Written by J. Sundberg

The Respiratory Protection Standard is one of the most frequently disregarded OSHA standards. That’s unfortunate, because when an OSHA inspection does occur, companies that don’t provide Respirator Fit Testing, training and equipment can be fined harshly.

Used properly, respirators are effective at preventing occupational diseases like tuberculosis, silicosis, lung cancer and COPD. Not only will their use keep you in compliance—it can also mitigate the risk of long-term workers’ compensation claims for these slow-developing diseases.

Who needs a respirator?

Anyone who meets air that is contaminated with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays or vapors as a part of their work duties should be wearing a suitable respirator. There are several types of respirators, so you’ll need to choose one that combats the unique hazards of your workplace. When developing your respiratory protection program, it’s important to consider what air contaminates your employees will come in contact with. Doing so will help you select an appropriate respirator model. Learn about the different respirator types at OSHA.gov

How often is respirator fit testing required?

Respirator Fit Testing must be performed before the employee meets any respiratory hazards in the workplace. Typically, employers have their new hires fitted immediately. OSHA also requires those who wear respirators to be refitted annually. Fit testing needs to be conducted when the employee gets a new respirator, or facial changes occur that could affect the fit of the respirator—like facial scarring, dental changes, cosmetic surgery, or a significant change in body weight.

Other OSHA requirements for respiratory health

It’s not enough to simply provide respirators and ensure your employees are refitted annually. Here’s a full list of OSHA’s requirements for employers who deal with harmful air contaminates:

  • develop and implement a written respiratory protection program
  • evaluate the respiratory hazards in the workplace
  • select and provide appropriate respirators
  • provide worker medical evaluations and respirator fit testing
  • provide for the maintenance, storage and cleaning of respirators
  • provide worker training about respiratory hazards and proper respirator use
  • evaluate workers’ use of respirators and correct any problems
  • provide access to specific records and documents, such as a written copy of the employer’s respiratory protection program

Source: OSHA.gov As OSHA’s requirements state, employers also need to provide regular medical evaluations for employees who work with respirable air contaminates. Respirable crystalline silica (rock dust) is of particular concern since it has the potential to induce harmful chronic diseases like silicosis. Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine offers an array of Respiratory Services to help keep you in compliance with OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard. With locations in across Colorado, we can get started with Respirator Fit Testing and other Respiratory Services today.