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In all workplace environments, there are a variety of hazards, both visible and invisible. The dangers in your workplace’s atmosphere might be obvious, such as exposure to airborne particles or hazardous chemicals, but it might also be from something unseen, such as an oxygen-deficient environment. Respiratory protection is a critical component to working safely, by creating a barrier between you and those atmospheric hazards.
Respirators are unique and utilize terms which are not commonly found in other forms of personal protective equipment. In this section, we will review each term to help you understand what each term means and is for.
Many times we consider PPE to be sufficient protection, but it should in fact be considered as a last line of defense against our workplace hazards. These controls might include enclosures, confinement or multiple barriers to operations, ventilation, or possibly even the substitution of materials to reduce exposure.
NIOSH - The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is who certifies which type of respirator needs to be used based on the workplace exposures. Initial analysis and evaluation of the possible hazards should include a reasonable estimate of potential exposures, identification of the contaminant’s current chemical state and if it can change into other chemical states. With this information in mind, the correct respirator needs to be selected for each situation.
Respirator Fit Testing
What is the most common reason for respirators to fail in the workplace? Improper usage. Fit testing is designed to ensure your respirator is set up correctly and configured to fit your face properly in order to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency against your environment’s hazards.
You should always work with your supervisor to understand the additional requirements for your workplace. If you have any pre-existing health conditions, especially related to your upper respiratory system, you must inform your employer. A full medical eval is required for anyone wearing a respirator and must be completed before the employee can work with one on.