Synergy Employment

Face Masks versus Respirators

This is a question we get asked quite often during our fit testing.  It is also the cause of great confusion amongst users of respirators.  There are countless manufacturers of face masks and respirators throughout the world, however only approved makes and models are accepted by provincial and national regulatory bodies in Canada.

What is a face mask?

A face mask is a loose fitting mask that covers the nose and mouth area.  They have 2 ear loops that stretch around the ears to hold the mask in place.  Face mask are designed to be used as ONE-WAY PROTECTION ONLY, only capturing large particles or droplets from the wearer and preventing them from being spread to the environment.  Typcially used to prevent the spread of common colds and flu's.  Contrary to belief, face mask DO NOT protect the wearer at all.  Typically most face mask do not have any protection factor assigned to them and are not NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) approved apparatus.

What is a respirator?

A respirator is a tight fitting mask that creates a FACIAL SEAL.  Each respirator when used properly will create a facial seal which will provide TWO-WAY PROTECTION, filtering the air entering and exiting the wearer at a level of efficiency designated by the respirator or filter/cartridge (Half Face and Full Face).  Respirators come in 3 distinct categories:

  1. Disposable (typically N95 and healthcare uses)
  2. Half Face 
  3. Full Face

Disposable Respirators:  All disposable respirators will have 2 straps, metal nose piece and a safety designation (N95 for example) and will have A NIOSH approval on them.  Disposable respirators are used largely by healthcare workers and those workers who can be exposed to airborne pathogens during their employment (police, fire, paramedic, emergency response etc...).  Disposable respirators are single use and provide a high degree of efficiency when worn properly.  To correctly measure the appropriate size, make and model, you must be Mask Fit Tested by Synergy Employment Services.

Half Face / Full Face Respirators:  These are non-disposable respirators that all have 2 sets of straps, a mouth piece and 2 cartridge/filter pieces and will have a NIOSH approval on them.  Half Face respirators will cover the nose and mouth area, whereas Full Face respirators will cover the entire face.  Both of these respirators will create a FACIAL SEAL and filter the air entering and exiting the wearers airway.  A distinct difference between disposable and half/full face respirators is the fact that in half/full face respirators, the wearer can change through various filters and cartridges to meet various safety requirements, without having to change the mask entirely.  To correctly measure the appropriate size, make and model, you must be Mask Fit Tested by Synergy Employment Services.

The type of respirator you require will be determined by your employer/school directly.  For fit testing, book online at Synergy Employment Services or contact us for more information!

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