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Respirator Mastery: Voluntary vs. Required Use

- October 4, 2016 by Guest Bloggers (View all posts by Guest)

Is there a respirator in your workplace (remember that OSHA classifies dust masks as respirators)? 

If so, is the respirator required to be used for a specific task or operation?

Or is it there to be used for comfort purposes only? 

This is the critical decision point in respirator use that gets many employers in trouble with OSHA; and making the wrong decision can result in employee injury or illness. 

Required Respirator Use

If respirators are required to be used in your workplace because of known airborne exposure risks, then a written respiratory protection program must be established.  Some (but not all) key elements of a written program include:

  • A summary of the tasks, conditions, work areas, and/or work groups that require respirator use.
  • A description of how respirators will be selected by employees.
  • How employee medical clearance for respirator use will be obtained.
  • A description of how employees will be fit tested to ensure they have the right respirator—and that it fits properly
  • A description of the training that will be provided.

Voluntary Respirator Use

If respirators are not required to be used in your workplace, then any respirator use is voluntary by employees seeking comfort protection against nuisance particles.  Note that it is recommended that voluntary use be limited to the use of dust masks for comfort protection against dusts.  If reusable cartridge style respirators are used voluntarily, OSHA still requires certain elements of a written program—including medical clearance exams, as well as cleaning, storage and maintenance procedures.

When authorizing employees to voluntarily use dust masks, employers are required to provide those employees with “Appendix D” of the Respirator standard.

Federal OSHA Appendix D 

Cal-OSHA Appendix D

For more information check out these guides to Respiratory Protection.

Federal OSHA

Cal-OSHA

If you have respirators at your site, please check out my other post on pre use fit checks and stay tuned for more Respiratory Mastery blogs coming soon.

 
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