Safely Use Respiratory Protection With These Three Tips

Respiratory protection is often on CAL OSHA’s top ten list of citations. It can also be a complicated subject. The OSHA standard is lengthy and at times confusing. Here are three vital tips to help safely select and use respiratory protection. 

Assess and select the right respirator for conditions

Without an assessment and an informed selection decision, there’s no way to tell if you’re using the right equipment. Some basic points to remember about assessments are:

  • Assessments are a complicated subject.
  • There are regulated chemicals with their own standard that require 8-hour full shift sampling to determine the level of chemical in air.
  • There is also a list (29 CFR 1910.1000 in Federal Standards) that provides many chemical exposure limits in air. Other voluntary standards exist too.
  • The respirator standard states that employers must “characterize the nature and magnitude of employee exposures to respiratory hazards before selecting respiratory protection equipment.”
    • That can be confusing and can be interpreted in different ways, so bidding with an Industrial Hygiene contractor to complete monitoring is the best way to fully quantify exposure risk. The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has a searchable list of consultants near you.
    • ICW Group has helpful information on chemical assessments in its webinar Ten Ways to Simplify Your Chemical Risk Assessments. In many instances, conducting a detailed qualitative assessment can help you determine if further sampling is required and what level of protection is needed.

Qualify your respirator users

Make sure whoever is using a respirator is qualified and capable of wearing them during their shift or task. Without qualifying employees to use mandatory protection, they could suffer from health issues, pick the wrong equipment, or use it improperly.

Qualification can include medical clearance to use, training, and providing means for cleaning, storage, and a cartridge or filtering facepiece change out schedule.

Deploy the right respirator program

When respirator use is mandatory, ensure that you have key respirator program elements in place and that they’re properly documented. This reduces user risks, liability, and maintains compliance.

ICW Group has helpful information on respiratory protection program elements in its webinar Breathe Easier with These Respiratory Protection Must Haves.

Mark Yeck
Mark Yeck
Mark joined ICW Group in 2016 and serves as Technical Specialist for Industrial Hygiene. He also provides risk management services in our Inland Empire region. Mark’s industry profile includes health and home care, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, construction, chemical operations and trucking. He has worked for Fortune 500 Companies including Disneyland Resorts, IBM, and Olin Chemical, and served as a Federal OSHA Compliance Officer in the southern Colorado jurisdiction. He also worked in the pharmaceutical industry at in-plant and corporate levels, performing in both Safety Manager and Industrial Hygiene roles. Mark holds CSP and CIH designations and graduated Cum Laude with a MS Occupational Safety and Health Management degree from the University of New Haven.

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