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Respiratory Protection

In today's work climate, respiratory protection seems to be involved in all areas of safety, from the Construction Industry with issues surrounding the new Silica Standard requirements to indoor air quality in the General Industry arena. Having a good respiratory protection program could potentially prevent hundreds of deaths and thousands of illnesses every year.

Employees are required to wear respirators whenever their engineering and workplace control measures are not sufficient to prevent or eliminate airborne exposures. Enclosing or confining the operations, ventilating the contaminant, or replacing the contaminant with less toxic substances are all great strategies to reduce or eliminate the dangers of respiratory related problems in the workplace. It is important to note that respirators have their limits and cannot completely make up for a lack of proper engineering or best practices; however, respirators can still provide adequate protection during times where it is not possible to reduce airborne contaminants to the point where they are below the OSHA Permissible Exposure Levels (PEL). Instances like these would be during specific maintenance repair operations, when engineering controls are being installed, or when there is an emergency. Just remember, depending on the circumstances you may be working in, respiratory protection may be needed to protect yourself. Without that protection, you are completely exposing yourself to any dangerous chemicals you come in contact with. OSHA requires that all employers establish and maintain an effective respiratory protection program whenever employees have to wear respirators to protect themselves while working. There are many different respirators and cartridge combinations for different dangers. Workers are responsible for knowing what to wear for each given situation and complying with the respiratory protection program, along with other set rules and regulations. OSHA requires that the respiratory protection program contain the following elements:

  1. Requirements for program administration.

  2. Job site specific procedures.

  3. Proper respirator selection.

  4. Proper employee training.

  5. Initial and annual fit testing.

  6. Medical evaluation.

  7. Correct respirator use.

  8. Proper cleaning, maintenance, and repair.

Along with the above, employees must also wear respirators when engineering controls are being installed or repaired. If there are no engineering controls installed, then employers are required to provide respiratory protection where appropriate. Workers should know how to properly select their equipment, how to use it properly, and how it should be maintained for each given situation. Employers are also required to train employees on all aspects of the site's respiratory protection program. When it comes to respiratory protection in the workplace, everyone at a given job site should be on the same page. This increases communication, employee morale, and productivity while also keeping your workers safe.

Courtesy of DiVal Safety shared from the DiVal Dispatch blog page here.

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