Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBAs) are respirators that provide protection while occupying atmospheres considered Immediately Dangerous to Life & Health (IDLH). This may include confined spaces, those that are oxygen-deficient or with poor ventilation, and otherwise inhibited spaces, hazardous material spills, and other dangerous environments  that may have air containing smoke, dust, gases, vapors, airborne contaminants, etc. The SCBA includes a face piece, compressed air tank, and regulator valve for controlling air  levels. Standard SCBAs are rated in length of service, usually 30-, 45- and 60-minute versions. PK Safety currently carries accessories for SCBAs by Allegro. 


What is an SCBA respirator used for?

A self-contained breathing apparatus protects workers and first responders from hazardous gases in confined spaces and other potentially dangerous environments not designed for prolonged human occupation. If the air becomes unsafe to breathe, the person can use the SCBA to access oxygen in an emergency to escape the worksite and return to safety unharmed. 

An SCBA is often used by first responders, utility personnel, construction workers, and search and rescue teams who occupy areas containing hazardous gases, such as manholes, utility tunnels, crawl spaces, sewers and wells. The device provides the oxygen needed to occupy the space for a set period of time. 

The SCBA air cylinder has a set capacity and this limits the breathing time available. People will use the oxygen at different rates depending on their heart rate and physical size. Workers should test and monitor the depletion rate of the air to get a more accurate idea of how long it will last in the field. 

The person using this equipment must limit their time in the space to avoid running out of oxygen. They should have a clear entry and exit and know how to respond in an emergency to evacuate as quickly as possible. 

What does self-contained breathing apparatus do?

The SCBA respirator provides a self-contained breathing zone that protects from hazardous gases. The device insulates the user from airborne gases while supplying them with oxygen that is safe to breathe. The device only supplies oxygen for a limited amount of time, enough for the person to escape the hazard. 

The device should be used with a portable gas monitor that alerts the person if the air becomes unsafe to breathe, so they can activate the SCBA before inhaling the contaminated air. The monitor should flash, vibrate, and emit an audible alarm to maximize awareness. 

What is the life expectancy of SCBAs?

Well-maintained oxygen cylinders in the SCBA respirator should last anywhere from 15 to 30 years. All equipment should be kept in a dry, room-temperature environment where it won’t get damaged, such as a storage bag or container. Workers should also inspect all aspects of the breathing apparatus before entering a confined space. 

At PK Safety, we sell a range of SCBA and gas monitor parts and components. Everyone occupying potentially hazardous spaces should carry an SCBA in case the air becomes unsafe. Workers are also encouraged to test the air inside the space before entering to see if hazardous gases are present. When operating this equipment, prioritizing safety and exercise caution is wise. If a person is in distress, be prepared with a plan to get the person in and out of the space before the time frame expires. 

Contact the professionals at PK Safety to learn more about using an SCBA and all your other worker safety needs.