Respiratory Protection Toolbox Talk

This blog can be delivered to your staff as a Toolbox Talk. If you require a specific Toolbox Talk for your workplace, please feel free to get in touch.

Reason: Inhalation of harmful dusts and fumes causes health and respiratory problems that can lead to long-term suffering.

Outline: This talk covers matters that require consideration when protecting against respiratory risks.

man wearing a half mask respiratorSome Facts

  1. Each year, around 3,000 construction workers suffer with breathing and lung problems they believe were caused, or made worse, by their work.
  2. It is estimated that around 4,000 construction workers die each year as a result of breathing in dusts and fumes at work.
  3. More than 2 million working days a year are lost to work-related ill health in the construction industry.
  4. At any one time there are far more people off work through occupational ill health than through work-related accidents.

Provision and use

  1. Where dust and fumes cannot be avoided by engineering or mechanical means (such as extraction, collection or dampening down) then the correct respiratory protective equipment (RPE) must be provided and used.
  2. RPE must be designed to reduce the level of exposure specific to the type and quantity of dust or fumes.
  3. Different types of RPE are available, ranging from disposable, filtering half-masks and half-mask respirators with cartridges, to ventilated visors or helmet respirators.
  4. Selection of RPE is important and must take into account people who wear glasses, have stubble or a beard, or have long hair that is not swept back and secured.
  5. Personal face-fit is a critical element in the selection and use of RPE – be aware that face-fitting does not work unless the operative is clean shaven, stubble/beards will break the seal around the face. Operatives should be re face-fitted every 2 years at least. If the mask is used heavily and is the main source of protection, more frequent, annual testing, may be required.
  6. Masks with filters need to change the filters according to manufacturer’s recommendations – each filter will have a different use time and an expiry date as well. If the user can smell/taste a contaminant while using a filter, then they should switch out the filters and check the face fit. Also change them out based on damage/wear and tear.

Your duties

wood dust from carpentry

  1. Use RPE properly, whenever it is required.
  2. Report any defects in, or damage to, the RPE immediately.
  3. Participate in any training or instruction provided on RPE.
  4. Inform your employer of any medical conditions that you have, which might be affected by the use of RPE.




What should you think about, for yourself and others, in your work area if you are asked to carry out a task that involves creating dust?

What is a face-fit test?

What should you do if your face mask does not fit comfortably?

What should you do if you have prescription safety glasses and you have recently started wearing glasses?

Now inform your workers of the company provision and policy for RPE assessment, face-fit testing and issue of RPE.

If you have any questions about the contents of this Toolbox Talk, do not hesitate to contact us – our team would be happy to help you with any queries. Find more Toolbox Talks here.