Questions and answers on the subject of respiratory protection

What factors do you need to consider when selecting and wearing respiratory protection?

Respiratory protection products fall under PPE category iii, which means that the products provide protection against irreparable damage/disease and death. Because of this, training is mandatory for products in this category. The training covers aspects such as how to correctly fit and remove the respirator.

The employer is responsible both for selecting an appropriate respirator and for organising the training.

Which respirators provide protection against coronavirus?

According to the Robert Koch Institute, the most important and effective ways to protect yourself are: “Self-isolation if you are ill, practising good hand hygiene, complying with rules relating to coughs and sneezes and practising social distancing (staying at least 1.5 metres away from others)”. If you are treating a patient, the authorities recommend other measures, including wearing a close-fitting, multi-layer mouth and nose mask.

The minimum recommended protection level for respiratory protection is FFP2 (based on the European standard) or N95 (based on the American standard). Masks in protection categories FFP3 or N99 provide a higher level of protection.

Further information can be obtained directly from the Robert Koch Institute or the World Health Organization.

How does a respirator work?

Particle-filtering respirators provide protection against particles but not against gases or vapours. These masks are usually made entirely of multiple layers of filter material and may be fitted with an exhalation valve.

The various layers all fulfil a different purpose, from improving the look and feel of the mask to ensuring strength, tear resistance and filtration.

One of the most important aspects of comfort for wearers of respirators is breathing resistance, which refers to the resistance that the wearer feels when breathing in and out – the higher the resistance, the harder the wearer’s lungs have to work.

To keep breathing resistance low, the filter material must be air-permeable on one side while still filtering particles on the other. For this reason, the filter material is electrostatically charged. This allows small particles that are actually small enough to pass through the filter material to stick to it.

What are the differences between the protection categories?

The difference between the three protection categories is not the size of the particles filtered out, but the number of particles filtered out.

FFP1 filters out at least 80 percent of particles; FFP2 manages 94 percent while FFP3 achieves 99 percent.

The more particles that need to be filtered out, the more layers of filter material used for the mask. This means that masks in higher protection categories are always more dense, which results in a higher breathing resistance.

Does a simple mouth and nose mask provide the same protection as a respirator that is certified in accordance with EN149?

Mouth and nose masks are often referred to as surgical masks. They are designed to prevent droplets and bodily fluids excreted by the wearer from being transmitted into the environment. However, these masks do not provide sufficient protection for the wearer.

Unlike respiratory protection products designed in line with EN149, these masks are not considered personal protective equipment. uvex masks are primarily designed to protect the wearer, which is why factors such as achieving a close fit are incredibly important. uvex respirators are capable of filtering out the smallest particles and droplets from the ambient air to provide reliable protection for the wearer.

uvex focuses on the manufacture of personal protective equipment. For this reason, our range only includes respirators that satisfy European Standard EN149; we do not sell surgical masks.

The German Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has compiled a detailed comparison of the various types of mask available.

What is the function of the exhalation valve?

The exhalation valve opens when the wearer breathes out, significantly reducing breathing resistance and making it more comfortable to wear the mask for an extended period of time. The warm, moist air from the wearer’s lungs is quickly cleared from the mask.

When the wearer breathes in, the valve closes and reseals itself and the wearer breathes via the material surface. The exhaled air is not filtered, but emitted directly into the environment. This means that there is a risk of droplets from the wearer being transmitted into the environment unfiltered.

How long can respirators be worn for?

Single-use respirators are designed to be worn for a single shift lasting up to eight hours.

If your job involves handling toxic substances, the masks must only be used once, which means that every time the mask is taken off, it must be replaced with a new one (when working with viruses/bacteria or carcinogenic substances, for example). For hygiene reasons, single-use respirators must only be used for a maximum of one day and worn by only one person.

Can respirators be decontaminated for re-use?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to decontaminate or re-use uvex respirators.

Respirators are made from electrostatically charged filter material (see also: How does a respirator work?). Various processes, including radiation and steaming, can destroy this material. The protective function of the mask cannot be guaranteed after exposure to these processes.

For this reason, we strongly advise against any re-use of masks. Respirators are designed as single-use products.

Can uvex respirators be used after the expiry date?

The filtration effect of single-use masks is achieved through the electrostatic charge applied to the filter material.

As the electrostatic charge will gradually fade over time, uvex single-use respirators must be used within 36 or 60 months of production (depending on the model).

The expiry date is clearly indicated on each box. The masks should not be used after this date.

Can uvex provide any instructions for making your own mouth and nose masks?

Unfortunately, as uvex does not manufacture mouth and nose masks, we cannot provide any instructions.

What happens if the respirator gets wet?

As part of the approval process under the EN149 standard, the mask is exposed to various conditions. The mask is exposed to a range of different temperatures and humidity levels and must continue to protect the wearer in these conditions.

Please take note of the storage conditions and information in the instructions for use that accompany the mask. In normal conditions, the respirator can withstand some level of humidity. In everyday use, moisture – such as water from drops of rain – does not present a major risk.

However, the mask should never be submerged in water.

How do I fit a respirator correctly?

When fitting a respirator, achieving a close fit is essential to the wearer’s safety. Instructions for correctly fitting the masks can be found in the instructions for use and on the packaging.

You can also consult our instruction videos:

uvex flat-fold masks

uvex cup-style masks

How can I confirm that a product is a genuine uvex product?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have unfortunately seen increasing numbers of fake products entering circulation. We therefore advise you to only purchase products directly from uvex or authorised dealers and partners.

Locate your nearest partner here.

You can also check the following points:

  • Unless otherwise specified by uvex, uvex products are always delivered in uvex packaging.
  • uvex respirators are always marked with the word uvex, the relevant standards and the CE marking.
  • Each pack will include a uvex instruction manual.
  • uvex masks are sold in pre-packaged units. uvex does not sell individual masks.
  • The date of manufacture and the date of expiry will be printed on the packaging.
  • Thanks to our strict quality control processes, it is very unlikely that you will receive products that are unpackaged, incorrectly assembled or with errors on the packaging or in the instructions.

If you have concerns about any of these points, please contact our customer service team to confirm whether or not your mask is a genuine uvex product:

How can I order from uvex?

Please note that we are currently only supplying respirators to medical establishments such as hospitals, GP practices and care staff

If you belong to one of these professions, please contact:
Phone: +49 800 66 44 893