Safety and first aid

P1 and P2 face masks

A P2 disposable face respirator, also called face mask can be worn for protection against health hazards from the environment, working around the home or hobbies.

When worn correctly these respirators can reduce exposure to:

  • Particulate matter, like smoke, wood dust, windblown dust, pollens, grass, asbestos, ash particles, etc.
  • Thermally condensed particles like welding fumes (P2 only)
  • Mists, or water droplets and aerosols (P2 only).

The ability to protect against water droplets and respiratory aerosols means a P2 disposable respirator/face mask can be used to protect from airborne respiratory viruses like Covid.  For more information on use of masks in infection control see Face masks (

Not all disposable respirators, give the same protection. When you buy one, make sure it has the Standards Australia logo. This logo means it's been tested and is effective according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard on respiratory protective devices (AS/NZS 1716).

It is important that you select the correct product for the level of protection that you need. There are two different levels of protection available, Class P1 or P2.

  • P1 can help filter out most dusts, including smoke, fine dust, asbestos, ash, asbestos or burnt treated timber. These are suitable for environments with low levels of dust.
  • P2 offers a higher level of efficiency (at least 94% of particles in air) and can filter out more of the dust and can also be used for welding fume particles and liquid mist particles.

Re-usable half or full-face respirators may also be used with replaceable Class P2 filter cassettes.

Fitting a respirator

To work properly, a respirator must be fitted according to the manufacturer’s instructions and form a tight seal around the mouth and nose. Instructions may be on the label or the manufacturer’s or supplier’s website.

It can be difficult to maintain a tight seal for people with facial hair, including short beards.

Because of the tight seal and high filtration, breathing through a P2 mask takes more effort, especially when you are doing hard physical activity.

If you have underlying heart or lung conditions, consult your doctor for advice before using a fitted respirator.

If you feel dizzy, faint or out of breath while wearing a respirator, move out of the hazardous area into clean air and remove the respirator.

Seek medical attention if needed.

When to replace a respirator

If the respirator becomes damaged, dirty on the inside, or moist, it is best to remove and replace it.

If working in very dusty, dirty, wet or hot conditions respirators will need to be changed more often, even multiple times per day, depending on the level of physical activity and moisture build-up.

Where can I get a P2 face mask?

P2 masks are sold at hardware, workwear and industrial supply stores. You might consider having a supply ready in the home for any renovation work, in case of an emergency or attending health care facilities to help prevent the spread of airborne viruses.

Putting on and checking the mask

Take time to correctly select a size and style (e.g. rigid or foldable; with or without exhalation valve) of mask that is suitable for you and the level of protection you need. Each time you put on a respirator it should be fit checked.

Fit checks are needed to make sure that there are no gaps in the seal around the edges of the respirator and your nose and face.

Steps for putting on a P2 face mask

  1. Remove glasses and hats. Tie back long hair so it does not become tangled in the straps of the mask
  2. Place your chin into the bottom of the respirator first then hold the respirator onto your face
  3. Pull over the bottom strap over your head and position around the back of the neck
  4. Pull over the top strap and position at the back of your head.
  5. Adjust the respirator on your face, ensuring the nose piece at the top is pinched in around the bridge of your nose.
  6. Conduct a fit check: Check the seal of the mask by covering as much of the front of the mask as you can with your hands and gently blowing out.If you feel air leaks around the face seal, readjust the mask and repeat the process or check for defects in the mask. If you cannot stop leaks you may need to try a different size or style of mask.

Note: People with beards should shave before using a mask as a good seal between the mask and the wearer’s face cannot be guaranteed if they have facial hair.


Differences between P2, N95 and surgical masks

There are similar respiratory protective standards around the world. Here are some equivalents to the P2 respirator in various countries:

  • United States: N95
  • Europe: FFP2 (Filtering Face Piece 2)
  • China: KN95 (China GB2626-2006 standard)
  • Australia/New Zealand: P2
  • Brazil: PFF2
  • Japan: DS (Dust and Spray)
  • South Korea: KF94 (Korea Filter)
  • India: FFP2
Australian Standard logo

The term "N95" specifically refers to the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) certification standard in the United States. However, many generic disposable respirators bought from overseas markets and labelled as N95 may not have been properly tested according to NIOSH.  In Australia, it is best to select and purchase a P2 respirator with Standards Australia mark to be sure the product is a genuine certified and tested product. 

A surgical mask is more loose-fitting and is intended to be used in medical environments to protect others, not the wearer, from saliva and respiratory fluids. Unlike a P2 Respirator, a surgical mask has no seal around the face and so airborne particles can enter from loose gaps.

Last reviewed: 14-12-2023
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional advice. Information about a service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace professional advice. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified professional for answers to their questions.

Questions? Ask your local government environmental health services