Availability of disposable respirators during COVID-19 pandemic

There is currently a shortage of disposable particulate respirators in Australia due to an increase in demand from health care workers and from the public and because many Chinese manufacturers have temporarily shut down.

This is an issue for workplaces which require disposable respirators to protect workers from exposure to hazardous dusts generated from various work processes.

This following will assist non-health care businesses in Queensland to access disposable particulate and other types of respirators used to protect the respiratory system from exposure to hazardous particulate matter.

There are many Australian based suppliers that source respirators from countries other than China. These brands of respirator are still being shipped to Australia.

These brands include, but are not limited to, 3M, Moldex, Honeywell, MSA, UVEX, Prochoice and Draeger.

Some distributors do not have respirators currently on display in shopfronts and are instead holding stock for existing customers. You may need to negotiate a supply of disposable respirators, noting they may not be immediately available.

If you normally use P2 disposable respirators to protect against mechanically generated particulates (for example, dust from power tools or bonded asbestos removal), a P1 disposable respirator may be an alternative option. P1 disposable respirators are suitable for mechanically generated particulates while P2 disposable respirators are suitable for both mechanically and thermally generated particulates (e.g. particulates produced by hot processes such as soldering and welding). Use this table to select an appropriate respirator.

You should ensure you are getting the maximum use out of the respirators you are able to source:

Reusable respirators and PAPRs with tight fitting masks require fit testing to the face of each user, as was done for disposable respirators. Disposable or half face respirators can be qualitatively or quantitatively fit testing. Full-face respirators can only be quantitively fit tested. Positive pressure respirators must be fit tested under negative pressure conditions.

For certain airborne contaminants such as silica and asbestos, the degree of harm that might result from the hazard is high. The unavailability of a respirator is not a reasonable defence for failing to comply with work health and safety laws. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspectors will continue to issue relevant notices if their reasonable belief supports such contraventions.

1 Asbestos is treated differently to other contaminants because various codes of practice require disposable personal protective equipment to be replaced each time a worker leaves the asbestos removal work area, for example, to take a rest break.

2 A disposable respirator should not be used for more than one day before it is disposed of and replaced with a new respirator.

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