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Environmental Health and Safety

Respiratory protection

Respirator program

Properly-functioning and properly-used respiratory protection is one of the most important components of a safety and health program for workers who must be protected from inhalation of hazardous atmospheres. Hazardous atmosphere includes but is not limited to dusts, mists, vapors, and gases due to asbestos, paint, grain, solvents, grinding operations, and laboratory situations. This written, standard operating procedure will be used to protect any worker who must wear a respirator during work assignments.

The guidelines for worker protection can be found in the complete guidelines published by Environmental Health and Safety is available from the Division in hard copy. The guidelines include employee responsibilities and medical examinations, selection, use and limitations of respirators, cleaning, maintenance and storage procedures, proper respirator fit testing, and annual training. The published guidelines include several forms that are required for medical examinations.

Prior to assigning a respirator to a worker, a medical determination must be made to assure that the individual is healthy and physically able to perform the work and wear the equipment. The examination will be administered annually by Lafene Health Center physicians and includes a comprehensive history, a chest X-ray (possibly) and a pulmonary function test.

Each department head is responsible for a program to cover respirator uses specific to the department and has financial responsibility for the program. Environmental Health and Safety has overall University responsibility for the program and has authority to make the technical and administrative decisions necessary for the continued success of the program. All respirators used must be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The selection of respirators depends upon the airborne concentration of the respirable contaminant. Protection provided by the respirator is based on the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV) calculated as an 8-hour Time Weighted Average (TWA) for hazardous materials. The minimum levels of respiratory protection are given in the published guidelines. Air-purifying respirators are to be used only in atmospheres that are not oxygen-deficient, atmospheres that are not Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH), or atmospheres that do not exceed the published protection factors. Cartridge respirators may only be used when the hazard has a physical warning such as odor or if the cartridge has a color indicator which demonstrates saturation.

Respirator fit testing

Qualitative fit testing is conducted by the user's department for air-purifying respirators. The procedure is done prior to issuing a worker with a respirator and every six months thereafter. Qualitative fit test results should be maintained in the employee 's records. Respirator Fit Testing is required for all personnel who wear face-fitting respirators. Department of Environmental Health & Safety staff can assist departments with fit testing of personnel for a fee.