- As many as 5 million workers in the US wear respirators to carry out their duties.
- Respirators protect workers from hazardous atmospheres containing dust, gases or sprays.
- There are two types of respirators: air-purifying (filters ambient air) and air-supplying (provides the worker with separate air supply).
- Complying with OSHA requirements is critical for effective protection against hazardous atmospheres, and it is recommended that employers always seek professional advice.
- OSHA recommends that respirators should be worn when other forms of engineering control or protection for the worker have been ruled out.
- Employers should read fully the Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.134 and appropriate subsections in relation to the standards for Shipyard Employment, Marine Terminals, Longshoring and Construction where appropriate.
Related Examinetics Services
Respiratory Protection Overview
OSHA requirements are designed to protect workers from inhaling harmful atmospheres containing dusts, particulate matter, gases, sprays or volatile chemicals. Respirators are also worn by those exposed to extremes of temperatures. It is estimated that up to 5 million workers in the US wear respirators to carry out their duties.
Types of Respirators
There are two main types of respirators: air-purifying and air-supplying. The air-purifying type removes contaminants from the atmosphere through particulate filters, cartridges or canisters connected to the face piece. Cartridges or canisters contain materials designed specifically to remove gases or vapors and are sometimes used in combination to remove more than one type of contaminant. The air-supplying respirator provides the wearer with air supply separate to the contaminated air. A self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) requires the worker to carry their air supply while airline respirator hoses connect to an air source some distance away. The two respirator types can be further subdivided into categories according to their mode of operation and type of inlet covering. Respiratory compliance is critical for effective protection against hazardous atmospheres and it is recommended that employers seek professional advice from an industrial hygienist or other expert provider. Respirators must be certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Regardless of the type of respirator, there are strict OSHA requirements for employers and employees pertaining to their use, fit and maintenance. OSHA recommends that respirators should be worn when other forms of engineering control or protection for the worker, like adequate ventilation systems, have been ruled out. Employers should read the Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.134 and appropriate subsections in relation to the standards for Shipyard Employment (29 CFR 1915), Marine Terminals (29 CFR 1917), Longshoring (29 CFR 1918) and Construction (29 CFR 1926). Employers must comply fully with the OSHA standards. Example features include:
- Providing a medical examination to determine employee’s ability to use a respirator (before fit testing or use).
- Providing a qualitative fit test (QLFT) or quantitative fit test (QNFT) for those requiring negative or positive pressure tight-fitting facepiece respirators (see NIOSH link above for more details).
- Ensuring correct usage of selected respirator.
- Regularly maintaining respirators and ensure adequate care.
- Providing training and educational programs for users.
- Undertaking evaluations and ensuring accurate recordkeeping.
OSHA safety and health topic: respiratory protection
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Respirators – NPPTL / NIOSH topic page
Business Owner Briefing
Respiratory Protection in the Workplace: a practical guide for small-business employers
Medical Director Review
Fit for purpose? The role of fit testing in respiratory protection — CLAYTON and VAUGHAN 49 (7): 545 — Annals of Occupational Hygeine