Workers often perform a variety of tasks where they could be exposed to harmful dust, chemical vapors, fumes from molten metal, and particulates from grinding, painting, or sandblasting. Although the best method to protect workers is first using engineering controls such as ventilation systems, it is not always a feasible solution. In these situations, the use of a respirator may be required to ensure the maximum amount of protection and safety is provided to the worker.
The use of respirators, even simple ones like dust masks, is serious and requires workers to understand the types of hazards they could be exposed to, the specific type of respirator needed, how to use the respirator, and its limits. Failure to follow all the requirements to properly wear a respirator can prove to be dangerous and potentially deadly.
Respirators protect the user in two basic ways:
The first is by filtering the air of pollutants. Respirators of this type include particulate respirators, which filter out airborne particles, and air-purifying respirators that use cartridges or canisters which filter out chemicals and gases.
The second is by supplying clean air for breathing from another source. These kinds of respirators include airline respirators, which use compressed air from a remote source, and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), that use a tank of compressed breathing air.
Some respirators use specialized cartridges and filters. Workers using these respirators should know how to identify the type of filters and how to install or replace them.
Workers must keep respirators in a clean and sanitary condition. Respirators must be stored properly to avoid damage, contaimination, dust, sunlight, extreme temperatures, excessive moisture, and damaging chemicals. Respirators should be packed or stored to prevent deforming the face piece and exhalation valve.
During the safety meeting on respirators, emphasize these important points about respiratory protection.
- Respirators protect the user by either filtering contamination from the air or supplying clean air from another source.
- Workers should know how to identify the type of filters and how to install or replace these filters or cartridges.
- Respirators must be kept in a clean and sanitary condition.
- Respirators must be stored properly to avoid damage.
- Pack and store respirators safely to prevent deforming the facepiece and exhalation valve.
- Always use the proper respirator for the specific task and situation.
- Never use a respirator unless you have been properly authorized, fit-tested, and trained.
- Workers must know how to properly put on and wear their respirator.
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