Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Workplace safety - Respiratory Protection

Contributed by Eric Tofte, Director of Training, Evergreen Safety Council

Respirators protect the user in two basic ways. The first is by the removal of contaminants from the air. Respirators of this type include particulate respirators, which filter out airborne particles; and "gas masks” which filter out chemicals and gases. Other respirators protect by supplying clean respirable air from another source. Respirators that fall into this category include airline respirators, which use compressed air from a remote source; and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), which include their own air supply.
Respirators should only be used when engineering control systems are not feasible. Engineering control systems, such as adequate ventilation or scrubbing of contaminants are the preferred control methods for reducing worker exposures.

If engineering controls cannot protect employees, then an employer must provide respiratory protection and develop and implement a respiratory protection program and you need to address the following:

• Selecting respirators
• Medical evaluations
• Fit testing respirators (applies if tight fitting respirators are required)
• Maintaining and caring for respirators
• Using respirators including routine and emergency use procedures
• Supplied Air quality (applies if airline or SCBAs will be used)
• Training users and supervisors
• Evaluating the Respirator Program

This can be confusing, but necessary to ensure the protection of your employees.

If you do need to develop a program there are several avenues you can take to get help. Both OSHA and DOSH have great resource pages on this topic, or you can give Evergreen a call. We can help with training, fit testing and more 800-521-0778.

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