Respiratory Protection for the Ageing Workforce

As 1.5million additional workers aged between 50 and 64 boost the UK workforce by 2025, what must employers consider when purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - the industry’s last line of defence? Scott Safety presents key thoughts on respiratory protection for older workers in a new whitepaper released today.

Irrespective of age, employers have the same responsibility under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 , to ensure that all workers are kept safe at work. In the case of older workers, this is further reinforced by the Equality Act  (2010, revised in 2012) to ensure that they receive fair treatment in the workplace.

Half mask, full face mask or Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR)? Scott Safety discuss vital physiological considerations experienced by older workers, such as loss of visual acuity, hearing impairment and reduced respiratory function and how to ensure a respirator is right for that individual.

“When it comes to respiratory protection, to ensure that the selected RPE will provide adequate protection for the wearer, tight-fitting RPE must be fit tested as part of the selection process.  As people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and as the shape of our face changes with age or the addition of facial hair, it is unlikely that one particular type, or size of RPE facepiece, will fit everyone” says author of the whitepaper Mark Andrews, Global Product Manager Powered Air, Halfmask & Airline at Scott Safety. “Regular face fit testing is critical in ensuring that the equipment selected is suitable for the wearer and will protect them. Employees should be aware of PPE options available to accommodate the needs of those exhibiting the effects of ageing” he adds.

In safety critical and major hazard environments, deterioration in performance and the physical changes that occur with age, could potentially lead to an increased risk in major incidents or injury.  As we grow older we become less flexible, our sight deteriorates along with our hearing, balance and reaction times.  Other physical changes may include an increase or decrease in body fat leading to changes in the shape and size or our faces and bodies.

Alongside this, physiological changes typically contribute to everyday issues of fatigue such as changes to our cardiovascular system, blood pressure, respiratory capacity and the ability to adapt to temperature changes.  All of these factors are important considerations when assessing and providing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for the ageing workforce, particularly in the areas of respiratory, hearing and eye protection.

Further points covered include particulate filter selection, ergonomic design and regularity of equipment checks and medical assessment for older workers.

To download your copy of the whitepaper, please click here, visit the Scott Safety web site at