Understanding FFP2 & FFP3 respirators

Understanding FFP2 & FFP3 respirators

International codes for respirator following Health and Safety Executive advice.

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) has recommended using  FFP3 as the control measure against viruses, the use of these may not be reasonably practicable as supplies can be low during a pandemic such as COVID-19. As a result, the HSE has undertaken a Rapid Evidence Review.  The Part 1 studies the equivalence of FFP2 and N95 masks and the evidence to support their use in the UK as part of the PPE ensemble worn for aerosol generating procedures on patients with COVID-19.

Once all of the other reasonably practicable measures to prevent or control exposure of hazardous substances have been examined and you have identified and classed your airborne hazards as particles that can be removed by filter-type Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE), then will want to decide which respirator to use. 

The two most common types of respirators are:

  1. tight-fitting disposable filtering facepiece (FFP) respirators
  2. loose-fitting powered hoods (TH2) FFP3 and loose-fitting powered hoods provide the highest level of protection

UK Respirator Codes

Particle filters trap and hold particles from the air flowing through them and are classified according to their efficiency. The respirator facepiece or the filter will be marked with:

 The letter P (for particle)

 A number 1, 2, or 3 that will illustrate the efficiency

 The letters NR or R to show whether they are reusable


Filtering FacePiece


Low efficiency



Medium efficiency



High efficiency


Not reusable