Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Breathing Right

Respriatory protection in the workplace ...

"Providing effective, appropriate respiratory protection for workers toiling in a contaminated environment can save lives.

What happens when employees – or worse, employers – are not aware that the environment in which they are working is plagued with contaminants?

Media reports of workers falling ill as a result of asbestos exposure, of ongoing respiratory ailments plaguing Ground Zero workers and of the impending threat of an avian flu pandemic all point to one important and obvious conclusion: Effective respiratory protection saves lives and prevents injuries.

"Companies should be monitoring their workplace, identifying contaminants and examining how long workers will be exposed to those contaminants," says Rick Sustello, vice president of marketing at North Safety Products. However, he adds: "Most people don't do this."

After conducting a workplace analysis to determine if respiratory hazards exist, employers are charged by OSHA to eliminate the exposure to toxins through engineering controls whenever possible.

"You aren't supposed to wear a respirator unless you can't possibly eliminate the source of contamination," Sustello points out. "Respirators are a last resort."

Sometimes it is not practical or economically feasible to eliminate the hazard. In that case, OSHA standard 1910.134 and ANSI standard Z88.1992 dictate that if a respirator is necessary to protect the health of an employee, the employer must implement a respiratory protection program.

Determining if a respiratory protection program is needed for your worksite is only half the battle. As Sustello points out, coming up with an efficient program is not that difficult, but the devil is in the details. A suitable respiratory program must include training employees in the proper use and selection of respirators, as well as teaching them about a respirator's capabilities and limitations."   (Continued via Occupational Hazards)   [Ergonomics Resources]

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