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Posted in on Wed, Oct 24, 2007

LONG BEACH, CA (October 24, 2007) – American Society of Safety Engineers’ Regional Vice President and Long Beach, CA, resident Terrie S. Norris, CSP, ARM, applauds the firefighters and emergency workers for their courageous efforts in fighting the wildfires in California, saving homes and lives, but also urges the media and California residents in and around the effected areas to wear proper respiratory protective equipment which can prevent acute and chronic respiratory illnesses by helping protect lungs from harmful gases and dusts during this time.

In addition, Norris encourages residents and businesses alike to change their heating, ventilation and conditioning filters frequently until the ash has left the air. It is important after a catastrophe to have vents checked to assure that water heaters and gas furnaces are clear and operable. Dust and debris can stop or impede airflow decreasing its quality and healthfulness

“With ash and debris so prevalent in the air at this time it is important to change the filters now and frequently during the next few weeks,” Norris said.

As for respiratory protection, Norris notes, “People need to wear the appropriate personal protection equipment when working in areas where ash is in the air or will be disturbed by clean-up activities.”

Respiratory protection is designed to help protect people from dusts, vapors and other air-borne toxicants. Respiratory protective devices come in a wide-range of designs to serve differing purposes.

“If you are returning to your neighborhood, to your home, and are exposed to the ash floating in the air I would recommend wearing at least a ‘nuisance dust mask’, but a ‘paper filter respirator’ would be even better,” Norris notes. “The visible difference between a dust mask and a paper respirator is the weight of the paper and how the filter fits your face. The nuisance dust masks are lightweight, generally have a single elastic strap and fit loosely over the nose. The paper respirators have two elastic straps to hold them in place, and most have a clip at the nose to provide a better fit.

“When wearing any type of respiratory protection equipment, it is important to wear it properly,” Norris continued. “Follow the directions on the box that the respirator came in.”

It is important to note that for some respirators, people should first be medically evaluated and be given proper medical clearance and training before using. There are many types of respirators for different types of situations noted in the following guidelines from the U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also found at

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OSHA Respiratory Protection Guidelines:

What is a respirator? A respirator is a protective device that covers the nose and mouth or the entire face or head to guard the wearer against hazardous atmospheres. Respirators may be: Tight-fitting – that is, half masks, which cover the mouth and nose and full facepieces that cover the face from the hairline to below the chin; or Loose-fitting, such as hoods or helmets that cover the head completely. In addition, there are two major classes of respirators: Air-purifying, which remove contaminants from the air; and Atmosphere-supplying, which provide clean, breathable air from an uncontaminated source. As a general rule, atmosphere-supplying respirators are used for more hazardous exposures.

Why do employees need respirators? When employees must work in environments with insufficient oxygen or where harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, fumes, gases, vapors, or sprays are present, they need respirators. These health hazards may cause cancer, lung impairment, other diseases, or death.Where toxic substances are present in the workplace and engineering controls are inadequate to reduce or eliminate them, respirators are necessary.

Some atmosphere-supplying respirators can also be used to protect against oxygen-deficient atmospheres. Increased breathing rates, accelerated heartbeat, and impaired thinking or coordination occur more quickly in an oxygen-deficient or other hazardous atmosphere. Even a momentary loss of coordination can be devastating if it occurs while a worker is performing a potentially dangerous activity such as climbing a ladder.When do employees need to wear respirators?Employees need to wear respirators whenever engineering and work practice control measures are not adequate to prevent atmospheric contamination at the worksite. Strategies for preventing atmospheric contamination may include enclosing or confining the contaminant-producing operation, exhausting the contaminant, or substituting with less toxic materials.

Respirators have their limitations and are not a substitute for effective engineering and work practice controls. When it is not possible to use these controls to reduce airborne contaminants below their occupational exposure levels, such as during certain maintenance and repair operations, emergencies, or when engineering controls are being installed, respirator use may be the best or only way to reduce worker exposure. In other cases, where work practices and engineering controls alone cannot reduce exposure levels to below the occupational exposure level, respirator use is essential.Where respirators are required to protect worker health, specific procedures are necessary to ensure the equipment’s effectiveness.

How can you ensure proper protection?OSHA’s respirator standard1 requires employers to establish and maintain an effective respiratory protection program when employees must wear respirators to protect against workplace hazards. Different hazards require different respirators, and employees are responsible for wearing the appropriate respirator and complying with the respiratory protection program.The standard contains requirements for program administration, worksite-specific procedures, respirator selection, employee training, fit testing, medical evaluation, and respirator use, cleaning, maintenance, and repair.

Employees must use respirators while effective engineering controls, if they are feasible, are being installed. If engineering controls are not feasible, employers must provide respirators and employees must wear them when necessary to protect their health. The employee’s equipment must be properly selected, used, and maintained for a particular work environment and contaminant. In addition, employers must train employees in all aspects of the respiratory protection program. 1 OSHA’s regulations cover general, construction, and maritime industries. See Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 1910.134; and the Compressed Gas Association’s Commodity Specification G-7-1989, also referenced in 29 CFR Part 1910.134. Procedures to Ensure Proper Protection.

How do you develop an effective respiratory protection program? The primary objective of the respiratory protection program is to prevent exposure to air contaminated with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, vapors, or sprays, and thus to prevent occupational illness.A program administrator must be responsible for the program. This person must know enough about respirators to supervise the program properly. Larger plants or companies with industrial hygiene, in-house medical department, safety engineering, or fire prevention departments should administer the program in liaison with the program administrator. In smaller plants without specialists, an upper-level superintendent, foreman, or qualified person must serve as program administrator. Any respirator program should stress thorough training of all respirator users.

Employees must be aware that a respirator does not eliminate the hazard. If the respirator fails, the user will be overexposed to dangerous substances. To reduce the possibility of failure, the respirator must fit properly and be maintained in a clean and serviceable condition. Employers and employees must understand the respirator’s purpose and limitations. Users must not alter or remove the respirator even for a short time, even if it is uncomfortable. An effective respirator program must cover the following factors: Written worksite specific procedures; Program evaluation; Selection of an appropriate respirator approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); Training; Fit testing; Inspection, cleaning, maintenance, and storage; Medical evaluations; Work area surveillance; and Air quality standards. Whenever OSHA standards or employers require respirator use, there must be a complete respiratory protection program.

Employers must have written operating procedures to ensure that employees use the respirators safely and properly. Users must be familiar with these procedures and with the respirators available and their limitations.In workplaces with no hazardous exposures, but where workers choose to use respirators voluntarily, certain written program elements may be necessary to prevent potential hazards associated with respirator use. Employers must evaluate whether respirator use itself may actually harm employees. If so, employers must medically evaluate employees and, if necessary, restrict respirator use, as well as comply with program elements. Employers must inform employees voluntarily using respirators of basic information in Appendix D of OSHA’s respiratory protection standard.Employers must evaluate the effectiveness of a company’s respirator program regularly and modify the written operating procedure as necessary to reflect the evaluation results.

A labor-management team may be effective in conducting these periodic evaluations.How do you choose the correct respirator?Choosing the right equipment involves: Determining what the hazard is and its extent, Considering user factors that affect respirator performance and reliability, and Selecting an appropriate NIOSH-certified respirator. Equipment must be used in line with specifications accompanying the NIOSH certification.When selecting respirators, employers must consider the chemical and physical properties of the contaminant, as well as the toxicity and concentration of the hazardous material and the amount of oxygen present. Other selection factors are nature and extent of the hazard, work rate, area to be covered, mobility, work requirements and conditions, as well as the limitations and characteristics of the available respirators.

Air-purifying respirators use filters or sorbents to remove harmful substances from the air. They range from simple disposable masks to sophisticated devices. They do not supply oxygen and must not be used in oxygen-deficient atmospheres or in other atmospheres that are immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH).Atmosphere-supplying respirators are designed to provide breathable air from a clean air source other than the surrounding contaminated work atmosphere. They include supplied-air respirators (SARs) and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) units.The time needed to perform a given task, including the time necessary to enter and leave a contaminated area, is an important factor in determining the type of respiratory protection needed.

For example, SCBAs, gas masks, or air-purifying chemical-cartridge respirators provide respiratory protection for relatively short periods. On the other hand, an atmosphere-supplying respirator that supplies breathable air from an air compressor through an air line can provide protection for extended periods.If the total concentration of atmospheric particulates is low, particulate filter air-purifying respirators can provide protection for long periods without the need to replace the filter. Where there are higher concentrations of contaminants, however, an atmosphere-supplying respirator such as the positive-pressure SAR offers better protection for a longer period.SARs eliminate the need for concern about filter breakthrough times, change schedules, or using end-of service-life indicators (ESLI) for airborne toxic materials, factors that must be considered when using air-purifying respirators.Respirators must not impair the worker’s ability to see, hear, communicate, and move as necessary to perform the job safely.

For example, atmosphere-supplying respirators may restrict movement and present other potential hazards. SARs with their trailing hoses can limit the area the wearer can cover and may present a hazard if the hose comes into contact with machinery. Similarly, a SCBA that includes a back-mounted, compressed-air cylinder is both large and heavy. This may restrict climbing and movement in tight places, and the added weight of the air cylinder presents an additional burden to the wearer.Another factor to consider when using respirators is the air-supply rate. The wearer’s work rate determines the volume of air breathed per minute. The volume of air supplied to meet the breathing requirements is very significant when using atmosphere-supplying respirators such as self-contained and airline respirators that use cylinders because this volume determines their operating life.

The peak airflow rate also is important in the use of a constant-flow SAR. The air-supply rate should always be greater than the maximum amount of air being inhaled in order to maintain the respiratory enclosure under positive pressure.Higher breathing resistance of air-purifying respirators under conditions of heavy work may causer the user breathing difficulty, particularly in hot, humid conditions. To avoid placing additional stress on the wearer, use the lightest respirator possible that presents the least breathing resistance.SCBAs and some chemical canister respirators provide a warning of remaining service time. This may be a pressure gauge or timer with an audible alarm for SCBAs or a color ESLI on the cartridge or canister.

The user should understand the operation and limitations of each type of warning device. For the many gas masks and chemical-cartridge respirators with no ESLI devices, the employer must establish and enforce a cartridge or canister change schedule. In addition, employees should begin each work shift with new canisters and cartridges.What are specific respirator uses?The following list presents a simplified version of characteristics and factors used for respirator selection. It does not specify the contaminant concentrations or particle size. Some OSHA substance-specific standards include more detailed information on respirator selection.Hazard Respirator
Immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) 2 Oxygen deficiencyGas, vapor contaminants and other highly toxic air contaminants Full-face piece, pressure-demand SCBA certified for a minimum service life of 30 minutes.

A combination full-face piece, pressure-demand SAR with an auxiliary self-contained air supply.
Contaminated atmospheres – for escape Positive-pressure SCBA. Gas mask. Combination positive-pressure SAR with escape SCBA.

Not immediately dangerous to life or health Gas and vapor contaminants Positive-pressure SAR. Gas mask. Chemical-cartridge or canister respirator.

Particulate contaminants Positive-pressure SAR including abrasive blasting respirator. Powered air-purifying respirator equipped with high-efficiency filters. Any air-purifying respirator with a specific particulate filter.

Gaseous and particulate contaminants Positive-pressure supplied respirator. Gas mask. Chemical-cartridge respirator with mechanical filters.

Smoke and other fire-related contaminants Positive-pressure SCBA.

2 “Immediately dangerous to life or health” (IDLH) means an atmosphere that poses an immediate threat to life, would cause irreversible adverse health effects, or would impair an individual’s ability to escape from a dangerous atmosphere.Who needs to be trained?

Training is essential for correct respirator use. Employers must teach supervisors and workers how to properly select, use, and maintain respirators. All employees required to use respiratory protective equipment must receive instruction in the proper use of the equipment and its limitations. Employers should develop training programs based on the employee’s education level and language background.Training must be comprehensive enough for the employee to demonstrate a knowledge of the limitations and capabilities of the respirator, why the respirator is necessary, and how improper fit, usage, or maintenance can compromise the respirator.

Training must include an explanation of the following: Why respirator use is necessary; Nature of the respiratory hazard and consequences of not fitting, using, and maintaining the respirator properly; Reason(s) for selecting a particular type of respirator; Capabilities and limitations of the selected respirator; How to inspect, put on and remove, and check the seals of the respirator;

Respirator maintenance and storage requirements; How to use the respirator effectively in emergency situations, including when the respirator malfunctions; and How to recognize medical signs and symptoms that may limit or prevent the effective use of the respirator. Users should know that improper respirator use or maintenance may cause overexposure. They also should understand that continued use of poorly fitted and maintained respirators can cause chronic disease or death from overexposure to air contaminants.

How do you make sure the respirators fit properly?Different types of respirators and even different brands of the same type of respirator have different fit characteristics. No one respirator will fit everyone. Some employees may be unable to get an adequate fit with certain respirator models of a particular type of respirator. This is why employers must provide a sufficient number of respirator models and sizes to ensure that every employee can select an acceptable respirator that fits properly.Corrective eyeglasses worn by employees also present a problem when fitting respirators. Special mountings are available to hold corrective lenses inside full face pieces.

A qualified individual must fit the face piece and lenses to provide good vision, comfort, and proper sealing.Tight-fitting respirators cannot provide proper protection without a tight seal between the face piece and the wearer’s face. Consequently, beards and other facial hair, the absence of normally worn dentures, facial deformities, or jewelry or head gear that projects under the face piece seal can also seriously affect the fit of a face piece.

To ensure proper respiratory protection, check the face piece each time you wear the respirator. You can do this by performing either a positive-pressure or negative-pressure user seal check. Detailed instructions for performing these user seal checks are in Appendix B-1 of the OSHA respiratory protection standard.Fit testing is required for tight-fitting face piece respirators. You can test the effectiveness of the fit of the face piece two ways: qualitatively and quantitatively.

Qualitative fit testing involves the introduction of a harmless odoriferous or irritating substance into the breathing zone around the respirator being worn. If no odor or irritation is detected by the wearer, this indicates a proper fit.Quantitative fit testing offers more accurate, detailed information on respirator fit. While the wearer performs exercises that could induce face piece leakage, a fit testing instrument numerically measures the amount of leakage into the respirator. This testing can be done either by generating a test aerosol as a test atmosphere, using ambient aerosol as a test agent, or using controlled negative pressure to measure any leakage. Detailed instructions for performing qualitative and quantitative fit testing is contained in Appendix A of the OSHA respiratory protection standard.How do you inspect and take care of respirators?It is important to inspect all respirators for wear and tear before and after each use, giving special attention to rubber or plastic parts that can deteriorate or lose pliability.

The face piece, headband, valves, connecting tube, fittings, and cartridges, canisters or filters must be in good condition. A respirator inspection must include checking the tightness of the connections.Users must inspect SCBAs at least monthly and ensure that air and oxygen cylinders are fully charged according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The inspection should include a check of regulator and warning devices to ensure their proper function. Employers must keep records of inspection dates and findings.Users should replace chemical cartridges and gas mask canisters as necessary to provide complete protection, following the manufacturer’s recommendations.

In addition, they should replace mechanical filters as necessary to avoid high resistance to breathing.Only an experienced person is permitted to make repairs, using parts specifically designed for the respirator. This person must consult the manufacturer’s instructions for any repair and no attempt should be made to repair or replace components or make adjustments or repairs beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations.The employer must ensure that respirators are cleaned and disinfected as often as necessary to keep them sanitary. In addition, the employer must ensure that emergency-use respirators are cleaned and disinfected immediately after each use.Respirators should be washed in a detergent solution and then disinfected by immersing them in a sanitizing solution. Cleaner-sanitizers that effectively clean the respirator and contain a bactericidal agent are available commercially.

The bactericidal agent frequently used is a quaternary ammonium compound. Strong cleaning and sanitizing agents and many solvents can damage rubber or plastic respirator parts. Use these materials with caution or after consultation with the respirator manufacturer. Users must store respirators in a way that protects them against dust, sunlight, heat, extreme cold, excessive moisture, and damaging chemicals. When packed or stored, each respirator should be positioned to retain its natural configuration. Face pieces and exhalation valves should rest in a normal position to prevent the rubber or plastic from deforming.Do you need to do medical evaluations?Workers assigned to tasks that require respirator use must be physically able to perform the work while using the respirator.

The local physician or licensed health care professional (LHCP) will determine what health and physical conditions are pertinent.The medical evaluation can be performed by a physician or other LHCP by using a medical questionnaire or by a medical examination that provides the same information as the questionnaire provided in Appendix C of the OSHA standard. This evaluation must be done before the employee is fit tested and uses the respirator in the workplace.

The employer must obtain a written recommendation from the LHCP for each employee’s ability to wear a respirator. Additional medical evaluations must be provided whenever health-care professionals deem them appropriate.What equipment and air quality standards apply?

Respiratory protective devices must be approved by NIOSH for the contaminant or situation to which the employee is exposed.Compressed air, compressed oxygen, liquid air, and liquid oxygen used for respiration must be of high purity. Oxygen must meet the requirements of the United States Pharmacopoeia for medical or breathable oxygen. Breathing air must meet at least the requirement for Grade D breathing air described in Compressed Gas Association (CGA)

Commodity Specification G-7.1-1989. Compressed oxygen must not be used in open circuit SCBAs or SARs that have previously used compressed air. Oxygen concentrations greater than23.5 percent must not be used with airline respirators unless the equipment is designed for oxygen service. Employers must supply breathing air to respirators from cylinders or air compressors.

For testing cylinders, see “Shipping Container Specifications of the Department of Transportation,” 49 CFR Part 178.Employers must mark containers of breathing gas clearly and in accordance with NIOSH requirements, as described in 42 CFR Part 84. Further details on the sources of compressed air and its safe use can be found in the CGA pamphlet G-7.1-1989.

The compressor for supplying air must have the necessary safety devices and alarms. Compressors must be constructed and situated to prevent contaminated air from entering the air supply system and be equipped with suitable in-line, air-purifying sorbent beds and filters installed to ensure breathing air quality. If using an oil-lubricated compressor, ensure that it has a high-temperature or carbon monoxide alarm or both. If using only the high-temperature alarm, the employer must test the air from the compressor frequently for carbon monoxide. Air-line couplings must be incompatible with outlets for other gas systems to prevent accidental servicing of air-line respirators with non-breathable gases or oxygen.

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