Occupational Airborne Hazards and the Importance of Proper Respiratory Protection

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Courtesy of Cochrane & Associates, LLC

Each year, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publishes a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year.  It is comprised and compiled from thousands of workplace inspections conducted by federal OSHA staff from across the country.  Most years, one of the top 10 cited violations involves respiratory protection.

According to OSHA, an estimated 5 million workers are required to wear respirators in 1.3 million workplaces throughout the United States.  Respirators can help to protect workers against insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors and sprays.  Some of these hazards could cause cancer, lung impairment, diseases or death.

OSHA reports that respirators protect workers in two basic ways:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

 

“It is preferential to prevent or limit airborne hazards whenever feasible.  However, the use of a respirator is often still required to prevent injury or death of workers,” said Derrick A. Denis, V.P. of Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) at Clark Seif Clark (CSC).  “Not only is employer adherence to OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard mandatory, but also the standard helps institutions and their staff appropriately select, operate and care for these critical safety devices. Compliance with the OSHA respirator regulations greatly reduces the risk of atmospheric threats to employees and decreases the likelihood of costly noncompliance violations.” 

To help keep companies and institutions in compliance with respiratory protection regulations and to identify airborne hazards, CSC’s IEQ and industrial hygiene professionals offer air testing, compliance and management system audits, and training and education.  They recently sponsored an educational video about respiratory protection for workers that can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/0vk4z4UuFqc

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