Slide RESPIRATORY HEALTH WHY IS IMPORTANT IN AGRICULTURE? Return To AH&S Website

What is a respirator?

In agriculture, you may encounter hazardous particles in the air while you are working.  A respirator can protect you from breathing in these particles. A respirator must be certified by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), and properly worn to protect you. This means the respirator was tested in specific laboratory conditions and has data to show that it works.

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If you are interested in viewing how a respirator is tested in the NIOSH laboratory, see the video below:

Click To Open Video

About one third (37.3%) of farmers report regular use of respirators on their operation.


In fact, younger farm operators (less than 35 years old), and farmers from larger operations are more likely to report wearing respirators.
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Approximately 40% of young adults* enrolled in our Gear Up for Ag™ programs report having experienced symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, and chills after working in dusty agricultural environments.

About one third (33%) of agricultural crop production businesses require some form of respirator use.


You will likely be required to wear a respirator during your career in agriculture. If not, you may consider voluntary use for personal comfort and/or protection.
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Do agricultural workers wear respirators when needed?

What are the most common respirators used in agriculture?

What is the protection factor?

The protection factor describes the decrease of harmful substances in the inhaled air. It is used to describe how well a respirator can protect someone. Of course, this protection factor is only true if the respirator fits the wearer and is being used properly.

 A protection factor of 10 means no more than one-tenth of the contaminants will leak inside the mask.  A protection factor of 100 means only 1 percent will leak through the mask.

 

3M Assigned Protection Factors

VIEW INFO N95

Protection Factor: 10

Example Uses: Cleaning out grain bins, working with hay, in dusty livestock buildings, shop work (grinding, cutting), power washing, pesticide handling (check label)

Benefits: Easy to use, easy to put on and take off. Simply throw away and get a new one when dirty or saturated. Can be reused during times of shortage (to a certain degree).
VIEW INFO N95

Protection Factor: 10

Example Uses: Cleaning out grain bins, working with hay, in dusty livestock buildings, shop work (grinding, cutting), power washing, pesticide handling (check label)

Benefits: Easy to use, easy to put on and take off. Simply throw away and get a new one when dirty or saturated. Can be reused during times of shortage (to a certain degree).
VIEW INFO Half Face Particulate Filtering Respirator

Protection Factor: 10

Example Uses: Uses will vary on what type of filter is paired with the respirator. Click HERE to view the different filter types

Benefits: If fitted properly, provides a tight seal around the face. Reusable. All parts can be washed, dried, and put back together. Great for extended use during times of shortage.
VIEW INFO Full Face Particulate Filtering Respirator

Protection Factor: 50

Example Uses: Uses will vary on what type of filter is paired with the respirator. Click HERE to view the different filter types

Benefits: If fitted properly, provides a tight seal around the face. Reusable. All parts can be washed, dried, and put back together. This type of respirator also has built in eye-protection and is great for handling agrochemicals. Great for extended use during times of shortage.
VIEW INFO PAPR
Protection Factor: 25

Example Uses: Same as the N95 masks. Cleaning out grain bins, working with hay, in dusty livestock buildings, shop work (grinding, cutting).

Benefits: Although this type of respirator is costly and requires more training for use, it is the only type that can be used with a beard or other types of facial hair.
VIEW INFO Self Contained Breathing Apparatus
Protection Factor: 1000

Example Uses: Inside confined spaces (storage bins, tanks) that may be oxygen deficient, areas (such as manure storage) with high levels of hydrogen sulfide present

Benefits: Although this type of respirator is costly and requires more training for use, it is the only type that can be used in agricultural situations where airborne hazards are immediately threatening to life.
VIEW INFO Surgical Mask
Protection Factor: 0

Example Uses: Surgical masks are NOT the same as N95 masks, nor are they respirators. These are more appropriate for limiting transmission of large aerosols or droplets, such as droplets containing influenza or coronavirus.

CDC - Understanding The Difference
VIEW INFO One Strap Dust Mask
Protection Factor: 0

Example Uses: None
VIEW INFO Cloth Face Covering
Protection Factor: 0

Example Uses: Cloth face coverings are NOT a respirator. These are more appropriate for limiting transmission of large aerosols or droplets, such as droplets containing influenza or coronavirus.

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Achieve the right fit

Why is fit testing important?

Everyone has unique face sizes and shapes. Fit testing each model of respirator used for agricultural tasks is important.  If the respirator does not fit correctly, hazardous particles could leak into the facepiece.

How is the 2015 Worker Protection Standard relevant to respirator use?

Agricultural producers, employers, workers should check agrochemical labels to see what types of respirators are on the label. Employers should make sure the chemical handler is fit tested for the respirator listed on the label.

Remember, a user seal check is NOT a fit test.

Don’t confuse a fit test with a user seal check. Once you have identified a respirator that fits you, a “seal check” can be performed to make sure the respirator is properly on the face or if it needs adjusted.

Develop a habit of seal checking your respirator every time.

Watch the video to learn how to perform a user seal check.

Click To Open Video

Do you have questions about respirator use specific to agriculture, or suggestions for improving this document?  Reach out to us!

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Ag Health and Safety Alliance would like to acknowledge Grant Number 5 U54 OH007548 from the CDC for funding this interactive infographic.
A. Beach was responsible for graphic design and development. Last updated on 2/12/2021