What does FFP mean for an area
FFP classes explained: Find the right fine dust mask
Finding the right respiratory protection is often not easy. We explain to you which FFP mask is right for you and when you should use respiratory protection of a higher category.
In order to find the right fine dust mask, it is essential to define the exact area of application. The hazardous substances in the air, the maximum permissible excess of the occupational exposure limit (OEL) and a number of other factors must be taken into account when making the selection.
The hazardous substances in the workplace
First of all, you should be clear about which hazardous substances occur in the workplace. In the case of non-toxic dusts, a simple FFP1 mask is sometimes sufficient. In the case of toxic dusts or other hazardous substances such as mold, you should use a mask of class FFP2 or higher. In the case of substances that are extremely harmful to health or carcinogenic, you should definitely use a mask of level FFP3 or higher-quality respiratory protection. However, knowledge of the hazardous substance alone is not enough. It also depends on how concentrated this is in the workplace.
An FFP mask can also protect against pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, but the exact circumstances also depend here. While a simple class 1 mask can protect against droplet infections (e.g. from people around you coughing), in extreme cases it even has to isolating respiratory protection or a full face mask can be worn.
The occupational exposure limit (AGW)
The occupational exposure limit is the average concentration of a substance in the air over a certain period of time at which no health damage is to be expected. The AGW is always given in mg / m³ or ml / m³. You can find a detailed overview in the TRGS 900 - occupational exposure limit values. The limit value only ever applies to individual substances. In the case of mixtures of substances, the TRGS 402 - Determination and assessment of the hazards associated with activities involving hazardous substances: Inhalation exposure apply.
The FFP classes
If you know the hazardous substances and their concentration, you can sometimes already choose an FFP mask. The abbreviation FFP stands for "filtering face piece". In addition to the filter performance of the mask, the classification is also based on the maximum permissible leakage. This results from the permeability of the filter material and openings in places where the mask does not sit exactly on the face.
FFP1: Respiratory masks of protection class FFP1 are suitable for work environments in which only non-toxic dust occurs. They have a separation efficiency of 80% and are approved for a 4-fold exceedance of the occupational exposure limit. These masks protect against non-toxic dust, e.g. cellulose, cement, plaster of paris, limestone or pollen.
FFP2: Respiratory masks of protection class FFP2 are suitable for work environments in which there are harmful and mutagenic substances in the air. They must catch at least 94% of the particles in the air and may be used if the occupational exposure limit of the hazardous substance in question does not exceed 10 times the concentration. Masks of this level also protect against toxic dusts e.g. calcium oxide, concrete dust, granite or zinc oxide smoke.
FFP3: Protection class FFP3 offers reliable protection even with high levels of air pollution. Masks in this class have a separation efficiency of 99%. They can be used in work environments in which the occupational exposure limit is exceeded by up to 30 times the industry-specific value. They protect, for example, against toxic dusts from chromium, cobalt, nickel or mold spores.
When are FFP masks no longer sufficient?
Even if FFP masks provide reliable protection against many hazardous substances, they are not suitable for every use. For example, they do not protect against toxic gases or vapors. Higher quality respiratory protection such as a gas or combination filter should be used here. The oxygen content of the air at the place of use is also decisive. If this is below 19.5%, isolating respiratory protection should be used. Even if the operating conditions are opaque or can change quickly, you should resort to comprehensive protective equipment.
NOTE: FFP2 masks to protect against viruses and bacteria
The activities listed in the table are only examples of work in which an FFP mask of the respective class can provide protection - provided that the risk assessment and correct use are made. In a previous version of the article, dealing with bacteria and viruses was not mentioned as an example activity for FFP2 masks. Due to the current pandemic situation, we have added the example. The protective effect of masks during corresponding activities has always been given.
Sources and further links
Before using respiratory protection, you should inform yourself precisely about the working conditions and, if in doubt, consult a respiratory protection expert. We have put together a number of useful links for you below. Do you have any further questions or are you not sure whether you have found the right respiratory protection? Then just take it Contact to us.
Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
German statutory accident insurance
TRGS 402 - Determination and assessment of the hazards associated with activities involving hazardous substances
TRGS 900 - occupational exposure limit values
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