Personal Protective Equipment - How to Care for Your
Respiratory Protective Equipment
By: The Working Man
Every respirator or RPE should be cleaned and examined after
every use and have a careful inspection once per month. After
each wearing you should wash the face piece with warm water and a
mild detergent, rinse and then air dry. You can, if needed,
disinfect the face mask with hypochlorite (bleach solution).
You can not disinfect or clean filters and cartridges, they will
have to be replaced daily or whenever breathing becomes difficult
indicating that the filter is clogged. RPE should be stored in a
dust-free and dust-proof container or locker when not in use.
Here is an example checklist from OSHA for caring for
CHECKLIST FOR CARE OF RESPIRATORS
- Inspect the respirator before and after each use and
- Inspect equipment designated for "emergency use" at
least monthly, and after each use.
- Replace all parts that are cracked, torn, broken,
missing or worn.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions and consult
CSA Standard Z94.4-02 "Selection, Care and Use of
Respirators" for information on the care, maintenance, and
storage of respirators.
- Ensure that no holes or tears are present.
- Inspect for cracked, scratched or loose-fitting lenses. For
a full face piece respirator, check for missing mounting clips.
- Ensure that the metal nose clip forms easily over the bridge
of the nose on disposable respirators.
- Check webbing for breaks.
- Look for deterioration of elasticity.
- Test excessively worn head harness.
Inhalation and Exhalation Valves
- Ensure the valve and valve seat are free of dust particles
or dirt that may cause a poor seal or reduce efficiency.
- Replace any missing or defective valve covers.
- Ensure that the filter and mask are certified for use together.
- Check the filter to see that they are approved for the
- Inspect both the filter threads and face piece threads for wear.
- Check the filter housing for cracks or dents.
- Check the end of service life indicator for gas masks.
Check the expiration date.
Air Supply System
- Inspect the air-supply hose and end-fitting attachments for
breaks, cracks, or kinks.
- Test the tightness of connections.
- Ensure the proper operation and condition of all regulators,
valves or other airflow devices.
- Monitor the operation of air-purifying elements and carbon
monoxide or high-temperature alarms.
- Check seams in suit or blouse for rips and tears.
- Ensure that protective screens are intact and fit correctly
over face piece (abrasive blasting hoods and blouses).
Respiratory Battery Pack
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions for charging/discharging.
- Before recharging nickel-cadmium (NiCad) batteries, fully
discharge them with a discharger designed for those batteries.
If this is not done regularly, the NiCad batteries may not provide
power for as long as the specifications state.
- Ensure that the batteries are fully charged before using them.
Repair, Cleaning and Storage
- Do not clean with solvents.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- Wash with a mild dish detergent or a combination of detergent
and disinfectant. Use a brush and warm water (49-60ºC or 120-140ºF).
- Rinse with clean water, or rinse once with a disinfectant and
once with clean water. The clean water rinse removes excess
detergent or disinfectant that can cause skin irritation or
- Dry on a rack or clean surface or hang from a clothes line.
Position the respirator so that the face piece rubber will
not "set" crookedly as it dries.
- Store the respirator at the end of each shift to protect
it from dust, sunlight, heat, extreme cold, excessive moisture,
- Clean and disinfect shared respirators after each use.
- Permit only trained and qualified personnel to repair respirators.
- Do not mix parts from different manufacturers.
- Record all repairs and inspections.
- Remove dirt.
- Check for distortion caused by improper storage.
EXAMPLE CHECKLIST FOR SELF-CONTAINED BREATHING APPARATUS (SCBA)
- Inspect the SCBA unit before each use. Test and clean after
- Inspect the equipment designated for "emergency use" at
least monthly and after each use.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions and CSA Standard
Z94.4-02 for care and maintenance.
- Permit only trained and manufacturer-certified personnel to
- Do not mix parts from different manufacturers.
- Maintain a complete record for each SCBA face piece and cylinder.
- Disconnect the face piece from the breathing apparatus.
Wash alone in warm (49-60ºC or 120-140ºF) soapy water using
a mild dish detergent.
- Rinse the water through the face piece by placing the palm
of the hand over the breathing tube connector on the
- Remove excess water with a paper towel or lint-free cloth.
- Allow to air dry.
- Sanitize according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Check for tears in the rubber.
- Check head strap for deterioration.
- Examine lenses for cracks, excessive scratching or other
- Check rings and clamps securing the lens for bends or
bulges in the metal.
- Check the exhalation valve to ensure that it is properly
located and that the valve cover is in place.
- Test the exhalation valve. Block the air intake opening and exhale
gently. If the exhalation valve is not working properly,
a heavy blow-by will be felt at the temples. Inhale and a
partial vacuum will be formed.
- Do not mix demand and pressure-demand face pieces and
- Check the regulator, breathing-tube threads, pressure gauge,
and bypass and mainline valves for impact damage.
- Store with the cylinder valve completely closed.
- Bleed off air remaining in the regulator after each use,
following manufacturer's instructions.
- Stretch the breathing tube and check for cracks, tears and punctures.
- Check gaskets.
- Check clamps and rings to ensure that they are tight,
properly located, not dented and not excessively corroded.
- Wash the breathing tube separately and allow to air dry. If
it is permanently attached to the face piece, allow the
breathing tube to dry for several days before using.
- Check the hose for cuts, bubbles and abrasions.
- Check the fitting between the high-pressure hose and the
regulator for damage.
- Check the audible alarm for damage.
- Clean bells or whistles.
- Ensure that the alarm is working. If the alarm does not go
off when the pressure reaches 20-25% of service time, the
unit is defective. Remove the unit from service.
- Inspect the straps of the backpack for excessive wear,
broken stitching, and damaged or missing hardware.
- Ensure cylinders are hydrostatically tested as set out in
CSA Standard Z94.4-02, "Selection, Care and Use of Respirators".
- Inspect for cuts or gouges that can cause the unraveling
of the composite fibers of the cylinder overwrap.
- Check unwrapped cylinders for impact damage.
- Check for evidence of exposure to heat. Look for
discolored paint or melted gauge lenses.
- Ensure air meets air quality set out in CSA Standard Z180.1-00,
"Compressed Breathing Air and Systems".
Cleaning the Rest of the Unit
- Remove backpack, cylinder and regulator assembly.
- Clean with water, or soapy water.
- Wipe the regulator, high-pressure hose, audible alarm,
air cylinder, backpack and harness with a damp cloth.
- Dry with a cloth.
Contact the governmental occupational health and safety officials
in your area for more information on the regulations about
respiratory protection. Canadians can contact the Canadian
Standards Association (CSA) at 416-747-4000 or 1-800-463-6727 (in
Rexdale, Ontario) to purchase the CSA Standard "Selection, care,
and use of respirators" (CSA Standard Z94.4-02).
Back to Clothes & Accessories for Working Men