A respirator is a device that protects you from inhaling dangerous substances, such as chemicals and infectious particles. Respirators are among the most important pieces of protective equipment for working in hazardous environments. Respiratory protection requirements are detailed in OSHA 1910.134, Respiratory Protection.
Selecting the right respirator requires an assessment of all the workplace operations, processes, or environments that may create a respiratory hazard. The identity of the hazard and its airborne concentrations need to be determined before choosing a respirator. This assessment should be done by experienced safety personnel or by an industrial hygienist.
Respirators work by:
Although engineering, administrative, and work practice controls are the primary means of protecting workers from exposure to lead, source control at construction sites sometimes is insufficient to control exposure.
In these cases, airborne lead concentrations may be high and variable. Respirators often must be used to supplement other controls to reduce worker lead exposures below the PEL.
The standard requires that respirators be used before entering the work area and during any workday when an employee’s exposure to lead exceeds the PEL of 50 ug/m3 over 8 hours, including:
When respirators are required or requested, employers must provide them at no cost to workers. Respirators must be used when performing high exposure or "trigger" tasks, before completion of the initial assessment.
Click on the button below to view a couple of DOL-OSHA videos about respirator requirements.
When respirators are required at a worksite, the employer must establish a respiratory protection program in accordance with the OSHA standard on respiratory protection, 29 CFR 1910.134.
Elements that have a more direct impact on the user include knowledge of selection criteria, medical evaluations, procedures for proper use, fit-testing, and maintenance procedures.
Click on the button below to see the elements of an effective respiratory protection program.
When selecting appropriate respirators, you must consider:
Respirator selection requires correctly matching the respirator with the type and degree of the hazard, and the user. The properly selected respirator must effectively reduce user exposure under all conditions, including reasonably foreseeable emergency escape situations. The program manager should make a respirator available to each employee who is assigned a job that requires respiratory protection.
Proper respirator selection involves choosing a device that will protect the employee from the respiratory hazards to which he or she may be exposed, yet permits the employee to perform the job with the least amount of physical burden.
Click on the button below to see the factors to consider when selecting respirators.
Assigned Protection Factor (APF) means the workplace level of respiratory protection that a respirator or class of respirators is expected to provide to employees when you implement a continuing, effective respiratory protection program.
For higher-risk exposure situations (i.e., a higher concentration of infectious particles), choosing a respirator with a higher APF provides a higher level of protection for the wearer. The APFs for different types of respirators are presented in Table 1 of the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard 1910.134. (See table to the right).
It's important to know that lead workers should not use filtering facepieces (single- or double-strap dust masks) while performing work that exposes the worker to asbestos or lead. Lead workers should choose from one of the following four types of respirators:
Click on the buttons to see examples of the four types of respirators.
If exposure monitoring or experience indicates airborne exposures to contaminants other than lead such as silica, solvents, or polyurethane coatings, these exposures must be considered when selecting respiratory protection.
Click on the button to watch an OSHA video on the various types of respirators.
Where daily airborne exposure to lead exceeds 50 µg/m3, affected workers must don respirators before entering the work area and should not remove them until they leave the high-exposure area or have completed a decontamination procedure. Employers must ensure that the respirator issued to the employee is selected and fitted properly to ensure minimum leakage through the facepiece-to-face seal.
Fit testing is a procedure used to determine how well a respirator "fits"—that is, whether the respirator forms a seal on the user's face. Before any employee first starts wearing a respirator in the work environment, the employer must perform a respirator fit test. For all employees wearing negative or positive pressure tight-fitting facepiece respirators, the employer must perform either qualitative or quantitative fit tests using an OSHA-accepted fit testing protocol. In addition, employees must be fit tested whenever a different respirator facepiece is used, and at least annually thereafter.
If an employee has difficulty in breathing during a fit test or while using a respirator, the employer must make a medical examination available to that employee to determine whether he or she can wear a respirator safely.
Click on the button below to see a DOL-OSHA video about respirator fit testing.
Respiratory protection is no better than the respirator in use, even though it is worn correctly. Frequent random inspections must be conducted by a qualified individual to make sure respirators are properly selected, used, cleaned, and maintained.
All respirators: For all respirators, inspections must include a check of respirator function, tightness of connections, and the condition of the various parts including, but not limited to the:
It's especially important to evaluate elastomeric parts for pliability and signs of deterioration.
Click the buttons below to see a list of important points to remember when inspecting respirators and a couple of videos on PPE and inspections.
The employer must to provide effective respiratory protection training to employees who are required to use respirators. The training must be comprehensive, understandable, and recur annually, and more often if necessary. Training must be provided prior to requiring the employee to use a respirator in the workplace.
The employer must provide the basic information on respirators in 1910.134, Appendix D to employees who wear respirators when not required by this section or by the employer to do so.
Click on the button below to see a list of mandatory topics for respiratory protection training.
Topics to include in respirator training include:
Retraining must be administered annually and when the following situations occur:
Click on the button below to see an OSHA video on respirator program training requirements.
For more information on OSHA training requirements see OSHA Pub 2254, Training Requirements in OSHA Standards, and OSHAcademy Course 703, Introduction to OSHA Training.
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