Respiratory Protection Program

Regularly, OSHA ranks respiratory protection as the one of the most frequently cited standard violation on job sites. As nearly five million American work in harmful airborne material every day, the protection of their lungs is of the highest importance. 

The respiratory protection program involves the use of a protective facepiece which covers parts of the face (nose and mouth) or the entire head of an individaul to protect against airborne agents. Respiratory protection is vital in any work enviroment with insufficient oxygen or harmful dust, fog, mists, smoke, spray or vapors. 

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Why is the respiratory protection program important? 

Respirators allow workers to breathe clean air while shielding their lungs from hamrful airborne material. Respiratory protection is necessary whenever toxic substance are present in the workplace. The consequences of poor respiratory protection may be severe, resulting in cancer, asbestosis, silicosis, asthma, other lung impairments or even death. 

What can employers do to prevent respiratory issues? 

OSHA's respirator standard requires employers to establish and maintain an effective respiratory protection program for respirator-wearing employees. As different hazards require specific respirators, employees are responsible for wearing the appropriate respirator and complying with the respiratory protection program. 

It is ideal for a worksite to have effective engineering controls, like a ventilation system, to eliminate or reduce harmful or toxic substances. If engineering controls are not feasible, employers must provide respirators and employees must wear them when necessary to protect their health. 

Employee's equipment must be properly selected, used and maintained for a particular work enviroment and contaminant. Moreover, employers must thoroughly train employees in all aspects of the respiratory protection programs. 

An Established Respiratory Protection Program...

  • ...builds trust and rapport with workers and managment

  • ...reduces the risk of illness and lost workdays

  • ...lowers replacement and repair costs for respirators. 

How do you develop an effective an respiratory program?

  • Written worksite-specific procedures: This document consists of the operating procedures that allows employees to use the respirators safely and correctly. 

  • Program evaluation: Typically, evaluations are based on the individual factors of each worksite including: 

     - Types and extent of hazards in the workplace

     - Types of respirators used by employees

     - Number of employees using respirators 

  • Selection of an appropriate respirator approved by NIOSH.

  • Training: Employees are taught proper procedures for wearing respirators. 

  • Fit testing: Fit Testing determines whether is a respirator cleared for use on the worksite. 

  • Inspection, cleaning, maintenance and storage: Due to their importance, respirator must be taken care of properly, including thorough inspection, cleaning, maintenance and storage. 

  • Medical evaluations: In order for an employee to wear a respirator, he/she must be medically cleared first. A medical evaluation detects early signs of illness and clears employees in good health. 

  • Work area surveillance: This includes a routine check of worksites, such as work task procedures, additions of new machinery and/or buildup of dust of other hazardous material. 

  • Air quality standards: Employers must ensure all atmosphere-supplying respirator wearers are receiving air of high purity. 

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What question should I be asking as an employer? 

  • Do I need my annual respirator training? 

  • When are my employees due for testing?

  • Are my employees medically cleared to wear respirator?

  • How many employees require testing per shift and shift hours?

  • What make/model of respirators do my employees need?

  • Do my employees need to wear more than one make/style of mask? 

  • Do any of my employees need to wear SCBA? 

As a part of a comprehensive respiratory protection program, Examinetics offers respirator fit testing and online respirator clearance evaluations. Contact us to learn more about our respiratory services to stay compliant and healthy.