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Selecting the right RPE for the situation is vital for effective respiratory protection in the workplace.

In Australia, respirators that are designed to provide protection against both biological and non-biological respirable particles (particulate matter) are classified and marked as P1, P2, or P3, in accordance with AS/NZS 1716:2021.

An increase in the value of the P-number indicates an increase in the respirator’s particle removal efficiency. 

Due to last year’s extensive bushfires and the outbreak of COVID-19, 2020 saw a huge surge in demand for P2 respirators. This surge has resulted in an increase of non-compliant respirators entering the supply chain. 

In order to meet the huge demands, respirators that have been approved under similar international standards may be accepted for use in Australian workplaces. When purchasing a device advertised as being of a particular device type, it must meet the relevant national or regional standards, as set out in the below table.

Product Type Jurisdiction Relevant Standard  
P2 Australia and New Zealand AS/NZ 1716:2021  
FFP3 Europe EN 149-2001  
N99 USA NIOSH-42CFR84  

Each national standard has some subtle differences between each international standard, so when purchasing masks, make sure that the product has been approved and meets the requirements of its relevant national standard, e.g. when buying a mask from a European manufacturer, you must ensure that mask is compliant with EN 149-2001 before purchasing.

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