Important information on Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) batteries

Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPR) can be a crucial element of many workplace safety programs. When a PAPR’s batteries are charged and in optimal working condition they reduce the risk of illness and injury and ensure the safety of the user.

It is important that batteries are properly stored, used, maintained, and discarded. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has outlined the following advice to ensure workers receive the best possible protection from their PAPRs:

Remember PAPRs are approved by NIOSH as an assembly of components. A PAPR only earns NIOSH approval when it is properly assembled with all the correct parts, including headgear or full facepiece, breathing tube, cartridge, and battery. The battery is an essential component. NIOSH requires the PAPR be used with the battery specified by the manufacturer and that battery must be able to power the assembly for at least four hours
Read and follow the battery instructions. Instructions included with a battery will provide information on appropriate battery storage, use, care, and disposal, so it is important to read and follow the battery and charger instructions. Even for the same type of battery, the humidity, temperature, and packaging guidelines can vary significantly among manufacturers
Open single-use batteries as needed. Non-rechargeable batteries need to be kept in their package until they are used or until their expiration date, at which point they should be discarded
Condition rechargeable batteries. If a rechargeable battery is being used for the first time or has not been used for a long time, it may need to be conditioned before it is used. This process can include multiple charge and discharge cycles. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly condition batteries
Test the PAPR. Before using a PAPR, test it to ensure it is operating at the correct airflow rate. The airflow level can be measured with the manufacturer-provided flow meter or will be indicated by the PAPR’s battery status feature. If the flow level does not meet specifications or low battery power is displayed, properly discard or recharge the battery
Inspect prior to use. Inspect the battery before use, and discard immediately if it shows signs of damage like leaking chemicals or bulging
Know the PAPR’s battery safety features. Some batteries have safety features that prevent the battery from being damaged by internal pressure, current drain, current charge, or extremely high temperatures. Be aware of any safety features of the battery that could affect the PAPR’s performance
Pay attention to PAPR in-use service time. The length of time that a PAPR will perform to specification depends on a variety of factors, including battery life, the environment, and the components used in the assembly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how often to check the battery and the PAPR’s airflow
Have a back-up evacuation plan. A PAPR’s airflow can sometimes drop or stop abruptly without notice. If this happens, the user should leave the work area immediately, following procedures outlined in the employer’s respiratory protection plan

PAPRs can effectively reduce illness and injuries among workers exposed to respiratory hazards. Supply workers with the proper respiratory protection and ensure thorough training on how to use and care for personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure safety.

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