As an employer, it is crucial to understand and comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) respiratory protection standard. OSHA’s respiratory standard aims to protect employees from respiratory hazards that may cause serious health problems. The standard applies to various industries, including construction, healthcare, and manufacturing.
In 2018, OSHA revised its respiratory protection standard to align with the latest version of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) respiratory protection guidelines. The updated standard clarifies several areas, including the use of respirators in hazardous environments, the selection of respirators, and medical evaluation requirements.
What is OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard?
OSHA’s respiratory protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134, requires employers to develop and implement a written respiratory protection program. The program should address various aspects, including:
- Respirator selection
- Medical evaluations
- Fit testing
- Maintenance and care of respirators
The respiratory protection standard applies to all employers who require their employees to use respirators to protect against respiratory hazards.
Respirators are personal protective equipment (PPE) that protect employees from inhaling harmful dust, fumes, vapors, and gases. Respirators come in different types, including air-purifying respirators and supplied-air respirators.
What Are the Changes in OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard?
OSHA’s revised respiratory protection standard includes several changes to the previous version. The changes reflect the latest NIOSH guidelines and aim to improve respiratory protection for employees.
Medical Evaluation Requirements
The updated standard requires employers to provide a medical evaluation to employees who use respirators. The medical evaluation aims to determine the employee’s ability to use a respirator safely. The evaluation should be provided before the employee uses a respirator and at least every 12 months thereafter.
The medical evaluation should include a medical questionnaire that collects information about the employee’s health and medical history. The questionnaire should be reviewed by a licensed healthcare professional who will determine if the employee needs further medical evaluation.
Fit Testing Requirements
The revised standard clarifies the requirements for fit testing. Fit testing is the process of ensuring that a respirator fits the employee’s face correctly. The fit test should be performed before the employee uses a respirator and at least annually thereafter.
The revised standard requires employers to use either quantitative fit testing (QNFT) or qualitative fit testing (QLFT) methods. The QNFT method uses a machine to measure the amount of leakage around the respirator. The QLFT method relies on the employee’s sense of taste or smell to detect leakage around the respirator.
Selection of Respirators
The updated standard clarifies the selection of respirators. The employer should select a respirator based on the hazards present in the workplace. The employer should also consider the employee’s job duties and physical characteristics when selecting a respirator.
The revised standard also requires employers to provide employees with a choice of respirators, where feasible. The employer should consider the employee’s comfort, fit, and job requirements when providing a choice of respirators.
How to Comply with OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard?
Compliance with OSHA’s respiratory protection standard requires employers to develop and implement a written respiratory protection program. The program should address all aspects of respiratory protection, including respirator selection, medical evaluations, fit testing, training, maintenance and care of respirators, and recordkeeping.
Employers should also ensure that employees are trained in the proper use and care of respirators. Training should cover topics such as the selection of respirators, fitting of respirators, proper use of respirators, and limitations of respirators.
In conclusion, compliance with OSHA’s respiratory protection standard is crucial for the safety and health of employees. Employers should understand the updated standard and implement a comprehensive respiratory protection program. The program should address all aspects of respiratory protection, including respirator selection, medical evaluations, fit testing, training, maintenance and care of respirators, and recordkeeping.
By complying with OSHA’s respiratory protection standard, employers can ensure that their employees are protected from respiratory hazards in the workplace.