Safeguarding the health of their employees is a matter of great concern to any employer. Industrial and oil & gas settings are fraught with health hazards, which makes the job even harder.
Hazardous materials only pose a threat, however, when they come into contact with a person’s body, which can happen in one of three ways:
2. Skin absorption
Of these, inhalation is the most common means of exposure to harmful materials, which is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created the Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134) that governs how to keep workers safe from hazards that could adversely affect their health.
The standard stipulates that, in all cases, the primary objective is to prevent atmospheric contamination using engineering control measures such as enclosure or confinement of the operation, general and local ventilation, and substitution of less toxic materials.
When such measures are not feasible, OSHA requires that each employer provide respirators to prevent inhalation of hazardous materials such as harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, smokes, sprays, or vapors.
The standards says:
“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, which shall include the requirements outlined in paragraph (c) of this section. The program shall cover each employee required by this section to use a respirator.”
- The standard also requires employers to do the following:
- Develop and implement a written respiratory protection program;
- Evaluate the respiratory hazards in the workplace;
- Select and provide appropriate respirators;
- Provide worker medical evaluations and respirator fit testing;
- Provide for the maintenance, storage and cleaning of respirators;
- Provide worker training about respiratory hazards and proper respirator use;
- Evaluate workers’ use of respirators and correct any problems; and
- Provide workers with access to specific records and documents, such as a written copy of your employer’s respiratory protection program.
Types of Respirators
There are two main categories of respirators: air purifying and supplied air.
Air Purifying Respirators include:
- Air Purifying Disposable Particulate Masks;
- Air Purifying Half Mask Respirators;
- Air Purifying Full Face Mask Respirators;
- Gas Masks; and
- Powered Air Purifying Respirators.
Supplied Air Respirators include:
- Airline Respirators;
- Emergency Escape Breathing Apparatus; and
- Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).
Selecting the Right Respirator
In order to select the correct respirator for the job based on the level of hazard present, four questions must be asked:
1. What type of contaminant is present?
2. What is the form of the contaminant?
3. How toxic is the contaminant?
4. What is the concentration of the contaminant?
In addition to determining the level of hazard posed by the environment, the length of exposure to the contaminant and an individual’s sensitivity to contaminants must also be considered.
Respiratory Protection Program
As previously mentioned, OSHA requires employers to establish and maintain a respiratory protection program, which includes a written plan that details how the program will be administered. It must be compliant with the OSHA respiratory protection standard and must provide respirators suited to their intended purpose. In addition, the employer must be able to demonstrate that the program is enforced and updated as necessary.
The written plan includes the following information:
- Procedure for selecting respirators for use in the workplace.
- Medical evaluation of employees required to wear respirators;
- Fit testing procedures for tight-fitting respirators;
- Procedures for proper use of respirators in routine and reasonably foreseeable emergency situations;
- Procedures and schedules for cleaning, disinfecting, storing, inspecting, repairing, and discarding and otherwise maintaining respirators;
- Procedure to ensure adequate quality, quantity and flow of breathing air for atmosphere-supplying air respirators;
- Training of employees in the proper use of respirators, including putting on and removing them, any limitations on their use and their maintenance;
- Procedures for regularly evaluating the effectiveness of the program;
- Procedures for ensuring that workers who voluntarily wear respirators (excluding filtering face pieces) comply with the medical evaluation, and cleaning, storing and maintenance requirements of the standard.
Respiratory Protection Training
OSHA allows respiratory third-party companies like SRP Environmental to provide respiratory protection training. We offer such training as one of our many environmental health and safety training courses.
The course is based on the OSHA regulations as outlined in 29 CFR, Part 1910.134 and helps to satisfy this requirement. It contains information to help workers select the correct equipment, understand how to protect himself, clean and maintain the equipment, and other requirements OSHA places on those who wear respirators. We deliver the course in a single two-hour session.
Contact us to learn more about the respiratory protection training program or any of our other health and safety courses.