4 - Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)

In addition to PPE used for Standard Infection Control Precautions, appendix 16 of the NIPCM outlines you what type of PPE and RPE you will need to wear for infections spread by different transmission routes.

Important words and what they mean

Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) means FFP3 masks and facial protection and must be thought about when a resident is admitted with a known/suspected infectious agent/disease spread wholly by the airborne route and when carrying out aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) on residents with a known/suspected infectious agent spread wholly or partly by the airborne or droplet route.

An Aerosol Generating Procedure (AGP) is a medical procedure that can result in the release of airborne particles from the respiratory tract when treating someone who is suspected or known to be suffering from an infectious agent transmitted wholly or partly by the airborne or droplet route.

Aerosol Generating Procedure (AGP)

The most common AGPs undertaken in the Care Home Setting are Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Ventilation (CPAP) or Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure Ventilation (BiPAP).

The full list of medical procedures for COVID-19 that have been reported to be aerosol generating and are associated with an increased risk of respiratory transmission are:

*   only open suctioning beyond the oro-pharynx is currently considered an AGP i.e. oral/pharyngeal suctioning is not an AGP.

PPE for aerosol generating procedures (AGPs)

If the individual has an infection spread by the airborne route and an AGP is required staff should wear the following PPE:

PPE for aerosol generating procedures


PPE used



Apron or gown

Single-use gown.

Face mask or respirator

FFP3 mask or powered respirator hood.

Eye and face protection

Single-use or reusable.

All FFP3 respirators must be:

Where staff have concerns about potential COVID-19 exposure to themselves during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they may choose to wear an FFP3 respirator rather than a fluid-resistant surgical mask (FRSM) when providing patient care, provided they are fit tested. This is a personal PPE risk assessment, as per DL 2022 10.

Rooms should always be decontaminated following an AGP. Clearance of infectious particles after an AGP is dependent on the ventilation and air change within the room. In an isolation room with 10-12 air changes per hour (ACH) a minimum of 20 minutes is required; in a side room with 6 ACH this would be approximately one hour. It is often difficult to calculate air changes in areas that have natural ventilation only.  Natural ventilation, particularly when reliant on open windows can vary depending on the climate. An air change rate in these circumstances has been agreed as 1-2 air changes/hour. 

To increase natural ventilation in care home settings may require opening of windows. If opening windows staff must conduct a local hazard/safety risk assessment.

Post AGP fallow time (PAGPFT)

Time is required after an AGP is performed to allow the aerosols still circulating to be removed/diluted. This is referred to as the post AGP fallow time (PAGPFT) and is a function of the room ventilation air change rate.

The post aerosol generating procedure fallow time (PAGPFT) calculations are detailed in the table below.  It is often difficult to calculate air changes in areas that have natural ventilation only. 

If the area has zero air changes and no natural ventilation, then AGPs should not be undertaken in this area.

The duration of AGP is also required to calculate the PAGPFT and clinical staff are therefore reminded to note the start time of an AGP.  It is presumed that the longer the AGP, the more aerosols are produced and therefore require a longer dilution time.  During the PAGPFT staff should not enter this room without FFP3 masks.  Other residents, other than the resident on which the AGP was undertaken, must not enter the room until the PAGPFT has elapsed and the surrounding area has been cleaned appropriately.  As a minimum, regardless of air changes per hour (ACH), a period of 10 minutes must pass before rooms can be cleaned. This is to allow for the large droplets to settle. Staff must not enter rooms in which AGPs have been performed without airborne precautions for a minimum of 10 minutes from completion of AGP. Airborne precautions may also be required for a further extended period of time based on the duration of the AGP and the number of air changes. Cleaning can be carried out after 10 minutes regardless of the extended time for airborne PPE.

Post AGP fallow times calculation

Duration of AGP (minutes) 1 AC/h 2 AC/h 4 AC/h 6 AC/h 8 AC/h 10 AC/h 12 AC/h 15 AC/h 20 AC/h 25 AC/h
3 230 114 56 37 27 22 18 14 10 8 (10)*
5 260 129 63 41 30 24 20 15 11 8 (10)*
7 279 138 67 44 32 25 20 16 11 9 (10)*
10 299 147 71 46 34 26 21 16 11 9 (10)*
15 321 157 75 48 35 27 22 16 12 9 (10)*

*The minimum fallow time (to allow for droplet settling time) is 10 minutes

Contact your local HPT/IPCT if further advice is required.


Read the RPE literature review to find out more about why we do things this way for respiratory protective equipment