Powered Air Purifying Respirators

Safe Operating Procedure: Use and Maintenance of Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR's)

Revised March 2007

Powered air purifying respirators are equipped with blowers to force air through the air-purifying elements of the respirator (e.g., filters, cartridges). This reduces stress on the user since availability of clean air is not based solely on lung capacity. PAPRs can be tight- or loose-fitting.

As with any type of respirator, if changes occur in the task/operation or concentration/type of airborne contaminants, a new assessment is needed to assure that protection provided by the PAPR is adequate. Initial and annual medical evaluations and training are required prior to using PAPRs and other types of respirators.


PAPRs do not supply oxygen and should not be used in atmospheres that are oxygen deficient or immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH). The battery must be kept charged.

Face to Respirator Seal

  • Loose-fitting (e.g., hood-type) PAPRs - Do not require a good face-to-facepiece seal, and therefore do not require fit-testing.
  • Tight-fitting PAPRs - Require a good face-to-facepiece seal and must be fit-tested to ensure adequate protection.

Cartridge and Filter Replacement

When using any air-purifying respirator, including a PAPR, the correct combination of filters and cartridges must be used. Cartridges and filters have a limited life and must be equipped with end-of-service-life indicators (ESLI). In the absence of an ESLI, the manufacturer’s recommended change schedule must be observed. Change schedules must rely on objective data that will ensure that canisters and cartridges are changed before the end of their service life and not rely on odor breakthrough or other warning properties to determine the effectiveness of respiratory protection. Cartridges and filters must be designed specifically for the brand of mask worn and the contaminants.

Respirator Inspection

PAPRs must be inspected prior to each use. During this inspection ensure that:

  1. The respirator is clean and ready for use.
  2. The proper cartridges are in place, securely mounted, and are not at the end of their service life.
  3. The hoses leading from the cartridge to the mask are in good condition.
  4. There are no holes, punctures, or tears in the equipment.
  5. The lens is not cracked or damaged in a way that may affect performance of the respirator or visibility.
  6. The battery is fully charged.

Using and Wearing the Respirator

Put on the mask before entering the hazardous environment or beginning a task that will generate an airborne hazard and check to make sure the PAPR is working properly.

  1. Mount the belt unit (blower and cartridges) on the waist and adjust the belt until it is comfortable. Some equipment may require that the blower be placed in a certain position to allow the breathing tube to reach the mask.
  2. Connect the breathing tube to the mask.
  3. Put on the mask. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended procedures. In general, tight-fitting facepieces are donned in the same manner as half- or full-face air purifying respirators. Loose-fitting hoods are simply slipped over the head.
  4. If using a tight-fitting PAPR, check the facepiece fit.
  5. Block off the breathing tube with the palm of the hand. Breathe in and hold breath for 10 seconds. If the seal is good, the facepiece will collapse and remain against the face. If there is leakage or the facepiece does not remain collapsed, remove and reposition to obtain a good fit. If a good seal is not obtained by repositioning the fitting straps, check other components for leaks (i.e., breathing tube). Do not use the respirator until a good fit is obtained.
  6. Turn on the blower.
  7. Attach the breathing tube to the blower.

Working While Wearing the Respirator

Know the hazards of the airborne contaminants and the signs and symptoms of exposure. Discontinue work, leave the area, and notify your supervisor and EHS immediately if experiencing signs or symptoms of exposure or if the equipment malfunctions. Seek medical attention, if necessary.

  1. If chemical odors are detected while wearing a PAPR, it may be a sign that the cartridges need to be replaced or that the facepiece seal is inadequate. Stop the operation, leave the area, and notify your supervisor if experiencing symptoms of exposure. The corrective action may be as simple as replacing the cartridges and/or repositioning the facepiece.
  2. If eye irritation is experienced while wearing a full face PAPR, this may also be an indication that the cartridge needs changing or that the facepiece seal is inadequate. Leave the area, wash your face and flush your eyes, and notify your supervisor. If the eye irritation persists seek medical attention. If the eye irritation was slight and abates after washing, the appropriate corrective action may be as simple as replacing the cartridges and/or repositioning the facepiece.
  3. If the battery begins to fail while wearing the respirator, leave the area and install a freshly charged battery or recharge the battery before continuing use.

Cleaning the Respirator(s)

Most PAPRs have components that are disposable. However, until they reach a condition where they should be disposed of, clean and disinfect them for re-used as recommended by the manufacturer. Change cartridges as needed and inspect equipment for problems. Charge the battery.

Storage of the Respirator(s)

Store the equipment as directed by the manufacturer. The respirator should be stored in a designated clean location away from chemicals, dusts, sunlight, and extreme temperatures. Store in a manner that will prevent the respirator from becoming damaged or misshapen.

* The information provided in this SOP supplements the UT Respiratory Protection Program. Refer to the full program document for more information. For assistance, contact EHS.

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