An estimated 5 million workers are required to wear respirators in 1.3 million workplaces throughout the United States. Respirators protect workers against insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors and sprays. These hazards may cause cancer, lung impairment, diseases, or death. Compliance with the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard could avert hundreds of deaths and thousands of illnesses annually.
Respirators protect the user in two basic ways. The first is by the removal of contaminants from the air. Respirators of this type include particulate respirators, which filter out airborne particles, and air-purifying respirators with cartridges/canisters which filter out chemicals and gases. Other respirators protect by supplying clean respirable air from another source. Respirators that fall into this category include airline respirators, which use compressed air from a remote source, and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), which include their own air supply.
Respiratory protection must be worn whenever you are working in a hazardous atmosphere. The appropriate respirator will depend on the contaminant(s) to which you are exposed and the protection factor (PF) required. Required respirators must be NIOSH-approved and medical evaluation and training must be provided before use.
Some respirator types include:
Single-strap dust masks are usually not NIOSH-approved. They must not be used to protect from hazardous atmospheres. However, they may be useful in providing comfort from pollen or other allergens.
Approved filtering facepieces (dust masks) can be used for dust, mists, welding fumes, etc. They do not provide protection from gases or vapors. DO NOT USE FOR ASBESTOS OR LEAD; instead, select from the respirators below.
Half-face respirators can be used for protection against most vapors, acid gases, dust or welding fumes. Cartridges/filters must match contaminant(s) and be changed periodically.
Full-face respirators are more protective than half-face respirators. They can also be used for protection against most vapors, acid gases, dust or welding fumes. The face-shield protects face and eyes from irritants and contaminants. Cartridges/filters must match contaminant(s) and be changed periodically.
Loose-fitting powered-air-purifying respirators (PAPR) offer breathing comfort from a battery-powered fan which pulls air through filters and circulates air throughout helmet/hood. They can be worn by most workers who have beards. Cartridges/filters must match contaminant(s) and be changed periodically.
A Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) is used for entry and escape from atmospheres that are considered immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) or oxygen deficient. They use their own air tank.
If you would like more information on respirator safety, contact Trevor Reschny at 800-768-7036 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.