Respiratory Protection

Respirator Program

Respirator Program

Respiratory ProtectionRespirators and a written respirator program are required by OSHA whenever air contaminants are above the Permissible Exposure Level. A respirator program should include the following elements:

___ Physician’s examination to determine the worker’s capability of wearing a respirator

___ Program implementation and annual re-evaluations

___ Written standard operating procedures for the selection and use of respirators

___ Fit testing

___ Purchase of respirators and/or filters for each atmospheric need

___ Purchase of cleaning materials, filters, pre-filters, canisters and spare parts

___ Documented employee training on respirator use and limitations

___ Equipment inspection, cleaning, maintenance and storage procedures and records

___ Work-area monitoring to establish degree of exposure and type of respirator needed

___ Maintenance of air quality for supplied-air devices, compressors and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) devices.

Remember, the first step in determining if a respirator program is necessary is to evaluate the level of contaminants in the air and/or the work processes involved, such as spray painting, abrasive blasting, etc. If contaminant levels exceed the PEL, first evaluate and implement suitable engineering controls that will lower the level of contaminants below the PEL, if feasible. Then, careful selection of respiratory protection and fit testing is required.

A competent person must continue to monitor the worksite, and evaluate the need for a respirator program whenever exposures change. New exposures could be due to different chemical uses, changes in work methods and processes, or whenever chemical spills occur. Additional employee training may also be necessary at this time.

Respirators are an important safety and health protection when used properly. Learn to select, use and maintain them–and keep the air you breath free of harmful contaminants.