Respiratory Protection Program is Not Just Smart – it’s Required!

A respiratory protection program was once compared to a successful “marriage” between workers and management. Why may you ask? Because trust between workers and management needs to happen. Otherwise, trust can be destroyed if the administrator of the respiratory program gives the wrong information and doesn’t set a good example.

See, working without a respirator, when one is needed, is just not smart.

Even the mom on the air freshener commercials probably needs a respiratory while eliminating the smelly odors of a teenage boy. Ok, you get the picture but do you know the requirements per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)?

Since all work environments are different, it’s important to ensure workers are provided with and aware of the correct respiratory devices to wear with visuals – like safety posters.

In what way do employers need to provide respiratory protection?

OSHA requires employers to develop and implement a written respiratory protection program for situations in which permissible exposure limits (PELs) of airborne contaminants are exceeded, or when the employer requires the use of respirators by employees.

The major requirements of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.134 are required when diseases caused by breathing air contaminated with harmful dust, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, or vapors, the primary objective shall be to prevent atmospheric contamination. This must be achieved as far as possible by accepted engineering control measures (for example, enclosure or confinement of the operation, general and local ventilation, and substitution of less toxic materials).

But workers still don’t wear respiratory protection

Every year OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard appears on the list of the Top 10 most frequently cited standards. What’s more concerning is that OSHA estimates that about 5 million workers are required to wear respirators in 1.3 million workplaces throughout the United States.

When respirators are necessary to protect the health of employees or whenever respirators are required when “effective engineering controls are not feasible, or while they are being instituted.”

What if your workplace requires respiratory health?

Knowing how to identify the hazards and choosing the right respirator is only part of the equation. Knowing how to properly use it is just as important. Incorrectly using a respirator can be just as hazardous to your health as not wearing one in the first place.

Even when wearing a respirator, if you're not properly trained on how to use it, it will not protect you. That's why workplace with such requirements should have a written respiratory health program in place that explains in detail how to:

  1. Properly access the situation and the potential hazards present.
  2. Identify the proper respirator for the situation.
  3. How to properly use it.

When a thorough written program is required by OSHA, ensure workers are trained on atmospheric hazards in their workspace, safety posters are posted to warn them to wear respirator equipment, and they’re provided with the right personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe.

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