Breathing Air Quality Testing

Breathing Air Quality Testing

Direct Air have been performing breathing air quality testing for over 20 years. Using the latest technology along with a personalised inspection schedule Direct Air can give you complete peace of mind knowing that your breathing air supply is compliant with current regulations and the safety of your staff is maintained.

All employers have a duty of care to their employees to ensure that the breathing air they are supplied with is adequate for the respiratory protective equipment (RPE) they are using and safe to breathe.


Breathing Air Legal Requirements

The following are a brief outline of the requirements stated that relate to breathing air. If you would like to read the complete document click the heading or the download link at the bottom of this page.

Management of Health and Safety at work regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3242)

Requires a safe working environment by the application of risk assessment procedures.

The personal protective equipment regulations 2002 (SI 2002/1144) Schedule 2

Refers to the design and manufacture of respiratory protective equipment.

The work in compressed air regulations 1996 (SI 1996/1656)

These regulations deal with those aspects where the user is operating in a pressure higher than atmospheric. eg tunnelling.

Control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2677)

These regulations identify the maximum exposure limits for a defined list of contaminants which may be present in a workplace atmosphere. The exposure limits are identified by the single term “workplace exposure limit (WEL)” which encompasses both long and short term exposure. Where any doubt exists as to the limits for any contaminant, EH40 should be used as a start point.


BS EN 12021

BS EN 12021 Respiratory equipment – “Compressed air for breathing apparatus” is now the only standard to indicate contaminant levels for breathing air both in the UK and the EU.


Extract from BS EN 12021:2014 – Clause 6

Contaminants – Compressed gas for breathing shall not contain contaminants at a concentration which can cause toxic of harmful effects. In any event, all contaminants shall be kept to as low a level as possible and shall be less than 1/10 of a national 8 hour exposure limit. For breathing air only the limit shall be less than 1/6 of a national 8 hour exposure limit (WEL – See EH40)


(21 ± 1) % by volume (dry air)

Carbon Monoxide

≤ 5ml/mᶟ (now at the same level as was formerly indicated in BS 4275)

Carbon Dioxide



0.5 mg/mᶟ (previously identified as lubricants [droplets or mist])

Odour Taste

Shall be free from unsatisfactory odour or taste


Compressed breathing air shall have a dew point sufficiently low to prevent condensation and freezing. Where the apparatus is used and stored at a known temperature the pressure dew point shall be at least 5⁰C below the likely lowest temperature. Where the conditions of usage and storage of any compressed air supply is not known the dew point shall not exceed -11⁰C

For the measurement of contaminants, reference should be made to the ISO 8573 series. This identifies the compliant measurement method for conducting tests.


COSHH Code of Practice L5 (Sixth Edition)

Clause 180 - Frequency of examination and tests (Extract)

The frequency of examinations or tests should also be linked to the type of engineering control in use, the extent of any risk in the deterioration and the likelihood that a failure or deterioration will occur.

Clause 192 – Respiratory protective equipment (Extract)

The quality of the air supplied to breathing apparatus should be tested at suitable intervals, depending on the task and the frequency of use. As it is not reasonably practicable to test for all contaminants, the risk assessment made under regulation 6 should guide what other contaminants will require testing for.

Mobile compressor supply (Extract Clause 192)

When the air supply is from mobile compressors, the employer should ensure that, wherever a compressor is located, the quality of air it supplies is not compromised by nearby contaminants. In every case, the air supplied to breathing apparatus should meet the relevant quality standard.


Breathing Air Tests

Periodically testing air quality makes sure that the control measures you have put in place are delivering the air quality required by BS EN 12021. The frequency of such tests should be the result of a risk assessment and take place at least every three months if not sooner.

Testing for these components may be carried out using the following methods

  • Simple colour change tubes;
  • On-line gas testers;
  • Sample collection for laboratory analysis elsewhere.

Direct Air can perform regular air quality checks to help keep your facility safe and compliant to current regulations and advised standards.

Records of completed breathing air checks must be retained in either physical or electronic form for a minimum of 5 years.


Breathing Air Filters

Direct air can supply all the necessary filters and accessories for breathing air requirements.

HTM2022 regulations can also be achieved with an oil free compressor and dryer along with HTM02/01 compliant pipework if required.


Inline Breathing Air Monitor

Inline monitors can be installed allowing you to see the air quality being supplied is within the tolerances for your production and ensure your staff and production remains safe. Inline breathing air monitors also help you accurately detect when filters require changing meaning a potential reduction in maintenance costs as unnecessary filter changes are eradicated.

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