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October 2010

Part 1: What Do I Really Need for a Respiratory Protection Program?

Posted by Donna Clendenning and Greg LaRochelle

So what’s OSHA’s stance on respiratory protection in the workplace? Does everyone need to have a program?  Does everyone need to wear respiratory protection?  The short answer is “no”. 

Now, here’s the longer answer. (And it’s worth reading because this standard is once again among the top five of OSHA’s most commonly cited standards.)

Whether you work in general industry, construction, or shipbuilding, OSHA’s Standard 29 CFR 1910.134, Respiratory Protection, is the first place to look to understand what the standard requires. Exceeding OSHA’s exposure limits where engineering controls are not feasible will dictate the required use of a respirator.  In this case, the general requirements for a respiratory protection program are the following:

Written Plan – Employers are required to have a written plan with the following elements along with having a named designated program administrator.

Medical Evaluation – A respirator, itself, can pose as a hazard due to the increased stress placed on the cardiopulmonary system.  A medical questionnaire form (Appendix C to the standard) needs to be completed by the employee with review by a licensed healthcare professional for determination of employee clearance for respirator use.  Oftentimes, this includes a pulmonary function exam conducted by the healthcare professional.

Respirator Selection – Respirators are selected based on the hazards that the employee may be exposed to while in the workplace.  The employer is responsible for identifying and evaluating respiratory hazards in the workplace to determine which type of respiratory protection is needed.  And, the employer is responsible for selecting respirators from a sufficient number of respirator models and sizes so that the respirator is acceptable to, and correctly fits, the user. Lastly, only NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health) certified respirators are to be used.

Bed bugs bite but not disease carriers

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted by Greg Larochelle

Recently, one of my customers from a social service organization asked if I could present a workshop on bed bugs to their risk management team.  While not an entomologist by education, I accepted the request and proceeded to review the plethora of information available on the web including some interesting micrograph images of Cimex lectularius as the insect is taxonomically named.  Owing to the fear with other disease-causing organisms such as ticks and mosquitoes, the emerging abundance of bed bugs strikes a similar concern with regard to possible health effects.

Fortunately, bed bugs are not vectors of disease transmission though their bite can lead to welts, a rash in sensitized individuals, and a chance of secondary infection from an open wound.  Psychologically, these buggers can cause anxiety and insomnia from the standpoint of the stigma surrounding infestation and the challenge of eradicating them totally from a dwelling.  Bed bugs lurk in cracks, crevices, and concealed spaces, typically in bedding and cushioned furniture near a warm-blooded food source.  Bed bugs don't care about the socioeconomic class of their victim and could care less about crumbs left on the mattress or sofa.  They are all about seeking out a blood meal in dark spaces much like the modern-day vampire of the Twilight series.

Bed bugs are visible to the naked eye with adults about the size and shape of an apple seed and burnt orange to reddish brown in color.  They're dependent on blood to reach maturity and can go several months without feeding.  Eliminating bed bugs requires integrated pest management with inspection, heat treatment, laundering/encasement, steam cleaning, and pesticide application a few of the methods used for mitigation.  The Maine CDC recommends pest control professionals licensed by the Maine Board of Pesticides Control be used for pesticide application.  The agency's motto is Think First - Spray Last!

Unless we decide to become hermits, there's a real chance that we can encounter bed bugs from leisure and business congregation.  Bed bugs are adept hitchhikers so vigilance to self-inspection including our travel items is an important step in minimizing infestation.  The EPA and U.S. CDC have joined forces on bed bug awareness and control with factsheets available on their websites.  I encourage you to review these and other resources to save you from buggin' out.