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What Is an SCBA Used For?

An SCBA is worn to provide breathable air in an atmosphere that is immediately dangerous towards life and health. It is normally worn by firefighters and individual response teams who work in environments that are:

  • Insufficient in oxygen
  • Dusty
  • Containing noxious gasses
  • Releasing harmful vapors
  • Full of smoke

Immediately Dangerous Towards Life & Health

An environment is classified as immediately dangerous towards life and health (IDLH) if it has any level of a poisonous, caustic, or asphyxiant chemical in the air that puts an employee’s life immediately at risk.

It can also apply to circumstances when a person’s mobility to exit the hazardous condition is compromised or if there is a possibility that the situation will have irreparable or prolonged negative impacts on their health.

When working within an IDLH atmosphere, wearing and utilizing an SCBA effectively can draw the line between staying healthy and being fatally injured.

What Is a Self Contained Breathing Apparatus?

Before we go into more detail about what an SCBA is used for, you should first understand what exactly an SCBA is.

An SCBA is defined as a respirator device that accommodates and delivers breathable and clean air to the employee that is using it. It is a self-sufficient breathing unit that permits freedom of movement, free of any restraints.

Depending on the circuit type of the SCBA, the oxygen or air is supplied in compressed form or by chemical generation, and the wearer’s exhalations are either purified for re-use or released to the surrounding atmosphere.

Open Circuit SCBA

Open-circuit systems work by bringing air directly from the respirators’ air cylinder into the user’s breathing mask, which reaches the mask immediately. Whenever any exhaled air leaves the system, it is immediately evacuated and disposed of.

An SCBA with an open respiratory circuit is useful for longer rescue operations and shifts.

Closed Circuit SCBA

Reusing the person’s exhaled air to create breathable air is how a closed-circuit system operates. Any extra carbon dioxide is removed from the system as the exhaled air travels through a specific filter. The air is then circulated back into the oxygen masks after a fresh supply of oxygen is introduced from a pressurized oxygen tank to restart the cycle.

For these breathing apparatuses, shorter jobs like quick rescues are most suitable.

Safety Standards Regarding SCBAs

OSHA mandates that employers give employees a respirator device that is appropriate for the jobs they will be performing. Your place of work must have an established respiratory protection program that must be maintained and made accessible to all workers by the employer.

NIOSH is the main regulating and certification body in regards to manufacturing SCBAs. And in accordance with them, the supplier is in charge of determining the SCBAs’ service life, mentioning any warnings or usage restrictions, and offering usage and maintenance guidelines.

Respiratory Protection Program

Your company’s respiratory protection program must outline all necessary operational procedures for using SCBAs. This program’s goal is to guarantee that all workers who must use respiratory protection are safeguarded against respiratory risks by using SCBAs correctly.

There should be procedures and schedules for cleaning, disinfecting, storing, inspecting, repairing, and maintaining an SCBA.

Read and comprehend your company’s respiratory protection program thoroughly. Employers are required to update the program on a regular basis to account for every new workplace hazard and safety concern. You should keep track of any modifications your company makes to the respiratory protection program during your employment.

Different Parts of SCBAs

An SCBA is made up of four major components. To keep the user safe in potentially dangerous respiratory situations, each component is necessary. These four parts are listed and explained below.

SCBA Air Cylinders

The most evident SCBA component is the air cylinder. The open circuit SCBA recycles its air. However, in closed circuits, pressurized oxygen is added to air tanks, enabling rescuers…to enter spaces where there’s fire or smoke and successfully free trapped or injured people.

After every rescue operation, the air tanks in the SCBA must always be carefully inspected to make sure they won’t be low for the next rescue mission.

Different Classes of Cylinders

Depending on the kind of SCBA being utilized, the cylinders for air can be divided into three distinct categories. For every type of cylinder, there’s a specific timeframe and amount of pressurized air that can be used. These three groups of cylinders are as follows:

Harness & Frame

The harness and frame allows you to carry the air cylinders on your back without them interfering with your work. A fast release buckle, adaptable waist strap, and two movable shoulder straps make up the harness assembly. Watch out for any damaged or loosened joints or loose fasteners, and inspect the frame for bends and cracks.

Respirator System

The respiratory system of the SCBA has the ability to control the air pressure coming from the canister in order to supply the wearer with fresh air as needed. Each unit of this system is essential in ensuring that the SCBA user receives breathable air. The respiratory system of an SCBA normally entails regulators and air hoses.


The facepiece helps to create a space around your mouth and nose where air can circulate. Additionally, it can shield you from airborne risks like flying debris.

SCBA Air Supply

Monitoring and controlling your air supply is one of the most crucial safety measures you will take when using a SCBA. SCBA gear can only keep you safe for as long as the air inside it lasts. Running out of air shouldn’t be a concern, though, as long as you use your equipment carefully.

Standard operational practices for preserving your air supply should be outlined in your company’s respiratory protection program. Regularly check the pressure gauge when wearing your SCBA. Once the air in your cylinder drops below the recommended level, cease operating and leave the area immediately.

Fit Testing

Your equipment must be fit checked to ensure it is securely fastened to your person and that you are comfortable wearing it once you have been given an SCBA. Fit tests can be classified as either qualitative or quantitative.


Using your sense of taste, smell, or your response to an allergen, qualitative fit testing is a pass/fail test technique that looks for leaks along the facepiece. The air around your SCBA is first exposed to a test aerosol. You must be able to identify the test substance through your facepiece in order for the SCBA to pass or fail the test.

SCBA equipment does not often undergo qualitative fit testing. Compared to conventional respirators, SCBAs must maintain a much tighter seal, and relying on a user’s senses to identify leaks is not necessarily a reliable method of verifying that level of efficiency.


Quantitative fit testing is more precise than qualitative testing. Instead of asking consumers to attempt to detect the test aerosol on their own, it employs a machine to measure the precise amount inside the facepiece. Quantitative fit checks can also help you make sure that the pressure under the facepiece of your SCBA equipment is safe and constant.


Accidents involving SCBAs can happen at any time and on any work site. However, by following the principles and standards laid out by OSHA and your employer, you will be better prepared to avoid most, if not all, of the hazards that come with using an SCBA.

Our Safety Training Goal

Every task and workplace is unique, so employees need to be trained to identify the risks they might face when utilizing a SCBA. Additionally, they must know what to do in case of an emergency. Our online SCBA course covers all of this information in depth.

Here, at Hard Hat Training, our teams have worked hard to provide our customers with more than 200 courses to choose from. We offer many different types of course topics, they range from subjects such as bloodborne pathogens to walking working surfaces. All of these courses were created to meet safety requirements and to capture the students’ attention.

Tool Box Talks

Each of our kits come with three to five different tool box talks that were produced to present different safety principles regarding the learning topic. For example, the kit for our Self Contained Breathing Apparatus Course will have toolbox talks that mention safety principles such as: