What is Respirator Air Testing ?
Through COSHH Regulation 9 employers have a legal responsibility to control substances hazardous to health in the workplace. In addition there is a duty to prevent and adequately control their employees’ exposure to those substances. Many employers use respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to control this exposure. Significantly, checking of this RPE is a requirement for all but single use equipment. Properly trained personnel should always carry out this checking. Synergy can undertake respirator air testing of the air supplied to your workforce. This will ensure that it meets the requirements of BS EN 12021:1999.
How often should I get Respirator Air Testing ?
The HSE state that respirator air testing is necessary at least once every three months. However, checks on rarely used equipment are necessary before each use. Importantly, employers must store the records of these examinations, tests and repairs for a period of at least five years.
Air for breathing apparatus often originates from a compressor system. This can generate and concentrate a wide range of contaminants.
As the respirator wearer’s health depends on the air supplied from the compressor, employers have a duty to ensure that the quality of the air is good. In particular, that it meets the requirements given in British Standard BS EN 12021:1999 – Respiratory protective devices – Compressed air for breathing apparatus.
Compressed air for breathing apparatus must not contain any contaminants at a concentration which can cause toxic or harmful effects. In addition, all contaminants must be kept as low a level as possible and shall be far as possible below the workplace exposure limit.
What does Respirator Air Testing show ?
The purpose of carrying out Respirator air testing is to make sure that the control measures that an employer puts in place are delivering the air quality required by BS EN 12021. In summary, BS EN 12021 sets the following limits for air quality:
- Oxygen must be at 21% ± 1%.
- Carbon monoxide must be as low as possible and not exceed 15 ppm.
- Carbon dioxide must not exceed 500ppm.
- Oil mist and vapour must not exceed 0.5mgm-3
- Odour / taste – Without significant odour or taste.
- Water (liquid) – 290mgm-3 at 5 bar and 20oC
In addition, compressed air line breathing apparatus must have a dew point sufficiently low to prevent condensation and freezing. In particular, the dew point of the air shall be at least 5 C below the likely lowest temperature that the operators use and store the equipment. Furthermore, the pressure dew point shall not exceed -11 C where the conditions of usage and storage are unknown.
The frequency of respirator air quality testing should be based on a risk assessment, but they should take place at least every three months and more often when the quality of air cannot be assured to these levels.
The HSE provide further details of air quality testing and using respiratory protective equipment at work in their document HSG53 – Respiratory Protective Equipment at Work
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