SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Respiratory Protection . . . Does Your Program Protect?
Today’s workforce is faced with numerous challenges
on a daily basis. Without a doubt, one of the biggest
challenges facing both employee and employer is
safety. While all industries are governed by OSHA to
establish, maintain, and adjust work practices to promote
the safest work conditions possible, injuries and illness
An average worker may be exposed to dangerous or
potentially dangerous situations every hour. It is often the
unseen hazards that may have the most serious outcome.
Respiratory exposures are frequently encountered and
certainly not seen. Some respiratory hazards act quickly,
like carbon monoxide, which can make you unconscious or
kill you in minutes. Other respiratory hazards can take
years to make you sick, like asbestos, which can cause
lung cancer decades after you breathe it in.
Respirator protection, while at times may be cumbersome
or awkward, is imperative while working in conditions
that may expose an employee to gas, dust, mist,
smoke, vapor or fumes. Per OSHA 1910.134 “A respirator
shall be provided to each employee when such equipment
is necessary to protect the health of such employee.
The employer shall provide the respirators which are
applicable and suitable for the purpose intended. The
employer shall be responsible for the establishment and
maintenance of a respiratory protection program.”
Not only must an employer provide respiratory protection,
they must also:
- develop and implement a written respiratory protection
- evaluate the respiratory hazards in the workplace
- select and provide appropriate respirators;
- provide worker medical evaluations and respirator fit
- provide for the maintenance, storage and cleaning of
- provide worker training about respiratory hazards and
proper respirator use
- evaluate workers' use of respirators and correct any
- provide employee with access to specific records and
documents, such as a written copy of employer's respiratory
A properly controlled respiratory protection program
should be managed by a qualified person that is able to
consistently review work environments and make necessary
adjustments that promote correct respirator selection.
In addition, employers should consistently have a
licensed professional review employee health surveys to
determine if an employee may be unable to utilize a respirator
appropriately due to existing health conditions or
A strong respiratory protection program will not only
provide immediate protection to those exposed to hazardous
particulates, but it will also promote employee
wellness for the future.
For more information, click on the author biography at the top of the page.