9 Types of Disposable Respirators that Require Respirator Fit Testing | Your Safety Department

There are many types of respirators available to workers which include:

  1. particulate respirators, which filter out airborne particles;

  2. “gas masks,” which filter out chemicals and gases;

  3. airline respirators, which use compressed air from a remote source; and

  4. self-contained breathing apparatus, which include their own air supply.

In this article we will address the disposable filtering face-piece respirator. The entire respirator is discarded when it becomes unsuitable for further use due to excessive resistance, absorbent exhaustion, or physical damage.

Respirators in this family are rated as N, R, or P for protection against oils. This rating is important in our industry because some industrial oils can degrade the filter performance so it doesn’t filter properly. Respirators are rated “N,” if they are Not resistant to oil, “R” if somewhat Resistant to oil, and “P” if strongly resistant (oil Proof). Thus, there are nine types of disposable particulate respirators:

  • N-95, N-99, and N-100;

  • R-95, R-99, and R-100;

  • P-95, P-99, and P-100

Oil aerosols can degrade the performance and efficiency of your mask’s filter media by removing electrostatic charges. Electrostatic charges between the layers of filter media act as a magnet and help trap airborne particles.

R masks (somewhat resistant to oil) are only certified for up to 8 hours of service life, while P (strongly resistant to oil) are certified for up to 40 hours or 30 days of use, whichever comes first.

An N-95 respirator is one of nine types of disposable particulate respirators.
Particulate respirators are also known as “air-purifying respirators” because they protect by filtering particles out of the air as you breathe. These respirators protect only against particles—not gases or vapors. Since airborne biological agents such as bacteria or viruses are particles, they can be filtered by particulate respirators.

Respirators that filter out at least 95% of airborne particles during “worse case” testing using a “most-penetrating” sized particle are given a 95 rating. Those that filter out at least 99% receive a “99” rating. And those that filter at least 99.97% (essentially 100%) receive a “100” rating.

NIOSH uses standards to test and approve respirators for occupational uses. NIOSH-approved disposable respirators are marked with the manufacturer’s name, the part number (P/N), the protection provided by the filter (e.g., N-95), and “NIOSH.” This information is printed on the face-piece, exhalation valve cover, or head straps. If a disposable respirator does not have these markings it has not been certified by NIOSH.

A respirator will work only if it is used correctly. Thus the key elements for respiratory protection are fit-testing and training of each worker in the use, maintenance, and care of the respirator. NIOSH considers each of the nine types of disposable particulate respirators to have similar fit characteristics. Therefore, a worker having a NIOSH-approved respirator that fits well is much more important than whether the respirator is an N-95 or one of the other eight types of disposable particulate respirators.

The use of respirators by workers is regulated under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard for respiratory protection. The OSHA standard sets requirements for the fit-testing of respirators to ensure a proper seal between the respirator’s sealing surface and the wearer’s face. The OSHA standard also contains requirements for determining that workers can use respirators safely, for training and educating employees in the proper use of respirators, and for maintaining respirators properly. NOTE: Fit-testing and the other OSHA-required procedures are absolutely essential to assure that the respirator will provide the wearer with required protection.

Filtering Face-piece Respirator (FFR) Labels

Individual filtering face-piece respirators are required to have the following markings:

  1. Name of Approval holder/manufacturer business name, a registered trademark, or an easily understood abbreviation of the applicant/approval holder’s business name as recognized by NIOSH. When applicable, the name of the entity to which the FFR has been private labeled by the approval holder may replace the approval holder business name, registered trademark, or abbreviation of the approval holder business name as recognized by NIOSH.

  2. NIOSH in block letters or the NIOSH logo

  3. NIOSH Testing and Certification approval number, e.g. TC-84A-XXXX.

  4. NIOSH filter series and filter efficiency level, e.g. N95, N99, N100, R95, P95, P99, P100

  5. Model Number or part number: The approval holder’s respirator model number or part number, represented by a series of numbers or alphanumeric markings, e.g. 8577 or 8577A.

NIOSH recommends the lot number and/or date of manufacture also be included, however, this is not required.

Filtering face-piece respirators that are private labeled are required to have the following statement on the packaging as a special S caution and limitation statement identified on the full label and located in the respirator user instructions:

  • Marketed by xxxxxx (the private label company name).

  • Produced by xxxxxx (the approval holder company name).

This private label related statement does not need to appear on the exterior surface of the respirator as part of the required name marking.