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Avoid Offering Respirators ‘Just in Case’

Has anyone ever suggested ordering N95 respirators just in case they want to use them for a particular process or procedure?  Have you ever found a box of N95 respirators sitting on a bench while walking through the labs?  Try to avoid these scenarios and ensure the use of all respiratory protection is reviewed and approved.

OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134, stipulates requirements for mandatory and voluntary respiratory protection programs.  A step wise process needs to be conducted to determine which program needs to be in place for your specific situation.  A job safety analysis should be conducted on the process to determine if other controls can be put into place, and then sampling needs to be conducted to determine exposure levels.  Voluntary programs arise from conditions that are below exposure limits, but employees still feel they need respiratory protection.  Common situations where a voluntary program is put into place include making N95 respirators available for use in an animal care facility to reduce exposure to animal allergens, nuisance odors, and powder handling when exposure limits are not exceeded.  Mandatory programs arise when exposure limits have the potential to be exceeded without the use of respiratory protection.  A company can also decide to require the use of respirators even when exposure levels are below permissible exposure limits.

Rather than offering respirators just in case people want to wear them, be sure to follow a methodical path to offer the appropriate protection.

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