When they are asked to define the term “personal protective equipment” for a job site, most people think of hard-hats for construction workers or protective clothing for firefighters and police officers. Few people think of respiratory protection.
But in 2014, respiratory protection was fourth in an OSHA list of the 10 most frequently cited violations of OSHA standards.
Respirators may be necessary on construction sites (for example, to protect against asbestos) or in manufacturing plants, or in any other location where workers come into contact “with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, or vapors.” Respirators protect workers from occupational diseases caused by breathing contaminated air.
OSHA has very specific requirements for respiratory protection, which includes training employees in how and when to wear respirators; establishing procedures and schedules for cleaning and maintaining respiratory equipment; and medically evaluating employees to be sure they are able to use a respirator.
OSHA also has very specific rules about informing employees about workplace hazards. In June 2016, employers must have an updated workplace labeling and hazard communication program, along with employee training, to reflect revisions to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) of OSHA (29 CFR 1910.1200). OSHA stresses that “Workers have the right to know and understand the hazardous chemicals they use and how to work with them safely.”
One way to make sure that you are adequately protecting your employees is with a personal protective equipment (PPE) assessment that evaluates individual tasks in your facility to see what PPE is required for each task. You will also want to establish training to make sure that employees fulfill their responsibility to properly use and maintain their PPE. Do you need to supply respirators for any of your employees? Will your Hazard Communication Program meet 2016 standards? Now is the time to find out.