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.