Respirators: An Overview AND September 5, 2018 is N95 Day

Illustrations of proper and improper use of N95 respirator

Respirators are worn by millions of U.S. workers.  They are classified as either air filtering or air supplying.  Examples of air filtering respirators include:  N95 (disposable), half-face, full-face, and powered air-purifying (PAPR).  These types of respirators are used to remove particles and/or gases and vapors from breathable air.  PAPRs are unique in that loose-fitting ones do not require fit-testing before use.  All other respirators require fit-testing to ensure that a proper seal exists between the respirator and face.  Supplied air respirators include SCBA and airline respirators.  These also require annual fit-testing to wear safely.

A surgical mask is not a respirator.  It does not form a seal against the face, and therefore does not offer protection from inhaled particles/vapors/gases.  A surgical mask is used to prevent infectious diseases that are transmitted through respiratory droplets.