Editorial | 27 May 2021

How to Correctly Wear a Respiratory Face Mask

If the respirator is not securely fitted to the face it will not provide the desired level of protection

Article image

Choosing the correct respirator for a job is extremely important. However, if the respirator is not securely fitted to the face it will not provide the desired level of protection against respiratory hazards.

Facial Hair

An area that is often overlooked, or ignored, when using respirators is the presence of facial hair. Facial hair, no matter how slight, compromises the mask’s seal to the face and an incomplete or inadequate seal will cause the mask to leak.

For optimum performance, the wearer should be clean shaven on the day they use the respirator.

Nose wire

The nose wire should be formed to fit the shape of nose bridge. The area around the nose is considered a weak point and extra care should be taken when shaping the nose wire. Failure to do so could cause contaminated air to enter inside the mask.

Head straps

To provide a closely fitting respirator the head straps should be positioned correctly. The top strap should pass above the ears and around the back of the head.

The bottom strap should be positioned below the ears and around the back of the neck. Positioning the straps correctly evenly distributes the mask across the face.

Edges tight

A secure seal is needed around the entire mask. Check that the edges of the mask are held snugly against the face. Adjust the head straps if the fitting is too loose.

Chin snug

The respirator should fit snugly over the chin without any gaps between the EVA padding and the skin.

Fit Check

Once the mask is on the wearer’s face, and prior to starting any task, a fit check should be performed:

  • Cover the mask with both hands, being careful not to move it out of position.
  • Whilst using valved respirators such as Eazi-Breathe, inhale sharply. For non-valved respirators, exhale sharply.
  • If air flows around the nose piece, adjust the nose wire. If air flows around the edges of the mask, adjust the head straps.
  • A successful fit check is complete when no air escapes from the edges of the respirator.
  • Do not enter the work area until a successful fit check has been completed.
Article image