Safety Groups UK

Case Study 2

Why it is important to select the right respirator to protect against hazardous dust

Another of the initial pilot projects took place at Preston's College (PC) with the co-operation of key staff members, including the CEO. Students on the Joinery courses became engaged and thought about the issues associated with wood dust and exposure control. They designed a range of posters and one as a poem relating to the health effects of wood dusts (see below).

While the Joinery group were working on their aspects of the project, the Science Tutor came to know of LOcHER and enquired about the possibility of the Science Group participating. After some discussion, the idea of undertaking an experiment on the dust filtration effectiveness of various types of face mask/respirator was developed.

The group were provided with the following experiment outline:

  • Basic information on the different types of face masks available and an overview of the filtration efficiency (FFP) classifications
  • An outline of the experiment and possible options for delivery (see below)
  • An expected outcome

Students were split into 2 groups and asked to look at ways of delivering the experiment. The first group decided very quickly to perform the experiment in the way that was provided in the outline document. The second group looked at alternative methods and even considered using a 'Resuci-Anne' mannequin (a model of training manikin used for teaching cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)), sheep's lungs and a vacuum cleaner. This was a little bit too optimistic and complicated, so the basic experiment method was repeated.

The outcomes from the experiments provided extremely interesting visuals showing a white dot (talcum powder) intensity diminishing as the quality of dust capturing efficiency of the facemask filter increased.

A video of the process was created by the learners and is available (see link below).


  • Gained knowledge of RPE and its use, as well as doing research
  • They simplified the demonstration of RPE filter efficiency. Alternative demonstrations used by experts cost considerable sums of money
  • Gained knowledge about dust behaviour through filters
  • Learnt to devise experiments as a team
  • Learnt to device an experiment from a sketched project idea (see below)
  • Appeared on social media streams including YouTube, Twitter etc.
  • Helped them gain a significant number of employment and life skills
  • Received positive comments from industry specialists

The 'wow factor' of the experiment was amazing, students ended the experiment sessions with a clear understanding of why they should wear the correct standard of face mask to protect themselves from harm when working with dangerous dusty substances.

Short films

Project development idea

A sketch of the experimental set up


Some of the student posters are displayed here.

Lecturers' views: see section 'Praise'

H&S Safety Manager's view: see section 'Praise'

Prize winning: Received commendation certificates from Safety Groups UK