Protective Equipment: Optimum safety is in the details
Posted By John Paraskevas
When it comes to personal protective equipment, and in particular respiratory
protection equipment, certain requirements must be met for it to do its
job of guarding its wearer from injury or illness. The OSHA standard requires
A written program specific to a respiratory program would document the
responsibilities of the assigned program administrator, supervisor(s),
employee(s) and medical provider. The worksite hazard evaluation and subsequent
selection of respiratory protection should assure that the wearer gets
sufficient oxygen and does not inhale noxious sprays, fumes, chemical
vapors, and so on. How do you know if you need to use a respirator? The
first place to start in the worksite evaluation is reviewing the chemical’s
Safety Data Sheet. Permissible Exposure Limits, Threshold Limit Values
along with Personal Protection Equipment recommendations will be described
in the SDS. Check with your safety manager or supplier for chemical specific guidance.
- Evaluate the hazards of the worksite including airborne exposure;
- Develop work-site specific procedures to address each of the hazards identified;
- Train employees of the hazards and methods to protect employee of the hazards;
- And, then document all of this with a written program explaining each of
the previous steps.
Additional evaluation of the worksite and, in particular the air flow
and exchanges, is also critical to determining the proper respiratory
protection. For example, in a field application, a half-face, air purifying
respirator with an organic vapor/ acid gas plus particulate prefilter
may be suitable for spraying in outdoor operation with sufficient air
movement. Consequently, an indoor application with minimal air movement
may require a supplied air respirator. In any cases, an IDLH atmosphere,
immediately dangerous to life and health, would require a supplied air
respirator. This includes an oxygen deficient atmosphere.
Additional respiratory protection program elements includes:
• Getting a medical evaluation for every employee required to use
a respirator. This must be done by a licensed health care professional
(LHCP) prior to respirator use. It would be useful to inform the LHCP
of the work environment in which it will be used to account for any physical
extremes. Check with your medical provider for new hire physicals or Occupational
Clinic. Several of these services including the physical, medical evaluation,
and fit-testing can be combined into one visit and program.
• Conducting, or arranging for, fit testing of each type of respirator
an employee is required to use. This will be repeated at least annually
and whenever there's a change in the employee's physical condition
that could affect the respirator fit.
• Once trained, employees are responsible for the care of the respirators
including cleaning, disinfecting, and storage in an area that will protect
them from damage, contamination, and the other environmental elements.
• All of the above elements would need to be documented in a written
program and employees trained on each of the elements annually.
By far, the most cited violation of the respiratory standard is the lack
of a written program closely followed by lack of documentation for medical
evaluation and fit testing. There are several sources including OSHA,
equipment suppliers, and trade associations where one can find general,
boilerplate programs where you can add specific company information, equipment
type, filter change-out schedules, and procedures. At the end of the day,
the goal is simple, keep everybody breathing easier.
To learn more about the information in this article, contact John Paraskevas at