FFP Respirators – FFP3 vs FFP2 vs FFP1
NPS Group’s Health and Safety Manager Nigel Halton provides some insight on the differences between the FFP Respirators available, how to wear them properly and how they’re used in the fight against viruses.
So, what is an FFP Respirator?
An FFP (Filtering Face Piece) is an individual respirator or mask. Manufactured to standard EN 149, they are designed to protect the wearer against the inhalation of both droplets and solid particles suspended in the air.
An FFP is more effective at filtering smaller airborne particles and pathogens thus offering the wearer a higher level of protection than surgical masks if properly fitted. They are more restrictive than a surgical mask, and after a prolonged period of use can lead to heat-related discomfort such as facial sweating particularly around the seal, along with breathing resistance from moisture build up in the filtration material.
FFP’s are available in 2 or 3 ply and come in various shapes, such as cupped, duck billed and fold flat designs. They also come with or without an exhalation valve and optional facial seals.
There are three categories of FFP, according to their effectiveness:
- FFP1 masks which filter at least 80% of aerosols (inward leakage < 22%); These are more suitable for filtering larger particles such as saw dust or for general gardening or diy tasks.
- FFP2 masks which filter at least 95% of aerosols (inward leakage < 8%); These masks are also known as N95 masks, which is the American NIOSH Equivalent of the same standard. These are mainly used in construction, agriculture, and by healthcare professionals against influenza viruses. They are currently used for protection against Covid 19.
- FFP3 masks which filter at least 99% of aerosols (inward leakage < 2%). This is the most efficient of the 3 types and are effective against Viruses, Mould spores and Asbestos.
Exhalation Valve or No Valve?
Respirators fitted with an exhalation valve offer the best comfort for longer duration tasks, as they allow faster release of expelled air and reduce moisture build up. However, valved respirators pose a greater risk to others if the wearer is sick and breathes out, as moisture droplets are expelled from the valve which have the potential to exit as spray if the wearer coughs or sneezes, whereas non-valved respirators filter the expelled air back through the filter medium preventing droplet release!
How do you fit a Respirator correctly?
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