OSHA publishes notice of proposed rulemaking for new respirator fit-testing protocol

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The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register (www.osha.gov) for a new fit-testing protocol -- the Abbreviated Bitrex Qualitative Fit-Testing (ABQLFT) protocol -- under Appendix A of OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard. The agency is accepting public comments until Feb. 25, 2008.

'This proposed rule will add a new fit-test method that has a shorter exercise duration than the current methods,' said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. 'This method will give employers additional flexibility in selecting procedures for conducting fit-testing.'

The proposed rule would add the ABQLFT as an alternative to the four existing OSHA-approved qualitative fit-test protocols. The ABQLFT protocol currently listed in the existing OSHA-approved Bitrex fit-test protocol in the Respiratory Protection standard would shorten the duration for each of the seven fit-test exercises from one minute to 15 seconds.

The proposed protocol would apply to employers in general industry, shipyard employment and the construction industry.

Interested parties may submit comments at http://www.regulations.gov, the federal eRulemaking Portal; by sending three copies to the OSHA Docket Office, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. N.W., Washington, DC, 20210; telephone (202) 693-2350; or if the written submission is ten pages or less, FAX to (202) 693-1648. All comments on the NPRM must include the docket number for this Federal Register notice, OSHA 2007-0006. See the Federal Register notice for more information on submitting comments.

Technical questions about this NPRM can be addressed to John E. Steelnack, OSHA Directorate of Standards and Guidance, at (202) 693-2289.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health.

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