Dusty environment

Air pollution at the workplace may act as an invisible killer. Aerosols – fine particles in the air – are equally dangerous to your lungs as a circular saw is to your fingers. But since they are practically invisible, many workers and safety technicians tend to underestimate them. Don’t be like them; learn to choose the correct respiratory protection.

3 steps towards protection against aerosols


1. Know the risk

Even in the mountains where the nearest smoke-stack is at a distance of tens of kilometers, the air contains substances and microparticles that are dangerous for your lungs. However, your lungs have inherent defense mechanisms.

But when the volume of these particles increases and your lungs are exposed to them too often, these defense mechanisms fail. And that is often the case at the workplace.

The level of risk depends on several factors:

  • Whether the air contains solid particles which form aerosols – dust (generated by the crushing of solid materials), fume (generated by the combustion of organic matters) and smoke (generated by the oxidation of organic substances).
  • What the concentration of these substances in the air is.
  • How long the employees are exposed to these substances.

2. Eliminate the risk

Before you start actually choosing a respirator, you should try to prevent the risks and reduce the risk of inhaling hazardous substances.

You can do so, for instance, by:

  • providing a continuous air exhaust mechanism in the vicinity of the leak point of hazardous substances in the air;
  • regularly and thoroughly cleaning the working space (avoid using compressed air);
  • checking and cleaning the ventilation system;
  • continuously monitoring the air quality at the workplace.

And if you do not have the technology available, ask your employees how they are feeling. They should immediately leave the workplace if:

  • they can smell an odor or flavor in the air;
  • they feel unwell, are dizzy or feel sleepy or confused all of a sudden;
  • they have an irritated nose or they suddenly get a runny nose.

3. Equip your staff with efficient protection

Filtering half masks are categorized based on the level of concentration their filter can deal with. However, the FFP (Filtering Facepiece) will never protect you against vapors and gas.

Consequently, you can only use them in an environment with a sufficient oxygen level (O2 concentrations below 19.5 % already constitute a threat to human health).

Active carbon masks can help against bothersome odors, gases and vapors, but only in environments where the permissible exposure limit (PEL) is not exceeded.

Filter class

Use up to a multiple of PEL

Protects against



low concentrations of dust/aerosol



medium concentrations of dust/aerosol



high concentrations of dust/aerosol



Sorting the level of protection by types of activities:


Recommended protection

Types of particles

Recommended protection

waste disposal and sorting, loft clearance

– bacteria, molds, fungi, bacterial odors

FFP2 + activated carbon

– loft dust, dust mites, molds


grinding, cutting, drilling, milling

– concrete, stone


– metal, rust


– soft wood


– hard wood


– glass, resin, fiberglass


– old coatings


– plaster



– steel, zinc, welding fumes

FFP2 + activated carbon

– stainless steel, aluminum



– asbestos, lead


– soot


– cement


insulation installation

– mineral and glass insulation wool


mining work

– coal, stone


crop production

– grain dust, flour


– soil dust


– dust of dried plants (tea, herbs, coffee)


contact with allergens

– pollen, animal hair, molds, dust mites


contact with viruses and bacteria

– viruses


– bacteria


environmental industry

– smog


textile industry

– synthetic and natural textile fibers



* FFP2 at higher concentrations

** FFP2 at low concentrations

*** FFP2 with silicate content

Filtering half-masks can be:

  • disposable (NR – non reusable): for home use, such as when cutting wood or tearing down an old bathroom. They are not suitable for shift-long use. Filtering half-masks can be:
  • for re-use (R-reusable): they can be folding, with an exhalation valve for more comfortable breathing or shaped for long lasting use. They are suitable for shift operation in plants.

Note – this is only a recommendation. The type of protection you choose is up to you. Carefully decide what level of protection is required by your job, for example, according to the safety data sheet, which must contain every hazardous substance and mixture. In addition, it is also always necessary to properly read the instructions for the use of protective components to avoid damage to the airways.

The respirator must fit perfectly to the face; otherwise it is useless

Unless the half-mask perfectly fits to your face, its effect are practically zero. Therefore, you should always select the right size and, ideally, be clean-shaven. If you have long hair, tie it back and remove all jewelry. To make sure that the mask will always fit perfectly, choose a shapeable half-mask.

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