Approx. 5.5 million workers are exposed to respiratory hazards in the workplace and research by both BSIF and HSE has highlighted concerns that RPE is not being effectively selected, used and maintained in a significant proportion of workplaces where a respiratory hazard exists.

Employers should take reasonable steps to prevent exposure to substances hazardous to health, or if prevention is not possible, reduce to the lowest level reasonably expected.

Buying Guide

To make sure you have the correct respirator, follow our basic 4 step method.

  1. Identify the hazards – dust, metal, fumes, gas, vapour. (link to
  2. Assess the hazards – assess the hazard level and other protection required (skin and eye)
  3. Select the proper respirator – disposable, half mask, full face, powered, airline
  4. Training in fitting and use – to optimise respiratory protection

Legislation EN 149:2001+A1:2009(EN149+A1)

Under current legislation, employers are responsible for providing suitable respiratory protection for employees who need it; however they must also provide training in its use, maintenance of the equipment and maintenance of documents.

In July 2009 the EN 149:2001 was superseded by an amended version, EN 149:2001 + A1: 2009 (EN 149+A1). Changes included the introduction of usability classifications for disposable respirators; single shift only devices non-reusable (shown through marking ‘NR’) and reusable devices (marked ‘R’).

This standard states that all reusable devices must withstand being cleaned and disinfected using a method provided by the manufacturer. This change, along with new performance requirements, is intended to give the user further confidence in respirators providing continuous protection in hazardous environments.

Face Fit Testing

To ensure that the selected respirator can provide adequate protection, tight-fitting respiratory protection equipment* must be fit tested as part of the selection process**. Ill-fitting face pieces can create inward leakages of airborne contaminants. Face fit testing will help to ensure that inadequately fitting face pieces are not selected for use. The presence of facial hair in the region of the face seal will significantly reduce the protection provided. If there are good reasons for having a beard (e.g. for religious reasons), alternative forms of respiratory protection are available. Click here to explore Powered Air respirators


*A tight-fitting face piece is a full face mask, a half mask, or a disposable mask.

** As specified by The Approved Codes of Practice, which supports The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (CLAW) and The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 (CAR). The BSIF have developed the Fit2Fit RPE Fit Test Providers Accreditation Scheme which provides proof of competency when completing a Face Fit test. The scheme is not compulsory and employers are free to take other action to comply with the law. Face Fit test records should be retained by the employer and kept available for inspection on request. See the Face Fit testing HSE Regulations for more detail.

European standards

Respirators are tested to the relevant European standard and CE marked. All respirators carry the CE mark plus the European standard and performance category marking.

 EN149 – Filtering face piece and particulate respirators

EN405 – Valved filtering half mask respirators for gases and/or particulates

EN140 – Half mask face pieces

EN136 – Full face pieces

EN137 – Self-contained open-circuit compressed air breathing apparatus

EN143 – Particulate filters

EN146 – Powered Respirators – Hoods & Helmets

EN147 – Powered – Full Face Masks

EN270 – Heavy Duty Supplied Air

EN402 – Escape Apparatus. SCBA with full face mask or mouthpiece assembly

EN529 – Respiratory selection, use and care

EN1146 – Compressed air escape apparatus with hood

EN1835 – Light Duty Supplied Air

EN12941 – Powered Respirators – Hoods and Helmets

EN12942 – Powered Respirator Full Face Masks

EN14387 – Gas & vapour filters 

Don’t take risks when it comes to respiratory health. Ensure your workforce is protected. Here at Bunzl Greenham, we have a range of leading brands plus our exclusive Keep SAFE brands. Explore our comprehensive range of all respiratory protection here.

Disclaimer: The information provided through Greenham Pulse is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Greenham Pulse is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.