What is a Half Mask Respirator?

C.L. Rease

Half mask respirators filter harmful particles and fumes in the air. Unlike full face respirator, half mask respirators do not provide eye protection or guard skin located above the bridge of the nose. Exchangeable cartridges that fit in the sides or front of the respirator remove harmful particles and fumes from the air passing from the air to the system of the person wearing the respirator. Choosing the correct filter cartridge and any additional safety gear for a situation will ensure the safety of people working in environments containing lung irritants or other harmful airborne contaminants.

A man wearing a half mask respirator.
A man wearing a half mask respirator.

Each type of replaceable filter cartridges for a half mask respirator has a designation on the types of particles and/or fumes that it can filter from contaminated air. They range from organic, such as paint, to fine, such as mercury, particulates. To signify the filter type, each cartridge will be marked with the filter type and be color-coded for easy identification. Surveying and testing the air quality of an area will ensure the correct filter is chosen for the application. During an air quality test, a filter cartridge with the highest particulate filtration should be used to avoid accidental fume exposure.

Half mask respirators do not protect the eyes from fumes or particles.
Half mask respirators do not protect the eyes from fumes or particles.

Additional safety equipment should be used when the hazards of an area are unknown or hazardous liquids sit in an area. Safety glasses, goggles and face shields protect the eyes of the half mask respirator. The type of eye protection required will depend on the type of eye hazards and the severity of the irritation possible by the particles and fumes in the air. Chemical resistant gowns protect the skin of the half mask respirator wearer when contact with skin irritants is possible. Combining eye and body protection ensures a wearer does not receive chemical burns or have harmful substances absorbed into their body.

Cleaning a half mask respirator after each use will eliminate cross contamination and possible reactions with chemicals when the respirator is used in different environments. The face piece of a respirator is made of petroleum-based rubbers. Cleaners containing solvents or harsh chemicals will cause the rubber of the respirator to break down and reduce its ability to seal to the wearers face. Only mild soap and water should be used to clean a respirator. Immediately drying the half mask respirator after cleaning will keep the face mask of the respirator pliable and ready for the next time it is needed.

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