Establishing a Respiratory Protection Program and Fit Testing
6 Simple Steps!
The following information is intended to highlight major steps involved in setting up a respiratory protection program and identify additional resources. Employers who decide to use respiratory protection to help lower worker exposures to hazardous airborne contaminants must follow all requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.134.
OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard 1910.134(d) states: "The employer shall identify and evaluate the respiratory hazard(s) in the workplace; this evaluation shall include a reasonable estimate of employee exposures to respiratory hazard(s) and an identification of the contaminant's chemical state and physical form. American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) maintains a list of industrial hygienists who contract to do air monitoring (www.aiha.org). In addition, OSHA offers a free consultation program. You can also contact 3M Technical Service at 1-800-243-4630 to find out more about air monitoring solutions.
A written program is required for mandatory use of respiratory protection and recommended for voluntary use. OSHA 1910.134(c) states: “In any workplace where respirators are necessary to protect the health of the employee or whenever respirators are required by the employer, the employer shall establish and implement a written respiratory protection program with worksite-specific procedures.
OSHA requires the employer to evaluate respiratory hazard(s) in the workplace (contaminant and concentration), identify relevant workplace and user factors, and base respirator selection on these factors. The respiratory hazard evaluation includes “a reasonable estimate of employee exposures to respiratory hazard(s)”. The respirator type or class is then selected by comparing the employee’s exposure to the occupational exposure limit and determining the minimum necessary respirator assigned protection factor. Where the employer cannot identify or reasonably estimate the employee exposure, OSHA requires the employer to consider the atmosphere as IDLH.
Medical evaluation of the employee is required for mandatory use of all respirators or voluntary use of elastomeric facepieces, and recommended for voluntary use of filtering facepieces. 3M Online and Mail-In Respirator Evaluation can be used with all brands and types of respirators.
Fit testing is required for mandatory use of all tight-fitting facepieces and recommended for voluntary use. OSHA 1910.134(f) states: “The employer shall ensure that an employee using a tight-fitting facepiece respirator is fit tested prior to initial use of the respirator, whenever a different respirator facepiece (size, style, model or make) is used, and at least annually thereafter.
Training is required for mandatory use and recommended for voluntary use of respirators. OSHA 1910.134(k) states: “This paragraph requires the employer to provide effective training to employees who are required to use respirators. The training must be comprehensive, understandable, and recur annually and more often if necessary.