The fundamental goal of any respiratory protection program is to control occupational diseases caused by breathing air contaminated with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, and/or vapours.
The first step in a respiratory protection program is to establish written standard operating procedures governing the selection and use of respirators. Regular inspection and evaluation of the program will ensure its continued effectiveness. A written program will help employers, employees, and compliance officers gauge the adequacy of a given program.
2. Hazard Assessment
Proper assessment of your specific hazard(s) is the first important step to protection. This requires a thorough knowledge of processes, equipment, raw materials, end products, and by-products that can create an exposure hazard.
3. Hazard Control
Hazard control should start at the process, equipment, and plant design levels where contaminants can be controlled effectively at the outset. With operating processes, the problem becomes more difficult. In all cases, however, attention should be given to the use of effective engineering controls to eliminate and/or reduce exposures to respiratory hazards.
4. Respirator Selection
Selecting respirators entails knowing what level of respiratory protection employees need, as well as which size respirator is right for any face and facial contours. Respiratory protective devices vary in design, application, and protective capability. Thus, the user must assess the inhalation hazard and understand the specific use limitations of available equipment to assure proper selection.
For proper use of any respiratory protection device, it is essential that the user be properly instructed in its selection, use, and maintenance. Both supervisors and workers must be so instructed by competent persons.
6. Respirator Care
Proper inspection, maintenance, and repair of respiratory protective equipment are mandatory to ensure success of any respiratory protection program. The goal is to maintain the equipment in a condition that provides the same effectiveness as it had when it was first manufactured.
7. Medical Surveillance
According to OSHA, “using a respirator may place a physiological burden on employees that varies with the type of respirator worn, the job and workplace conditions in which the respirator is used, and the medical status of the employee.” Employers must determine an employee’s ability to use a respirator. Workers should never be assigned to any operation requiring respiratory protection until a physician has determined that they are capable - physically and psychologically - to perform the work using the respiratory protective equipment.