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Safety FAQs - Hearing & Eye Protection, Respirators, Chemical Protection & more

Safety in-use photos Safety in use photos
Respirators FAQs

Q: How do I know which size respirator I should wear? 
A: Performing a fit test is the best way to determine proper fit.  As a general guideline for ordering, 80% of the population wears a size medium.  If you have very small or large facial features you may need to order a size smaller or larger.  

Q: Do I need to Fit Test my respirator?
A: Fit testing is a method of ensuring that a certain size and model of respirator model fits the wearer and provides adequate protection.  There are two different types of fit tests – Quantitative which is used for masks that filter up to 10 times the permissible exposure limit and Qualitative which is used for masks that filter up to 50 times the permissible exposure limit.  For more information on Fit Testing see

Q: What is a Fit Check and when do I need to perform it? 
A: It's important to check your respirator for the proper fit each time you put it on because a respirator can only work effectively if it fits correctly.  For step-by-step instructions on how to Fit Check your respirator please see
Please note that Fit Checking should not be confused with or substituted for Fit testing a respirator. 

Q: Am I able to wear glasses with a full face respirator?
A: In order to wear your prescription with a full face respirator you need to purchase the mask’s spectacle kit separately.  A spectacle kit is essentially an empty eyeglass frame that you take to an optometrist and have your prescription lens cut to fit.  The spectacle kit attaches to the inside of the mask which then allows you to wear your eyeglass prescription with a full face respirator.

Q: Can I use a respirator if I have a beard? 
A: No, because a beard does not allow a mask to form a good seal around the face.  An alternative would be a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) which is a loose fitting facepiece that filters and provides a fresh supply of air using a blower. 

Q: Can a cartridge style respirator be used in an oxygen deficient atmosphere? 
A: No, a cartridge style respirator is not adequate for use in oxygen deficient atmospheres.  Areas where oxygen levels are below 19.5% require supplied air either through an airline or a self contained breathing apparatus.  Levels below 16% are considered to be unsafe and could cause death.   

Q: What is the difference between the 3M 6000 & 7000 series respirators? 
A: The 6000 & 7000 series respirators are both available in half mask and full face versions both meet NIOSH requirements and filter to the same efficiency. 

The 6000 series is considered a low-maintenance respirator because it has limited replacement parts and is more economical than the 7000 series.  The 7000 series respirator has a softer, more supple mask that offers more replaceable parts than the 6000 series.  The 6000 series is a good choice for occasional use or smaller jobs while the 7000 series is often preferred for regular or everyday use. 

Q: What are the colors associated with each cartridge? 
A: Respirator cartridges are color coded to designate what they filter.  Their color is also a good way to determine which cartridge you have and which application it should be used for.  If you have questions on which cartridge to use or which cartridge you have, please contact our Product Support Department at 800-874-4755. 

Chemical Cartridge Color Coding
All manufacturers use the same color coding for gas/vapor protection
Acid Gas
Organic Vapors
Ammonia Gas
Acid Gas & Organic Vapor
Mulit-gas (protects against numerous gases and vapors)
Particulate Filter Cartridge (HEPA) (Also called P100)
(A HEPA is a particulate filter; all others are used for gases and/or vapors.)

Q: Do I have to use the same brand of cartridges as my mask? 
A: Yes, if you have a 3M respirator you need to use 3M cartridges in order for the respirator to work properly and be in compliance.  Cartridges and masks are approved as a complete unit, so using another series or brand of components with your mask will void the NIOSH approval. 


Q: How should I store my respirator when not in use?
A: The best way is to put your respirator in a sealed bag so that it stays clean and does not get contaminated.  Also, if the cartridges are exposed to ambient or open air for long periods of time they will lose their effectiveness and may need to be replaced more often.  

Q: How long are the cartridges good for?   
A: It really depends on what type of work you are doing and the level of contaminant that you are exposed to.  A general guideline is that if you are having difficulty breathing or can smell or taste the contaminant but your respirator has a good fit, you should change your cartridges. 

Q: What is the shelf life of a cartridge?
A: Cartridges in their original package have an indefinite shelf life unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer. 

Q: What is the difference between N, R and P rated respirators? 
A: The letters N, R & P refer to whether or not the particulate filter can be used to filter or protect against oil-based pesticides or chemicals.     

N=not resistant to oils. 
R=resistant to oils for 8 hours
P=oil proof, possibly resistant for more than 8 hours (follow the manufacturer’s recommendations). 

Q: What is the difference between 95, 99 and 100% efficiency in filters? 
A: The number designation refers to how efficient the respirator is in trapping particles – 95 means that the filter is 95% efficient, 99 is 99% efficient and 100 is 99.97% efficient.

Q: What does “HEPA” stand for? 
A: HEPA is defined as High Efficiency Particulate Absolute.  A HEPA-rated filter is at least 99.97% efficient and is referred to as an N100 or P100 filter.

Q: What is a N100 or P100 filter typically used for?   
A: An N100 or P100 is used to filter hazardous dust such as mold, lead or asbestos.  Please note that for lead and asbestos applications you need to use a half mask or full face respirator equipped with a P100 filters.  Disposable dust masks cannot be used. 

Q: What are N95 pre-filters and when should I use them?
A: A N95 pre-filter is often used in conjunction with a cartridge when protection from a non-toxic dust is necessary.  A good example of when to use a prefilter would be with a charcoal or organic vapor cartridge for non-oil based pesticide and paint spray applications because they will trap liquid particles, extending the life of your cartridge. 

Q: What is a particulate and what do I need to be protected against it?
A: Particulates are the solid particles that make up dusts, mists and fumes.  Examples of particulates would be saw dust, grain dust, paint spray and welding fumes.  In order to be adequately protected from particulates you need either a N, P or R filter that is either 95, 99 or 100 percent efficient. 

Q: What do I need to be protected from gas or vapors? 
A: Cartridges are filled with specially treated, activated carbons that absorb and filter certain gases and/or vapors.  If you are not sure which cartridge you need for your application, contact our Product Support Department at 800-874-4755 and we can help you select a cartridge based on what you are working with.

Q: What are combination cartridges and when should they be used? 
A: Combination cartridges are used when the chemical you are using requires both a chemical cartridge and a particulate filter.  An example would be spraying oil-based pesticides.  The organic vapor cartridge would filter out the pesticide, while the P100 filter would remove the oil-based particulate from the pesticide spray.      

Q: Which type of respirator do I use when spraying pesticides? 
A: The best thing to do is check the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) section of your pesticide label; it will list the respiratory protection that is suggested by the manufacturer.  If it is not listed on the label, contact the manufacturer or call our Product Support Department at 800-874-4755 with a list of the ingredients.

Here is a sample pesticide label:

Q: What do I need to be protected when spraying paint? 
A: It depends on what type of paint you are spraying and whether or not it is an oil or non-oil based paint.  The best thing to do is to gather a list of the ingredients and contact our Product Support Department at 800-874-4755; we can help you select what you need. 

Q: Which type of respirator do I need for dust applications? 
A: A N95 dust mask is good for non-toxic dust such as wood or certain grain dust and fiberglass.   Toxic dust such as mold, lead and asbestos require a P100 filter. 
Please note that for lead and asbestos applications you will need to use a half mask or full face respirator equipped with a P100 filters.  Disposable dust masks cannot be used. 

Gloves FAQs

Q: How do I determine what size of glove I need? 
A: To obtain your glove size, use a soft tape measure to find the circumference of your hand around the palm.  This measure in inches is your glove size.  For example if the measure is 10 inches, then you are hand is a size 10 or large. 

Q: What is the difference between unlined and lined gloves? 
A: An unlined glove does not have a lining and is typically used in pesticide application processes.  A lined glove either has a light flock or a knit lining that helps adsorb perspiration. 

Q: Do Kevlar or cut-resistant gloves offer good puncture resistance?
A: Cut resistant gloves are manufactured to provide protection from a SLASH from sharp items such as utility knives and blades.  However, they provide very little if any puncture resistance from a pointed object such as a needle or other sharp object. 

Q: Does a thin surgical style glove offer chemical resistance? 
A: Thinner glove materials such as nitrile or latex tend to sacrifice chemical resistance in an effort to offer the best touch sensitivity and dexterity.  This style of glove is not intended for complete immersion in chemicals and if so should only be used for a very limited time.  Also be sure to check if the glove is compatible with chemicals you are working with. 

Q: What type of gloves is required to be in compliance with the Worker Protection Standard? 
A: Many non-porous rubber gloves will work with pesticides.  Consult your pesticide label to determine which glove material would be best for the pesticide you are working with

Chemical Resistant Clothing FAQs

Q: How do I determine my size for tyvek clothing?
A: Use the chart below along with your height and weight to determine sizing.  Please note that proper fit varies with individual body shape and under clothing. 


Weight (lbs.)

Men's Size


































Q: What are the different types of toxicity classes and how do they relate to protective clothing? 
A: When using a protective coverall for pesticide use, review your label.  There should be a signal word (such as Danger, Warning or Caution) located on the label that relate to the toxicity of the chemical.  There is also a toxicity class associated with each signal word, ranging from I to IV, with I (Danger) being the most toxic and IV (Caution) being the least. 

Q: What type of a garment do I use for each of the pesticide classes? 
A: A disposable garment is used for clean-up and low toxicity (class III & IV) pesticides and chemicals.  Reusable coated garments are for moderately toxic pesticides (up to class II) and chemicals.  Liquid-proof protection is for high-toxicity pesticides (Class I). Click here to see our Protective Clothing Selection guide.  

Q: What is the difference between garments that offer particulate protection and those that off
    spray/splash protection? 

A: Suits with particulate protection protect against solid particles such as mold, grain or saw dust.  Suits with spray/splash protection keep out sprays and splashes but will leak if saturated. 

Q: What is the difference between liquid poof and liquid chemical protection garments? 
A: Liquid proof garments have sealed seams and will not allow liquids to penetrate the material.  Liquid chemical protection suits provide a barrier against many chemicals.  Please refer to your chemical’s label or hazardous ingredients to determine what type of protection is best.   

Eye Protection FAQs

Q: What eye protection should be used when working with chemicals?
A: Goggles with indirect vents give the worker the most protection when working with chemical.  In some cases you may get enough protection from a safety glass that has sideshields and a browguard. 

Q: What type of eyewear does the WPS (Worker Protection Standard) require when
    spraying pesticides? 

A: You are required to wear either a goggle or a pair of safety glasses that have sideshields and a browguard. 

Q: Do safety glasses offer any UV-A or UV-B protection?
A: Safety glasses with polycarbonate lenses absorb 99% of UV light. 

Q: What are safety glass lenses made of?
A: Most nonprescription safety glasses have polycarbonate lenses.  Prescription safety glasses may have plastic, glass or polycarbonate lenses. 

Q: What is the difference between a vented, indirect vent and non-vented goggle? 
A: A vented goggle has open ports on each side of the goggle for ventilation.  Vented goggles are typically used for impact hazards, not chemical splash or vapor.  Indirect vented goggles provide protection from splash by a covered vent that allows for air movement but prevents liquid from going directly in the goggle.   Non-vented goggles have no venting of any kid and offer protection from dust, mist, liquid and vapors. 

Q: Can I wear goggles with my prescription eyewear?
A: Some goggles allow prescription eyewear to be worn with them.  Click here to view styles available. 

Q: Can goggles with foam padding be used for chemical splash protection?
A: No, chemicals can saturate the foam or cloth padding and cause chemical burns to the skin.

Hearing Protection FAQs

Q: What is the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) on an earplug or earmuff? 
A: The Noise Reduction Rating or NRR measures the muff or plug’s ability to block out noise or “attenuate” sound.  This measurement is stated in decibels, so a plug with a NRR of 26 blocks out a maximum of 26 decibels of noise.  The NRR listed is the maximum protection that could be achieved if the plug fit the wearer perfect and was inserted correctly. 

Q: How loud is my tractor or combine?
A: A tractor or combine idling is approximately 85 dB and a tractor at 80% load is approximately 100 dB.  A tractor backfiring would be approximately 140 dB. Click here for common sounds and their decibel ratings.

Confined Spaces FAQs

Q: What is a Confined Space?
A: A confined space is a space that meets all of the following criteria:

  • Is large enough and configured that an employee can enter and perform work.
  • Has limited or restricted means of entry or exit (for example, agricultural chemical tanks, silos, storage bins, manure pits, cold storage rooms & tank trucks)
  • Is designed for short-term work only, not continuous employee occupancy.
Hard Hats FAQs

Q: How often do I have to replace my hard hat?
A: As a general guideline, you should replace your hard hat every five years.  Hard hats should be also inspected daily for signs of dents, cracks, penetration and damage due to impact, rough handling or wear.  Any hard hat that fails a visual inspection should be removed from service. 

Q: Can I put stickers or labels on my hard hat?
A: Two general rules of thumb should be followed if you put stickers or decals on your hard hat.  First adhesive stickers should be placed at least ¾ inch away from the edge of the helmet.  This prevents them from acting as a conductor between the outside and inside of the shell of the hard hat.  Second, covered areas should be kept to a minimum so that you can inspect the hard hat regularly for damage.

Q: Can I wear my hard hat backwards?
A: You can if the manufacturer of the hard hat allows it.  You should check with the manufacturer of the hard hat and get written verification and instructions on wearing the hat backwards.