The Two Types of Air Supplied Respirators



It’s estimated that over 5 million workers use respirators for their daily jobs. The Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that employers provide respirators in certain workplaces. You may be wondering, what is the best type of respirator to keep your workers safe?


Respiratory protection comes in the form of air-purifying systems and air-supplied respirators. There are many types and brands of respirators on the market today. The right kind of respirator depends on your business’s needs and budget.


It’s important for you to protect your employees’ health. You also want to make the best choice for your business needs. Read on for all you need to know about air supplied respirators and keeping your employees safe.

Why Provide Respiratory Protection?

Respiratory protection is federally mandated in many work environments. Workplaces that have a high concentration of hazardous fumes must provide respiratory protection. Any business that puts respiratory health at risk must provide protection.


Firefighters are emblematic of the need for respiratory protection. Other non-emergency work situations need protection as well. Some examples include working on oil tankers, in chemical plants, or cleaning industrial sites.


Providing respiratory protection is also respectful of your employees’ health. There is a business case for respiratory protection as well. Many employers who don’t always meet the mandated hazard threshold still choose to provide protection for their workers.


Respiratory protection prevents loss due to sick employees. Also, workers appreciate the extra care for their well-being. There are many reasons to provide respirators for your employees.

What Types of Respirators are Available?

There are two main categories of OSHA-approved respiratory protections.


Air-purifying respirators (APRs) filter harmful particles or vapors out of the air. These respirators come in the form of a mouth cover or full- or half-face masks. APRs filter harmful air particles before they are breathed into the lungs.


Atmosphere-supplying respirators provide fresh air from another oxygen source. This article will explore the two types of atmosphere-supplying or air-supplied respirators.

Two Types of Air Supplied Respirators

Air supplied respirators are used in work situations where an air-purifying respirator is insufficient for providing clean air. Air supplied respirators deliver air from a source separate from the work environment.


There are two types of air-supplied respirators. A self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) is a breathing system worn by the employee. An airline supplied respirator has an air supply in a separate area.


Let’s take a look at the benefits and best applications for each kind.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus

An SCBA consists of a pressurized tank of air connected to a mask. The employee will wear a mask and also carry the tank of air.


SCBAs are used in environments that are of immediate danger to life or health (IDLH). They are used in spaces filled with toxic gas or unknown contaminants. SCBAs provide protection for working in a confined space, like a large tank, a sewer system, or large machinery housings.


The two main types of Self Contained Breathing Apparatus are open circuit and closed circuit. Each has different applications and the best choice will depend on the job at hand.


An open circuit SCBA recycles air from the environment. This produces an inexhaustible supply of clean air for the wearer. The wearer exhales the air back into the open environment.


An open circuit Self Contained Breathing Apparatus is most suited for longer tasks. Workers completing long shifts on an oil rig would use this kind of respiratory protection. Another application is long rescue missions in dangerous conditions.


A closed-circuit SCBA consists of two compressed air cylinders. The wearer carries the cylinders on their back. The wearer breathes the air back into the system. Closed-circuit SCBA’s  provide a limited time supply of clean oxygen. They are better suited for shorter job applications. Firefighters often use a closed-circuit SCBA.

Airline Supplied Respirators

Airline respirators are also known as supplied air respirators or SARs. SARs deliver clean air from a cylinder or compressor. The compressor remains outside of the work environment. Airline respirators are used in spaces that are extremely hazardous. Airline respirators also help in workplaces that have unknown fumes or risks.


There are four principal designs of air supplied respirator masks. Tight-fitting masks cover the full face or half face. There are also options for a loose-fitting hood, a helmet, or a full bodysuit.


The three classes of airline respirators include continuous flow, demand flow, or pressure-demand flow.

Continuous Flow Respirators

A continuous flow unit delivers an uninterrupted supply of clean, fresh air. The wearer breathes in the pure air and exhales back into the system. Most continuous air airline respirators do not include a positive pressure component.

Demand Flow Respirators

A demand flow respirator provides air only when the wearer inhales. A compressed air cylinder supplies air to the mask and line. Pressure on the cylinder will be positive during exhalation and negative during inhalation.

Pressure Demand Flow Respirators

A pressure demand flow respirator provides a constant stream of air to the wearer. Pressure demand flow respirators are used in hazardous conditions. If anything breaks the seal of the mask, air will continue to flow to the breathing area.

Find the Right Safety Solution for Your Business

Respiratory protection is vitally important for many companies. Your business should do a thorough risk assessment of workplace hazards. We can help you choose between an air-purifying or air-supplied respirators.


Contact us today for help assessing your project safety needs!


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