Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
N THIS ISSUE: Medical Evaluations for Respirator Usage
OSHA’s respiratory protection standards require employers to provide medical evaluations for employees who wear respirators. Exact requirements vary depending upon the type of respirator worn and whether or not the employer requires the use of respiratory protection. Factors such as the type of respirator, the type of hazard, how it is used and maintained by the employee, heat and cold, other job conditions, and the medical state of the employee can cause that burden to increase.
“The use of a respirator should not be taken lightly,” explains Gary Ticker, CIH, CSP, of Occusafe Inc. “Failure to wear them properly can cause or exacerbate health problems.”
OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standards 1910.134 and 1926.103 require specific actions:
- Mandatory Medical Evaluation. A physician must be selected by the employer to provide medical evaluations for respirator use. That physician must be given information about the respirators used at the site.
- Employee Questionnaire. A questionnaire provided in OSHA’s standard must be completed by the employee and given to the physician. It is not required that the physician see the employee, only the questionnaire, but one of the questions allows the employee to request an exam. That exam must be provided by the employer. Visit OSHA’s website to view the questionnaire.
- Respirator Determination. The physician will make a determination as to whether or not the employee is fit to wear a respirator and under what conditions.
- Reevaluation Requirements. A medical evaluation must be repeated when there is a change in the job, when the employee reports a medical issue due to the use of the respirator, or when a respirator fit test shows a need for further evaluation.
As noted in the medical evaluation section of the standard, OSHA has only provided a minimum standard. Use of these guidelines for medically evaluating respirator usage may not adequately protect the employee. Additional suggestions for the safe use of respirators:
- Evaluate the process to see if a respirator is needed. First look at engineering and administrative controls to reduce the hazard.
- Provide the physician with a synopsis of your hazards, list of chemicals, safety data sheets, and written respiratory protection program. If possible invite the physician to your facility.
- Have the physician set up a medical protocol for each job where a medical evaluation is required.
- Require a physician’s exam for respirator usage on an initial and annual basis or when the status of an employee changes. Respirator users may be reluctant to request a medical evaluation even when offered.
- Integrate respirator usage into an overall medical monitoring program.
Employees who wear respirators should be thoroughly trained, monitored by their supervisor, and medically evaluated on an on-going basis. For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or contact us at email@example.com
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
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