With so many types of respirators to choose from, how do I know my workers are wearing the proper respiratory protection?


Consult with a qualified industrial hygienist (IH). This person has the training necessary to make the proper respirator selection, which may involve taking workplace measurements to determine the nature of the hazard. There is often more than one type of respirator that can be used, and the IH can help you make a decision as to which is most appropriate in your case. If your workers are already wearing respirators, an IH can tell you if they are the right type.

Jeff Weed, Product Manager, TSI Inc.

The starting point is to perform a hazard evaluation of the workplace to identify and quantify actual and potential respiratory hazards. If respirators are to be used to control worker exposure, a written respirator program must be prepared. A respiratory program formalizes respirator selection, medical evaluation, training, fit-testing and maintenance.

Selecting the proper NIOSH-approved respirator depends on all of these components, and what will work best for your unique workplace situation. Once the correct level of respiratory protection for the situation is identified, comfort, fit and ease of use are key in the selection process.

A respirator program also requires regular evaluation of the program’s effectiveness.

Rick Sustello, V.P. Strategic Marketing, Respiratory and Gas Detection, Bacou-Dalloz

Selection of respiratory protective devices must be done in coordination with the hazard assessment of the work sitesite. All respirators have capabilities but also limitations that must be considered in the selection process. Once the appropriate class of respirator is chosen, worker acceptance, fit, filter performance, training programs and manufacturer support are critical factors in the selection process.

Ken Bobetich, Product Group Manager — APR, MSA

Remember these four keys to respiratory protection:

1) Respirator Program. Employers need to know that a worker who wears respiratory protection must participate in a written respiratory program and follow the OSHA guidelines (29 CFR1910.134 Respiratory Protection Regulation), which include medical evaluation, respirator fit-testing and training.

2) Hazard Recognition. Once a worker’s participation in a respirator program is confirmed, the specific respiratory hazards present in the workplace must be identified.

3) Hazard Evaluation. Once identified, the exposure levels of the respiratory hazards in the workplace must be determined by air sampling or monitoring.

4) Hazard Control. Once the requirements of the respirator program are satisfied along with the respiratory hazard recognition and evaluation, a respirator selection guide should be consulted to determine the appropriate respirator. Selection guides are available from most respirator manufacturers. The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards is also an excellent reference for respirator selection.

David S. Luther, Product Support Manager, North Safety Products