Industrial Respirator Mask: Features, Types, and Top Picks

industrial respirator mask types and picks

In industrial environments, respiratory protection is essential for safeguarding workers from hazardous airborne particles, gases, and vapors. Industrial respirators are designed to provide this critical protection, ensuring that workers can breathe safely even in the most challenging conditions.


As per OSHA 1910.134, the use of individual respiratory equipment is critical in controlling and preventing workers from breathing in hazardous air contaminated with toxic gasses, dust, silica, smoke, fumes, and the like. There are different types of respirators available in the market, each with a specific use and purpose. Understanding the various respiratory equipment, their key features, and their designed application can help you choose the best one for your needs.

 

Types of Respirators: Key Features and Top Picks 

respirator masks

When dealing with potentially hazardous atmospheres and environments, choosing the right type of respirator is crucial. Respiratory equipment are categorized based on their design, function, and the specific contaminants they protect against. Each type has unique features that make them suitable for different applications.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) classifies particulate filtering respirators based on their ability to remove or filter particulate matter in the air. The filter capacity of respiratory masks is set at at least 95%, 99%, and 99.97% of airborne particles. Respiratory equipment are further classified into three designations (N, R, and P), which are based on the material of the mask’s resistance to oil.

With that, here's an introduction to the main types of respirators and their key features.

Filtering Facepiece Respirator Mask (FFR)

A Filtering Facepiece Respirator (FFR) is a type of disposable respirator that covers the nose and mouth and is designed to filter out airborne particles. FFRs are lightweight and made from non-woven fabric, which is designed to filter particulates. They typically have two straps that secure the mask to the face, creating a tight seal around the nose and mouth. FFRs are single-use masks, meaning they should be disposed of after a single shift or when they become damaged or contaminated.

FFRs are ideal for environments where workers are exposed to dust, pollen, smoke, and other non-oil-based particulates. They are commonly used in healthcare settings, construction sites, and other industries where airborne particle filtration is necessary. Due to their disposable nature, they are best suited for tasks that do not require prolonged use or where sanitation and infection control are critical.

Our Top Picks:

1. Honeywell SAF-T-FIT Plus NIOSH Disposable Respirators

The Honeywell SAF-T-FIT Plus NIOSH Disposable Respirators are designed to offer reliable respiratory protection with convenience and comfort. The SAF-T-FIT Plus series includes multiple models, each with a different NIOSH filter rating, ensuring that users can find the right level of protection for their specific needs.

Key Features

  • Available in N95, N99, P95, and P100 models to suit different needs
  • Contoured design with an adjustable nose clip and durable suspension straps
  • Molded cup design ensures the respirator remains in place during use

2. 3M Particulate Respirator 8210, N95

The 3M Particulate Respirator 8210, N95, is a disposable respirator known for its high filtration efficiency and comfortable design. This NIOSH-approved respirator is effective in filtering out at least 95% of non-oil-based particles, making it ideal for construction, woodworking, and general manufacturing industries.

Key Features

  • NIOSH-approved N95 rating ensures high filtration efficiency
  • Lightweight and comfortable design suitable for extended wear
  • Adjustable nose clip provides a secure seal and reduces fogging of eyewear

3. Moldex 4700 N100 AirWave Pleated Easy Breathing Respirator

The Moldex 4700 N100 AirWave Pleated Easy Breathing Respirator is a high-performance disposable respirator designed to provide superior protection against airborne particulates. The Moldex 4700 N100 AirWave respirator features a unique pleated filter design that increases the surface area for better breathability and longer service life. The pleated filter allows for easier breathing compared to traditional flat-fold respirators, making it more comfortable for extended use.

Key Features

  • NIOSH Filter Rating N100, filters at least 99.97% of airborne particulates
  • Pleated filter design that increases surface area for better breathability and longer service life
  • Features AirWave Technology that enhances breathability and reduces breathing resistance

 

Elastomeric Half Mask Respirator (EHMR)

An Elastomeric Half Mask Respirator (EHMR) is a reusable respirator that covers the nose and mouth and has replaceable filter cartridges. These respirators are made of durable materials such as silicone or rubber and provide a higher level of protection compared to disposable masks.

They feature a flexible, form-fitting facepiece that creates a secure seal around the nose and mouth. EHMRs also have adjustable straps and exhalation valves designed to ensure comfort and prevent heat buildup from inside the mask. The filter cartridges featured in EHMRs are replaceable, allowing for extended use of the respirator.

EHMRs are ideal for industries where workers are exposed to gases, vapors, and airborne particulates that require a higher level of filtration. They are commonly used in industrial settings such as manufacturing, chemical processing, and emergency response. Due to their reusable nature, EHMRs are cost-effective for long-term use and can provide consistent protection in environments with frequent or prolonged exposure to hazardous substances.

Our Top Picks

1. Miller Half Mask Respirator Kit LPR-100

The Miller Half Mask Respirator Kit LPR-100 offers excellent respiratory protection with its low-profile design, making it an excellent choice for professionals who require both safety and comfort. Its compact size allows for better visibility and compatibility with other personal protective equipment.

Key Features

  • P100 filters provide excellent protection against particulates, offering 99.97% filtration efficiency
  • Low-profile design enhances field of vision and compatibility with welding helmets and other PPE
  • Comfortable, ergonomic, and lightweight design with a non-slip head strap

2. Honeywell North 7700 Half Face Respirator

The Honeywell North 7700 Half Face Respirator is known for its comfort and durability. Made from soft, non-allergenic silicone, this reusable respirator provides an excellent seal and is compatible with various cartridges and filters for versatile protection.

Key Features:

  • Compatible with a wide range of cartridges and filters for different hazards
  • Made from soft, non-allergenic silicone for a comfortable and secure fit
  • Dual elasticity head straps allow for easy adjustment and a customized fit

3. MSA Half Mask Respirator Advantage 200 LS

The MSA Half Mask Respirator Advantage 200 LS provides reliable respiratory protection with its comfortable design and easy-to-use features. This respirator is ideal for various industrial applications, offering a secure fit and compatibility with multiple cartridges.

Key Features:

  • Compatible with a variety of MSA filter cartridges for versatile protection
  • Soft, pliable rubber and plastic combination facepiece ensures a comfortable and secure fit
  • Adjustable head harness allows for a personalized and stable fit

 

Elastomeric Full Facepiece Respirator Mask

Similar to the EHMR, an Elastomeric Full Facepiece Respirator is a reusable respirator that covers the entire face, including the eyes, nose, and mouth. It also has replaceable filter cartridges and provides comprehensive protection against airborne particles, gases, and vapors.

This type of respirator features a clear face shield that offers protection for the eyes in addition to respiratory protection. The full facepiece design ensures a secure seal and minimizes the risk of exposure to hazardous substances. Elastomeric Full Facepiece Respirators are ideal for environments where there is a risk of exposure to harmful particles, gases, and vapors that can affect both the respiratory system and the eyes.

Our Top Picks

1. Bullard Full Face Respirator

The Bullard Full Face Respirator is designed to provide comprehensive protection with its durable silicone construction and full-face coverage. This respirator offers excellent visibility and comfort, making it a reliable choice for various industrial applications.

Key Features:

  • Compatible with a range of cartridges for versatile protection
  • Full-face coverage provides protection for the eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Wide lens offers excellent visibility and minimizes visual distortion

2. Sundstrom SR 200 Full Face Mask Glass

The Sundstrom SR 200 Full Face Mask Glass is a high-performance respiratory protection device designed for use in demanding industrial environments. It features a full-face design that provides a secure seal and protects both the respiratory system and eyes from hazardous substances. This mask is compatible with a range of filters and cartridges, allowing it to be used for various applications, including protection against particulates, gases, and vapors.

Key Features:

  • NIOSH-certified and compatible with a range of filters and cartridges, as well as PAPR and supplied air systems
  • Silicone facepiece ensures a comfortable and secure fit, reducing the risk of leaks
  • Features tempered glass lens which offers excellent durability and a wide field of vision

3. MSA Millennium Series Full-Face Gas Mask

The MSA Millennium Series Full-Face Gas Mask is designed for high-performance protection in hazardous environments. Its full-face coverage and durable construction make it ideal for law enforcement, military, and industrial applications.

Key Features:

  • Compatible with a variety of filters and cartridges.
  • Provides comprehensive protection against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats.
  • Full-face design with a large clear lens for wide field of vision and comprehensive respiratory and eye protection.

 

Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR)

 A Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) is a type of respirator that uses a battery-powered blower to draw air through filters and supply purified air to the user. PAPRs can be configured with either a tight-fitting facepiece or a loose-fitting hood or helmet.


PAPRs consist of a motorized blower unit, a battery pack, filter cartridges, and a headpiece. The blower unit forces air through the filters, providing a continuous flow of clean air to the user. This positive airflow helps reduce breathing resistance and increases comfort, making PAPRs suitable for long-term use.

PAPRs are best suited for situations where high levels of respiratory protection and comfort are needed, such as healthcare settings, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and hazardous waste handling. They are particularly useful in environments with high concentrations of airborne contaminants or where users need to wear respiratory protection for extended periods.

Our Top Picks

1. 3M Versaflo TR-800-PSK Powered Air Purifying Respirator Kit

The 3M Versaflo TR-800-PSK Powered Air Purifying Respirator Kit offers comprehensive respiratory protection for painting and other industrial applications. Its advanced features and ergonomic design make it a top choice for professionals seeking safety and comfort.

Key Features:

  • Intrinsically safe PAPR system ideal for explosive environments
  • Provides excellent protection against gases, vapors, and particulates
  • Lightweight and comfortable design with adjustable airflow settings

2. Miller Face Shield PAPR System

The Miller Face Shield PAPR System is designed to provide superior respiratory protection and comfort for welding professionals. Its innovative features and user-friendly design ensure safety and efficiency in demanding work environments.

Key Features:

  • Provides excellent respiratory protection against welding fumes and particulates
  • Adjustable airflow settings for personalized comfort
  • Long battery life ensures extended use without frequent recharging

3. MIRA Safety MB-90 Powered Air Purifying Respirator

The MIRA Safety MB-90 Powered Air Purifying Respirator is a robust and versatile PAPR system designed for a wide range of hazardous environments. Its durable construction and high-performance features make it ideal for emergency responders, industrial workers, and military personnel.

Key Features:

  • Provides comprehensive protection against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats
  • Lightweight and durable design with adjustable airflow settings
  • Compatible with a variety of filter cartridges for versatile protection

 

Supplied-Air Respiratory Equipment (SAR)

Supplied-Air Respiratory Equipment (SAR), also known as Airline Respirators, are respirators that provide clean air from a stationary source through a hose. The air is supplied from a compressor or a cylinder and delivered to the user's facepiece. SARs consist of a facepiece, a hose, and an air supply source. The facepiece can be a half mask, full face mask, or a hood/helmet, depending on the level of protection required.

SARs are ideal for environments where the air is heavily contaminated, and the concentration of hazardous substances is too high for air-purifying respirators. They are commonly used in confined spaces, chemical plants, painting operations, and other areas where reliable, uncontaminated air supply is critical. SARs are also used in situations where long-duration respiratory protection is needed without the bulk and weight of carrying filter cartridges.

Our Top Picks

1. 3M Scott Safety SAR Assembly Ska-Pak Plus

The 3M Scott Safety SAR Assembly Ska-Pak Plus offers reliable respiratory protection with a focus on versatility and ease of use. Designed for industrial and emergency applications, this SAR system ensures a continuous supply of breathable air in hazardous environments. The full-face respirator is made from high-quality materials, ensuring a comfortable and secure fit. It features a wide, clear lens for unobstructed vision and an adjustable head harness for a customized fit.

Key Features:

  • Compatible with various facepieces for versatile protection
  • Provides a continuous supply of clean air from a stationary source
  • Includes an emergency escape bottle for added safety

2. Allegro SAR Full Face Respirator Assembly

The Allegro SAR Full Face Respirator Assembly is designed to provide comprehensive respiratory protection with its durable construction and full-face coverage. The Allegro SAR system includes a high-quality full-face respirator with a clear, wide lens for excellent visibility. The facepiece is made from soft, non-allergenic silicone, providing a comfortable and secure fit. The system is equipped with an air supply hose, allowing the user to move freely within a large work area while maintaining a constant supply of clean air.

Key Features:

  • Compatible with various air supply sources for versatile use
  • Full-face design offers respiratory and eye protection
  • Comfortable silicone facepiece ensures a secure seal

3. Miller SAR Supplied Air Respirator

The Miller SAR Supplied Air Respirator comes with a straight air hose that provides excellent respiratory protection for industrial applications. Its lightweight and ergonomic design ensures comfort and ease of use for prolonged periods. The Miller SAR system includes a high-quality full-face respirator with a comfortable silicone facepiece and a clear, wide lens for excellent visibility. The system is easy to set up and maintain, ensuring dependable performance in demanding industrial settings.

Key Features:

  • Compatible with a variety of facepieces for different protection levels
  • Lightweight and ergonomic design for extended wear
  • Includes a 25-foot air supply hose for flexibility and mobility

 

Self-contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)

A Self-contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) is a type of respirator that provides the user with a portable supply of breathable air from a compressed air cylinder. This type of industrial respiratory equipment consists of a facepiece connected to an air cylinder, a pressure regulator, and a harness that allows the user to carry the cylinder on their back. The facepiece creates a secure seal around the user's face, and the air supply is delivered through the regulator. SCBAs provide a limited supply of air, typically lasting between 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the cylinder's capacity and the user's breathing rate.

SCBAs are ideal for use in highly hazardous environments, such as firefighting, rescue operations, and chemical spill responses. They are also essential for entering confined spaces with potentially toxic atmospheres. SCBAs provide the highest level of respiratory protection and are used in situations where the air quality cannot be guaranteed.

Our Top Picks

1. 3M Scott Safety ACSi SCBA

The 3M Scott Safety ACSi SCBA offers high-performance respiratory protection with its lightweight and ergonomic design. This SCBA is ideal for various industrial applications, providing reliable air supply in hazardous conditions. The facepiece is designed for a snug fit, providing excellent seal integrity and a clear, wide field of view. The low-pressure air cylinder provides a 30-minute supply of breathable air, making it suitable for a range of industrial applications.

Key Features:

  • High-performance regulator provides consistent air supply
  • Integrated heads-up display (HUD) for monitoring air supply status
  • Compatible with various facepieces for versatile protection

2. MSA G1 IRC Industrial SCBA

The MSA G1 IRC Industrial SCBA is designed for industrial applications requiring reliable respiratory protection. This SCBA system provides a 30-minute supply of breathable air from a low-pressure cylinder, making it ideal for emergency response and hazardous environments. It features an advanced, ergonomic design aimed at maximizing comfort and performance. It includes a lightweight, low-profile harness that distributes weight evenly, reducing user fatigue during extended use.

Key Features:

  • Provides 30 minutes of breathable air for emergency situations
  • Low-pressure system reduces breathing resistance and improves comfort
  • Integrated communication system enhances communication in noisy environments

3. 3M Scott Air-Pak X3 Pro SCBA

The 3M Scott Air-Pak X3 Pro SCBA is designed to provide reliable respiratory protection with enhanced comfort and usability. This SCBA is suitable for a wide range of industrial and emergency response applications. The harness system is lightweight and ergonomically designed to minimize user fatigue and allow for quick donning and doffing. The facepiece provides a secure seal and includes a large, clear lens for maximum visibility. This SCBA system is equipped with advanced electronic features, including an integrated PASS device, a heads-up display (HUD) for real-time monitoring of air supply, and Bluetooth connectivity for seamless communication.

Key Features:

  • Enhanced thermal durability for use in high-heat environments.
  • Integrated PASS (Personal Alert Safety System) device for increased safety.
  • High-visibility reflective markings for improved visibility in low-light conditions.

 

Respirator Fit Testing Guide

respirator mask fit

Aside from choosing the right type of respiratory protection, it is also crucial to ensure proper respirator fit to ensure its effectiveness. Fit testing refers to the process of verifying the fit of the respirator to the user’s face. This test provides critical adjustments needed to seal and protect from contaminants.

There are two primary methods for fit testing: Qualitative Fit Test (QLFT) and Quantitative Fit Test (QNFT).

Qualitative Fit Test (QLFT)

A Qualitative Fit Test (QLFT) is a pass/fail test that relies on the user’s sensory response to detect the presence of a test agent. QLFT is typically used for half-mask respirators, including filtering facepiece respirators and elastomeric half masks. The QLFT process involves the following steps:

  1. Selection of Test Agent: Common test agents include saccharin (sweet taste), Bitrex (bitter taste), isoamyl acetate (banana smell), and irritant smoke.
  2. Preparation: The respirator user dons the respirator, and a fit test hood is placed over their head.
  3. Sensitivity Test: Before the actual fit test, a sensitivity test is conducted to ensure the user can detect the test agent at low concentrations.
  4. Fit Test: The test agent is introduced into the fit test hood. The user performs a series of exercises, such as talking, turning the head, and bending over, while wearing the respirator. If the user can detect the test agent's taste, smell, or irritation, the respirator fit is deemed inadequate.
  5. Pass/Fail Result: If the user does not detect the test agent, the fit test is passed, indicating a proper seal. If the user detects the test agent, adjustments or a different respirator may be needed.

Quantitative Fit Test (QNFT)

A Quantitative Fit Test (QNFT) uses precise instruments to measure the amount of leakage into the respirator and provides a numerical fit factor. QNFT can be used for any tight-fitting respirator and offers a more objective assessment of fit. The quantitative fit test process involves:

  1. Selection of Testing Device: Common devices include the PortaCount, Controlled Negative Pressure (CNP) REDON, and Ambient Aerosol Condensation Nuclei Counter (CNC).
  2. Preparation: The respirator user dons the respirator, and a probe is attached to the respirator or a sample line is fitted to the mask.
  3. Baseline Measurement: The fit testing device measures the ambient particle concentration outside the respirator.
  4. Fit Test: The user performs a series of exercises, similar to those in the QLFT, while the device measures the concentration of particles inside the respirator.
  5. Fit Factor Calculation: The fit testing device calculates a fit factor by comparing the particle concentration inside the respirator to the ambient concentration outside. A higher fit factor indicates a better fit.
  6. Pass/Fail Result: The fit test is passed if the fit factor meets or exceeds the minimum acceptable level specified for the respirator type. If the fit factor is below the acceptable level, adjustments or a different respirator may be needed.

Ensuring access to clean breathing air is necessary for worker safety in environments with contaminated air. Selecting the right supplied air respirators or powered air purifying respirators can significantly reduce exposure to respiratory hazards.

 

FAQs

Who can perform respirator fit testing?

Respirator fit testing can be performed by a trained safety professional or industrial hygienist.

Which type of air-purifying respirator uses a replaceable fabric filter?

Elastomeric Half Mask Respirators (EHMR) use replaceable fabric filters.

What is the difference between a respirator and a ventilator?

A respirator protects users from inhaling hazardous substances, while a ventilator provides mechanical breathing assistance to patients with respiratory issues.

When should a respirator be used?

A respirator should be used when there is a risk of exposure to harmful airborne particles, gases, or vapors.

Can you use someone else's respirator?

No, respirators should not be shared as they are fitted to individual users to ensure proper protection and hygiene.

TRADESAFE is an established and trusted American company well-versed in industrial safety standards and regulations. We offer premium lockout tagout supplies, workplace signs, and other safety solutions to ensure worker and workplace safety.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.

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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.