Respiratory protection continues to gain attention and concern in the court of public opinion as issues like permissible exposure limits, silica, and beryllium come to the forefront of OSHA rule proposals for updates or new regulations. While these changes from an enforceable standpoint may not take effect for quite some time, the accountability still falls to safety managers, to make sure their workers are being properly protected, regardless of what outdated regulations imply. Workers continue to come forward who are now suffering the serious effects of not being properly protected while working in the presence of harmful chemicals or debris.
In doing your part to protect your workers from devastating respiratory diseases later on in life, learn from these common missteps when selecting the right respirator for the job.
One Size Fits All. Not true, and in fact one size does not fit most either. All employees need to be fitted specifically for their face. Those who have beards, wear glasses, or need to wear other pieces of PPE, all of these factors must be considered to make sure they are being properly protected. Fit tests should be performed on a yearly basis to make sure there has been no changes, or need for adjustment.
As long as you have one on you’re fine! The respirator you choose can’t just be any old respirator laying around. It has to be suitable for the contaminant you are trying to protect against. Not all respirators are created equally. If protecting against a known contaminant refer to the SDS sheet that should come with all chemicals. If protecting against an airborne contaminant, test your environment to determine the severity and the correct type of respirator that is necessary. Once your contaminants have been identified then proceed to select the correct filter, cartridges and canisters.
They last forever! Think again. The use, storage, inspection, cleaning, disinfection, and repair of respirators all are determining factors in how long a respirator will remain acceptable for use. The more contaminant and time that a respirator is used the quicker it will deteriorate. Some respirators have replaceable filters while others are disposal meant for single use. Know the type of respirator you are using and be sure the properly inspect it before each use. If soiled or damaged play it safe and get a new one.
Put it on your face and go forth and conquer! Not everyone can wear respirators. Breathing through a respirator is often times more difficult. People with existing breathing conditions such as asthma or emphysema may find themselves unable to catch their breath. In addition those with claustrophobia may have difficulty.
For more information on understanding respirators and how to select the right one click here.