Respirators and Masks

Buyer's Guide

ITS has compiled this in-depth Buyer's Guide to help you in picking the right Respirator or Mask for the job

Why wear a respirator?

Around 80 people per week die from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) related to the exposure of hazardous materials at work. Many of the materials used in the construction industry have been shown to be harmful to your health, especially when inhaled in large amounts over the course of a working career.

Choosing the right respirator for the job could potentially save your life.

Disposable Masks

Icon of safety goggles
Icon of safety goggles
Icon of safety goggles

Disposable dust masks are the perfect choice for lightweight use with low-risk hazards, they can be folded flat and are ergonomically shaped.

The table below highlights the various different levels of protection that each mask offers. Most disposable dust masks have a rating of either FFP1, FFP2, FFP3. Please see below to see what each rating will protect against.





Filtration %






Brick Dust



Ferrous Metal Fume

Lead Fume

Fibre Glass

Mineral Fibres

Rockwood Insulation




Water Based Paint

Powdered Prep

Manual Prep

Mechanical Stripping

ITS Recommends

JSP OLYMPUS FoldFlat Disposable Dust Mask FFP2

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JSP FLEXINET Disposable Dust Mask FFP3

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Face Masks

Icon of safety goggles
Icon of safety goggles
Icon of safety goggles

Face masks are designed to be used for full on, consistent work around far more harmful materials and hazards. They can be kept permenantly and the filters can be swapped out to keep them fresh. There are a wide variety of face masks available, dependent on your application purposes and situation.

Without an effective seal to the face, the mask cannot filter the air you breathe. "Press to check" filters allow the wearer to easily check the fit of their mask, every time it is used, without the need for another device.

The table below highlights the various different levels of protection that each face mask offers. Most face masks have a rating of either P3, A2P3, ABEK1P3.

Materials marked with a LIGHT RED BACKGROUND require Force 10 for full protection











Contaminated Earth








Water Based Paint

Solvent Based Paint

Manual Prep

Powdered Prep

Chemical Stripping

White Spirit


Weed Killer

Brick Acid

ITS Recommends

BLS TP2400 BLS Twin Filter Respirator

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JSP FORCE 8 Typhoon Valved Half Mask

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Frequently Asked Questions

I have been told that I need to be fit tested, what is fit testing?

It is a way to check that the mask being worn is actually offering the protection that it is supposed to. While masks are type-tested on real people, everyone has a different shape face and what fits one person may not provide a good seal on another. The Health and Safety Executive require that if you are working with lead or asbestos that you have quantitative fit testing carried out and they recommend that at least Qualitative fit testing is carried out for all types of tight fitting respirators.

How do I know when a dust is fine or very fine?

There are set definitions of the different sizes of particles. Particles that are bigger than 5 micrometers (millionths of a metre) are classed as dusts, between 2 and 5 micrometers are classed as fine particles and anything less than 2 micrometers are very fine.

What mask and filter for working with MDF?

This depends on how the MDF is being worked. Any use of power tools will create vapours as the glues and fungicides are heated, in this case a twin half mask fitted with combination AB1P2 filters should be used. If hand tools are being used then a disposable dust mask to FFP2 requirement should be used.

How long will the disposable mask last?

Disposable dust masks are designed for single use only, after each wearing they should be discarded. A single use should not exceed eight hours. However the mask may not last this long in heavy concentrations of hazardous materials, when the mask becomes clogged the hazard will start to be drawn in around the edge of the mask, the easiest way in, so it is very important that they are not used for too long. Used masks should be disposed of safely as they will have the properties of the hazards that they have been used to protect against.

What mask and filter for working with Asbestos?

The correct grade of filter for Asbestos is P3, for people working with Asbestos we would always recommend the Olympus® Full Face Respirator fitted with a P3 Canister Filter. In addition a Quantitative Face Fit Test must be carried out to ensure adequate protection. Asbestos removal will usually need to be carried out by specially trained and licensed organisations.

What respirator should I use to protect against vehicle exhaust fumes?

You can get filters to take out the soot particles and unburnt hydrocarbons (fuel) but not to take out the carbon monoxide. So the ideal solution would be a supplied air system or self-contained breathing apparatus.

We have been advised that we should have a respiratory protection plan in place that meets the EN, what is this?

BS EN 529 is the European Standard titled 'Respiratory protective devices – Recommendations for selection, use, car and maintenance – Guidance document'. If you follow the guidelines in this document you are likely to have a Respiratory Protection Plan in place that will satisfy the Factory Inspector. The standard lists all the relevant standards and will help you meet your legal requirements. If you only ever buy one standard, this is the one to buy!

Safety Tips

Notice Smells

Change the filter if you notice any changes in smells or taste; or if your throat, nose or lungs become irritate

Breathe Easy

You should also change your respirator if it becomes clogged and hard to breathe through

Keep Dry

Many respirators, especially disposable ones, become ineffective if they get wet

Follow Instructions

Replace filters as instructed on the packaging.

Don't Reuse

Disposable respirators aren’t meant to be used more than once.

Throw away if broken

Discard any respirator or filter canister that is dirty or damaged. Replace gas masks if rubber seals are damaged