Selecting a respirator is a very difficult task to accomplish. Under protecting your staff can lead to injury or illness while over protecting staff can be uncomfortable and very costly.
To select a respirator you must first assemble the necessary toxicological and safety information for each respiratory hazard. This typically starts with a walk through survey and an MSDS review. To determine the potential level of exposure the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that air sampling be conducted. While air monitoring is obviously the best option, a good industrial hygienist or safety professional will likely use a combination of air sampling and exposure modeling to make reasonable estimates of exposure.
After the potential exposures have been determined the next step is to compare the results with allowable levels of the particular contaminant (s). For comparison purposes you should consider using the NIOSH-REL’s, OSHA-PEL’s, and ACGIH- TLV’s, just to name a few.
Now comes the hard work! Based on the potential or measured exposures you’ll have to determine if your staff requires an air purifying respirator, or an atmosphere supplying respirator; whether they will need a full mask, half mask, or other type of face piece; whether they will need filters cartridges or some combination of the two. Finally you’ll have to ensure that a full respirator program has been instituted including medical evaluations, fit testing, training, cartridge change out schedules, etc.
Here is a link to the respirator page on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention page: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/respirators/.
Although this may seem difficult with some guidance along the way you will be able to ensure your staff is adequately protected! For more information on respirator selection visit the new NIOSH Respirator Information Page or contact Trevor Reschny, CSP at Safety Links Inc.