The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set regulations and standards that guide the use of respirators at the worksite. OSHA’s code (29 CFR 1910.134) requires employers to develop and implement a respiratory protection program for respirator usage.
In hazardous environments, respiratory equipment is essential in protecting workers from harmful materials, atmospheres, and contaminants. Though respiratory protection equipment is necessary when facing such hazards, OSHA prohibits their use until certain requirements have been met.
In this article, we’ll address the OSHA requirements that need to be met before a worker can use a respirator.
“OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.134 requires employers to develop and implement a written respiratory protection program.”
Respiration Protection Program
An employer must first develop and implement a written respiratory protection program. This program must include a respirator selection process, medical evaluations, fit testing, procedures for use, care and maintenance, training, and procedures for evaluating the program’s effectiveness.
Before you select a respirator, it’s important to conduct an exposure assessment to determine the type and amount of exposure. Employers should then select respirators based on the identified hazards. Here’s one example. In dangerous to life and health atmospheres, a full facepiece, pressure-demand self-contained breathing apparatus or a combination of facepiece and pressure-demand supplied-air respirator with auxiliary self-contained air supply must be used.
Wearing a respirator can be physically demanding. So before using a respirator, an employee must be medically cleared by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional. Employees are required to answer a medical questionnaire. Questions are related to an employee’s health history and the task in which a worker is required to wear the safety respirator. Employees are also required to provide supplemental information before final determination is made. Supplemental information includes:
- Type and weight of respirator
- Expected physical work effort
- Temperature and humidity extremes
Once that is complete, the physician will determine if the employee is physically fit to wear a respirator.
Fit testing is also required before any employee wears a respirator. Employees must be fit tested with the same make, model, style, and size of respirator. Employees who use a tight-fitting facepiece respirator must pass an appropriate fit test. Atmosphere-supplying respirators and tight-fitting PAPRs must be fit tested through quantitative or qualitative testing in negative-pressure mode. Employees then should be retested annually or if there’s a change with the respirator.
Learn about Total Safety’s Respiratory Protection solutions, including qualitative and quantitative fit testing for respiratory PPE.
Maintenance & Care
As an employer, you need to make sure that all respirators are cleaned, repaired, and inspected. When a respirator is assigned to an employee, the respirator must be cleaned as often as possible. If the same respirator is used by multiple employees, it must be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Store respirators in an area away from contaminants, dust, sunlight, and other damaging conditions. Also, inspections must be conducted on each respirator before each use and during cleaning. If a defect is detected, the respirator must be removed immediately.
“Total Safety has the industry expertise to facilitate the repair, maintenance, and testing of all respiratory protection equipment.”
According to OSHA, all employees must be trained before they wear a respirator. Training must be comprehensive, understandable, and repeated annually. This training must include:
- Limitations and capabilities of the respirator
- Respirator use during emergencies
- Reasons why respirators are required
- Reasons for proper fit
- Inspection and usage
- How to check respirator seals
- Maintenance and storage procedures
Interested in learning more about Total Safety’s respiratory protection and training? Visit us online or talk to a safety expert today at 888-328-6825.