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How to Pick a Dust Mask Rating : FFP1 vs FFP2 vs FFP3

Disposable or half-face dust masks offer respiratory protection against particulate hazards and airborne particles like dusts, powders and aerosols (aka: Aqueous Fog).

Dust masks are vital for a range of industries: construction, agricultural, pharmaceutical, and even for your DIY projects at home. The FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3 ratings offer different levels of protection so it’s vital you find the correct level of protection you need.

The acronyms used...

Respiratory protection in the form of disposable dust masks come in three ratings: FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3 - FFP stands for "Filtering FacePiece" and the number denotes the level of protection. Many people shorten these acronyms even more as P1, P2 & P3 - but the meaning and level of respiratory protection is the same.

Each of these types of mask will specify their suitability for the "Occupational Exposure Limit" (OEL) and their "Assumed Protection Factor" (APF).

We use these acronyms throughout this article, and they are in common use within the H&S industry, so you would do well to try and remember them.

When choosing a dust mask you need to determine which dust mask ratings you need for your workplace hazards (although your employer should identify the hazards for you and provide the correct PPE) or your home DIY hazard.

Worker Cutting Stone in Dust Cloud
The seeker after truth should be humbler than the dust.

Why you should wear a dust mask

Workers (who tend to be men) often choose not to wear a dust mask because it feels uncomfortable, they may need to shave everyday (so the mask fits correctly on the face), it may interfere with other PPE (such as their goggles or face screen), other people on site don’t wear them and they want to fit in, and many other factors.

However, the risks of not wearing the correct respiratory protection are many and you could develop harmful and life threatening lung conditions.

A dust mask can protect you from developing painful coughs, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing - as well as more serious long-term or terminal conditions like lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and even mesothelioma.

Image Credit: HSE

When it comes to your health & safety, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The mask should be tight fitting, and a fit test should always be performed when fitting a new mask.

A HSE paper on respiratory diseases (pdf) from 2018 makes for sobering reading. There are 12,000 deaths associated with respiratory hazards after long-term exposure and 18,000 estimated new cases of self-reported work-related breathing or lung problems ANNUALLY. (Citation from HSE)

Please don’t become a statistic - Choose the right dust mask for the hazards around you.

Incorrect respiratory protection
This is Bob - a potential Darwin Awards winner - don't be like Bob.

Below is a quick guide to these three types of dust mask.

FFP1 Dust Masks

  • Protects against low levels of dust.
  • Protects against solid and liquid aerosols.
  • Can be used for hand sanding, drilling, and cutting.
  • OEL: Protects against materials in concentrations 4x limit.
  • APF: Protects against materials in concentrations 4x limit.

FFP2 Dust Masks

  • Protects against moderate levels of dust.
  • Protects against solid and liquid aerosols.
  • Higher protection than FFP1
  • Can be used for plastering and sanding.
  • OEL: Protects against materials in concentrations 12x limit.
  • APF: Protects against materials in concentrations 10x limit.

FFP3 Dust Masks

  • Protects against higher levels of dust.
  • Protects against solid and liquid aerosols.
  • Higher protection than FFP1, and FFP2.
  • Can be used for handling hazardous powders such as those in the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Recommended when in doubt of protection needed.
  • OEL: Protects against materials in concentrations 50x limit.
  • APF: Protects against materials in concentrations 20x limit.

How to choose between mask ratings

  • Identify type and level of contaminant exposure.
  • Evaluate airborne hazards in workplace (or workshop).
  • Choose mask based on FFP rating.
  • Choose a comfortable and convenient mask.
  • The occupational exposure limit is the upper limit on acceptable concentration, and is set by national authorities. When in doubt go with a higher level of protection.
Protection Level OEL Protection AFL Protection
FFP1 4x 4x
FFP2 12x 10x
FFP3 50x 20x

Maintainance of your respiratory protection

  • Check regularly for damage - don not attempt to repair, replace any damaged masks.
  • Discard or clean if breathing becomes affected by blockages or overuse
  • Always replace when needed.
  • Clean non-disposable equipment daily or as needed in between.
  • Keep an inventory of stock, and reorder when low.
  • Make sure your PPE meets regulation standards and protects your workers.

Dust masks available online at Xamax Workplace Solutions

Portwest FFP1 Valved Dust Mist Respirator

Image of an FFP1 rated Dust Mask
FFP1 Disposable Dust Mask
  • Meets EN 149 FFP1 standards.
  • Cup shape.
  • Exhalation valve for lighter breathing resistance.
  • Adjustable nose clip for optimised fit.
  • Image shown: Portwest P101 FFP1 type Dust Mask

Portwest FFP2 Dust Mist Respirator

Image of a FFP rated dust mask
FFP2 Dust Mask with formed facial cage

Portwest FFP3 Valved Dust Mist Fume Respitator

Image of a FFP3 rated dust mask
FFP dust mask with valve
  • Meets EN 149 FFP3 standard.
  • Cup shape.
  • Exhalation valve for lighter breathing resistance.
  • Adjustable nose clip for optimised fit.
  • Whole around “O” ring face joint for maximal comfort.
  • Wide elastic bands.
  • Product Shown: Portwest P391 FFP3 type Dust Mask

Portwest Basic Dust Mask 


Do you know for certain that your workplace is PPE compliant?

A quick read of this article on the current PPE regulations will soon tell you.