glove industry. Many of these cut resistant yarns double and triple cut resistance when enhanced with fiberglass or steel.  New manufacturing techniques are changing the rules of the game for everybody in the hand protection business.

What is flat dip technology? Where did it originate? Why is its impact so great? The following will seek to answer these questions and provide a little history of glove breakthroughs over the years, adding some needed insight and perspective to the flat dip innovation.

What Went Before

The milestones in hand protection technology divide glove history into several neatly defined eras marked by advances in distinct areas of production. These developments are in the knitting, manufacturing, polymers and now cut resistant yarns used to make gloves. Breakthroughs were made in supported/coated gloves, polymers, high performance yarns and automated knitted gloves.  Gloves could now be dipped directly to knitted gloves. No longer would general work gloves be viewed as a choice only between leather or canvas.

Within this genre come breakthroughs in chemical resistant lines through formulation of superior polymers such as natural rubber, neoprene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and nitrile. It is here we also find the precursors to flat dip technology with palm dipping techniques and more precise manufacturing processes. With natural rubber and synthetic coatings, workers were provided improved grip and handling and unparalleled dexterity.

Parallel to coated breakthroughs, were the advancements made in automated knitting. Cotton and synthetic shells and liners became lighter, tighter and more durable as automated knitting machines produced ever sturdier, highly resilient shells. Progress in all three components of glove manufacturing – knitting, manufacturing and polymers – has culminated in the advent of flat dip production. These pioneering firsts in automated knitting owe to the diligent work of Japan’s Shima Seika, Ltd. and now copied by numerous other knit machine manufacturing plants. The progress made, and cost reductions achieved, within the last 25 years outpaces the collective advancements in automated knitting 3,000 years before and since the invention of the loom.

The Intersection of Breakthroughs

Flat dip technology is simply the precise palm coating of a polymer onto an advanced knitted cotton or synthetic shell. As the name implies, flat dip is the application of a polymer coating from the palm to the sides of the fingertips. Where it differs from other coated gloves is in the shell itself and the precision with which the coating is applied. The shell is characterized by its knitting, which produces an extremely lightweight and durable glove with a greater concentration of woven fabric per surface area. It conforms to the hand and resists degradation through stretching.

The coating occurs through a careful dipping process that applies the polymer evenly over a discreet and specific area of glove. It’s the accuracy and even distribution of the coating that separates the flat dip process from other coated gloves. The result is an almost seamless coated glove that offers the wearer the comfort and feel of an unsupported, formed dipped glove with the durability and ruggedness of a knitted, coated glove. Add in cut resistant yarns used in the shells and you have the best of all worlds.

Flat dipped gloves combined with glove shells utilizing cut resistant yarns or the use of cut resistant liners, have changed everything. As safety engineers and risk managers see injuries and lawsuits decline with greater usage, the trend will only continue to grow. The technology is no longer in its infancy. All good manufacturing plants have automatic dipping.  Many are perfecting automation of the entire glove process. Robots and other automation now do loading, unloading, online stamping/marking, and packaging.  Those who do not automate will have a hard time competing in the marketplace.  Bottom line is that over capacity has driven costs to the user down drastically.

Yarn and cut resistant improvements

Advancements in the fibers used, such as HDPE and Aramids®, to knit the shells before dipping have advanced as much as the dipping process.  Adding nylon to either of these provides outstanding comfort. We see this in ladies nylons and the new athletic stretch clothing.  Enhancing those same fibers with steel or fiberglass drastically improve cut resistance, sometimes as much as four to five times the cut resistance.

Each type of fiber has its advantage and disadvantages.  Heat, wear, cut and comfort all vary with the type of base fiber and what is added to it making up the final yarn.  Even some of the industrial polyesters have good cut qualities when enhanced and wrapped correctly, at lower cost.

Add in more capacity and competitors HDPE and Aramid® markets, and you see costs greatly reduced.  Improved wrapping processes have also improved cut resistance and comfort.

It’s the actual applications that highlight the universal appeal of flat dipped gloves. From general construction to automotive, assembly, material handling and repair, the glove’s comfort and grip make it a favorite of workers in nearly every industry. And because of the precision in its knitting and the possibilities available with its coatings, flat dipped gloves are fast becoming the premier of choice for electronics and computer assembly.

The retail market, which typically lags behind in glove innovation, has now exploded with the flat dipped products. The cut resistant yarns are now starting to show up in the retail marketplace, specifically in the do-it-yourself and home improvement stores. And as we’ve learned in this business, what a worker wears on the job is what he or she typically wants when working at home.

Perfect glove?  We are getting pretty close!!!

Craig Wagner can be reached at or by calling 763-450-0110. Global Glove is a privately held glove maker headquartered in Ramsey, Minnesota. In addition to speaking and writing extensively about the hand protection market, Mr. Wagner is a frequent lecturer at on-site safety and quality assurance seminars for industrial workers across the country and around the world and has 30 years of sales and manufacturing experience in the glove market.