Respiratory protective equipment overview

Understanding the risks from exposure and how to control these, including Respiratory Protective Equipment

​Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) are used in many workplaces to protect workers when working with hazardous substances. These include:

  • gases
  • sprays
  • solvents
  • dusts

RPE comes with various forms, such as:

  • visors
  • hoods
  • masks
  • helmets

The use of masks or respirators should not be the first or only precaution taken to protect your workforce. It is however a very good temporary precaution while you make arrangements for proper protection. You should take every other reasonable step to control the exposure and improve air quality and ventilation in your work area.

​Your justification for using RPE should be clear in your risk assessment, which needs to be written if you have five or more employees.

The equipment must fit the wearer and be the right type for the task, the substance and the work environment.

If using or selecting RPE, it is important to select the correct equipment and correct fit for the workers concerned. This will vary depending on the worker and the jobs they do.

​Select the right RPE

You can use the RPE Selector Tool to determine what kind of equipment you or your employees will need for a hazardous substance, activity and work area involved.

Types of RPE

Information on different types of RPE can be found using the links below. ​

Find out more

Watch the Clean Air? Take Care! campaign video (external site) to help you correctly select and use respirators. It provides a summary on the selection and use of RPE at work.

Visit the dust hub​ (external site) on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) site.