Promoting Respiratory safety in the workplace
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, approximately 5 million workers in the U.S. are required to wear respirators
. In more than a million workplaces across the country, this essential safety gear protects workers in environments where it would be unsafe to breathe without one. However, even though respirators are mandated, OSHA notes that thousands fall ill each year and hundreds die due to respiratory issues. To ensure that your workplace exemplifies the highest standard of safety, consider these five tips for promoting respiratory safety
in the workplace: 1. Have a written program in place (it's the law)
In workplaces where respiratory protection is mandatory, it is legally required for the company to have written respiratory protection program in place. Even if respiratory protection is simply a recommendation, writing out an official policy ensures that workers have a resource to promote their safety and managers have a document to refer to for suggested protocols and procedures. Keep in mind that finding ways to create safer workplaces should be of the utmost importance. By writing out a protection program, you may find efficient means of making a workplace cleaner besides relying on respirators. 2. Choose the appropriate type of respirator
OSHA mandates that a company must do an exposure assessment
before choosing a particular type of respirator. This step requires identifying what type of airborne contaminants pose a risk (particulate, biological or chemical), as well as how much of these contaminants a worker may be exposed to. By quantifying these risk factors, employers can then choose the appropriate type of respirator for specific jobs and environments. OSHA notes taking into account the comfort of your workers, because mandatory respirators will have to be worn for long durations of time. Also, be cognizant of medical conditions that may prevent workers from effectively wearing respiratory masks. 3. Make sure workers are using respirators appropriately
If your employees don't wear respirators correctly or take them off in hazardous environments, then these devices can do little to protect them. For example, EHS Today, a leading health and safety publication points out that a full beard or excess facial hair can limit the seal a respirator
has on a person's face. Train workers on when respirators should be worn and how to adjust them so that they fit effectively and comfortably. Fit testing is required by OSHA when respirators are worn. Have workers read the instructions on new types of respirators to ensure that they are wearing them properly. Also, make sure that respirators aren't inhibited by other safety gear such as eyewear or hearing protection.
"Disposable respirators should be discarded after one use."
4. Make maintenance a priority
Disposable respirators should be discarded after one use and reusable ones require that the filter be changed out regularly. Employers are also responsible for ensuring that reusable respirators are properly cleaned, sanitized, stored and repaired. Respirators should be stored in a clean area in which they will not be exposed to environmental damage. When replacing filters, make sure that excess packaging is removed and that the filter is inserted properly. 5. Have ample replacements available
If your workers rely on reusable respirators, make a point of having plenty of replacement filters available. Besides having ample supply of filters, cartridges and replacement parts, take the time to organize all of your supplies so that they can be accessed efficiently. The same goes for disposable mask respirators if that is your company's preferred method of protection. In case you run short on supplies, have a reliable means of replenishing the safety items you use most often.