Many think that getting a respirator fit test is all that is needed. Unfortunately, it’s much more than that.
The OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.134 has many requirements in addition to respirator fit testing.
If respirators are worn by any employees, companies must have a written Respiratory Protection Program. The one exceptionis if the only respirators in use are those voluntarily worn by employees, then a written program is not required. But the OSHA standard still includes an Appendix D with mandatory instructions for employees wearing respirators on a voluntary basis.
A Respiratory Protection Program has 9 indispensable requirements to be OSHA compliant:
Employers must monitor worker exposure to the agents that the respirator is intended to control – whether they are contaminants or oxygen deficient air. This can include air monitoring or personal monitoring. This step is often overlooked and can result in an OSHA citation—an expensive one! The cost for monitoring is minimal compared with the cost of a citation, and forms the basis of the accuracy and appropriateness of the entire respiratory protection program.
The respirator must be selected by a qualified person, who OSHA refers to as “a competent person” such as an Industrial Hygienist, Safety Specialist, or person trained in respiratory protection. The selection is based on the type of contaminants, length of exposure time, and type of work involved.
If a person could be required to wear a respirator, they must be given a medical examination and medical history questionnaire to determine if they are capable of wearing a respirator. Once they are cleared by a physician, the employee can be given a respirator fit test.
Type of Fit Test
The actual fit test can vary based on type of respirator and type of expected exposure:
- Qualitative Fit Test – A pass/fail fit test using irritant smoke or banana oil, or similar test agent to assess if the respirator fit is acceptable. Usually used for half-face respirators.
- Quantitative Fit Test – An assessment of a respirator’s fit by a numeric measurement of the amount of leakage into a respirator while being worn by the worker. Usually required for a full-face respirator or a supplied air respirator.