The basic purpose of any respirator is to protect the respiratory system from inhalation of hazardous atmospheres. Respirators provide protection either by removing contaminants from the air before it is inhaled or by supplying an independent source of respirable air.
The Respiratory Protection Program provides Case employees with the a description of appropriate respirator usage and requirements to be certified to wear a respirator. This program is based off of the OSHA Respiratory Protection standard 29 CFR § 1910.134.
Respirators are to be used only when engineering controls (e.g., enclosure or confinement of the operation, ventilation or) and administrative controls (substitution of less toxic materials, altered work practices) are not feasible. Respirators can also be worn while engineering controls are being installed or repaired, or in case of emergencies.
In order to wear a respirator, employees must complete the following steps in order:
- Complete the OSHA Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire,
- Submit to a medical evaluation by Case Health Services to ensure that wearing a respirator will not be a health hazard,
- Attend Respirator Training to learn how to wear a respirator safely and maintenance,
- Complete a Fit Test at the EHS office to ensure that the respirator fits properly and securely.
There are two categories of respirators:
- Air-Purifying Respirators - Ambient air, prior to being inhaled, is passed through a filter, cartridge, or canister which removes contaminants. Different filters are required to remove different contaminants. Since these respirators use the surrounding air they are not to be used in oxygen deficient environments.
- N-95/N-99/N-100 Disposable Respirators are single-use respirators generally approved only for nuisance dusts such as cement and hay dusts. These types of respirators are not designed to filter chemicals.
- Half mask and full facepiece respirators provide protection against dusts and particulates as well as chemical mists, fumes, vapors, gases, or any combination of these contaminants depending on the type of filter used.
- Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) respirators contain a portable blower which pushes ambient air through a filter and then supplies purified air to wearer. The powered type is equipped with a tight-fitting facepiece or a loose-fitting helmet, hood, or suit.
- Atmosphere-Supplying Respirators – These respirators provide respirable atmosphere, independent of the surrounding air, to the wearer. Types of these respirators include Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) and Air-Line Respirators.
Voluntary Respirator Use
Sometimes, employees may wear respirators to avoid exposures to hazards, even if the amount of hazardous substance does not exceed the limits set by OSHA standards. If respirators are provided for your voluntary use or if you choose to provide your own respirator, you need to take certain precautions to be sure that the respirator itself does not present a hazard. This is covered in Appendix D to 29 CFR § 1910.134.
- Read and heed all instructions provided by the manufacturer on use, maintenance, cleaning and care, and warnings regarding the respirators limitations.
- Choose respirators certified for use to protect against the contaminant of concern. NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, certifies respirators. A label or statement of certification should appear on the respirator or respirator packaging. It will tell you what the respirator is designed for and how much it will protect you.
- Do not wear your respirator into atmospheres containing contaminants for which your respirator is not designed to protect against. For example, a respirator designed to filter dust particles will not protect you against gases, vapors, or very small solid particles of fumes and smoke.
- Keep track of your respirator so that you do not mistakenly use someone else's respirator.