Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
IN THIS ISSUE: Ratings for Particulate Respirators
There are two classes of respiratory protection, Air Purifying Respirators (APR) and Supplied Air Respirators (SAR). APRs remove contaminants in the air either by filtering out particulates or by purifying the air by absorbing gases. These types of respirators should never be used in oxygen deficient atmospheres. SARs provide clean air from a compressed air tank or through an air line. Under certain circumstances, SARs can be used in oxygen deficient atmospheres or where concentrations of contaminants can be immediately dangerous to life or health.
Of the APRs, the most common are particulate respirators, which filter dusts, mists, and/or fumes. These may come in the form of dust masks, dual cartridge half or full face respirators, or powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs). Because of the wide use of particulate respirators, the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) issues approvals for these devices. Surgical and dust masks that do not have approvals are not considered to be respirators.
When providing a respirator, follow these essential steps:
- Identify and control the hazard and all available controls.
- Assess the hazard, which may include air monitoring.
- Select the appropriate respirator for the task.
- Provide training.
- Provide employee fit testing.
- Inspect, clean, store, and maintain respirators.
- Medically monitor employees.
As with any form of personal protective equipment, respirators should only be used after employee exposures are reduced to the lowest amount. However, with a comprehensive respiratory protection program, respirators can be used safely and effectively. The NIOSH particulate respirator ratings are an important guideline in achieving this goal.
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