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Disposable Respirators - Paint masks and the like: do they work - or actually increase liability?

Disposable Respirators - Paint masks and the like: do they work - or actually increase liability?

OSHA has written many letters in answer to questions about the proper use of disposable respirators.  This guidance can be used to apply to your situation, as long as you mewet any conditions presented.

Letter 1

 
November 22, 2011

Mr. Edwin G. Foulke
Fisher & Phillips LLP
1075 Peachtree Street, NE
Suite 3500
Atlanta, GA 30309

Dear Mr. Foulke:

Thank you for your letter of April 11, 2011, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requesting clarification on several provisions in OSHA's respiratory protection standard.  Each of your questions has been paraphrased below, followed by our response.  This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed, and may not be applicable to any question not delineated in your original correspondence.

Question 1: How does OSHA define a filtering facepiece/dust mask?

Response: A filtering facepiece respirator is defined in 29 CFR 1910.134(b) as "a negative pressure particulate respirator with a filter as an integral part of the facepiece or with the entire facepiece composed of the filtering medium."

Question 2: How does OSHA differentiate between a filtering facepiece and a respirator?

Response: As stated above, a filtering facepiece is a negative pressure respirator.  It is considered to be in the same category as an elastomeric half-mask respirator, and both respirators have an assigned protection factor (APF) of 10.

Question 3: What is the difference between a "demand respirator" and a "negative pressure respirator"?

Response: A "demand respirator," as defined in 29 CFR 1910.134(b), is an atmosphere-supplying respirator that admits breathing air only when a negative pressure is created in the facepiece by inhalation.  A "negative pressure respirator" is any respirator in which the air pressure inside the facepiece is negative during inhalation with respect to the ambient air pressure outside the respirator.

Question 4: Is an N95 respirator a filtering facepiece respirator, or is it either a demand respirator or a negative pressure respirator?

Response: An N95 respirator is an air-purifying negative pressure respirator equipped with an N95 filter.  If the filter is an integral part of the facepiece, or the entire facepiece composed of the filtering medium, the respirator is also considered a filtering facepiece respirator.

Question 5: In a situation where an employee is working in an area with minor dust exposure, where no respiratory hazards exist, and where an employee is voluntarily using an N95 filtering facepiece respirator, does this use fall within the scope of the exception provided in paragraph 1910.134(c)(2)(ii)?

Response: Yes; according to the exception, if the employer allows N95 filtering facepiece respirators to be voluntarily used by employees in areas that have no respiratory hazards, the employer is not required to include these employees in a written respiratory protection program.

Question 6: Which provisions of the respiratory protection standard must be followed when an N95 filtering facepiece respirator is voluntarily used?

Response: If the employer allows employees to voluntarily use filtering facepiece respirators, the employer must follow the appropriate provisions in (c)(2).  The employer must determine that such respirator use will not in itself create a hazard (i.e., by ensuring that masks are not used if dirty or contaminated, and that their use does not interfere with the employee's ability to work safely).  The employer also must provide the information in Appendix D to each voluntary wearer.

Question 7: If OSHA considers the N95 filtering facepiece a respirator covered by the respiratory protection standard, what parts of paragraph (h) involving "maintenance and care of respirators" are applicable?  Does the employer have to comply with Appendix B-2 involving "Respirator Cleaning Procedures"?

Response: The N95 filtering facepiece respirator is a "disposable respirator."  It must be discarded after use, or when it becomes damaged or soiled.  It cannot be cleaned and disinfected according to the method described in Appendix B-2.  OSHA is presently not aware of any alternate procedures provided by respirator manufacturers in their user instructions that would allow for cleaning and disinfecting their filtering facepiece respirators.

Many requirements in paragraph (h), however, would still be applicable to N95 filtering facepiece respirators.  For example, employers must provide respirators that are clean, sanitary, and in good working order [(h)(1)].  If a respirator cannot be cleaned and disinfected, it may not be used by more than one user [(h)(1)(ii)], and, once soiled or contaminated, it can no longer be maintained in a sanitary condition [(h)(1)(i)] and must be discarded.  If respirators are to be reused, they must be stored to protect them from damage, contamination, dust, sunlight, extreme temperatures, excessive moisture, and damaging chemicals; and they must be stored to prevent deformation of the facepiece or exhalation valve [(h)(2)(i)].  Employers must also ensure the respirators are inspected before each use [(h)(3)(i)(A) and (ii)].  Respirators that fail an inspection, or are otherwise found to be defective, must be removed from service [(h)(4)].

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health.  We hope you find this information helpful.  OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations.  This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed.  Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules.  Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information.  To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.  If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.

Sincerely,
Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

 

Letter 2

January 29, 2010

Ms. Robin R. Anderson
Loss Control Consultant
Highmark Casualty Insurance Company
Suite P6405
P.O. Box 535061
Pittsburgh, PA  15253-5061

Dear Ms. Anderson:

Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs.  You requested the definition of single use and negative [pressure] respirators under the Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134. You also requested OSHA's interpretation of requirements for respirator use and fit-testing when used to protect against the H1N1 influenza virus.  This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not detailed in your original correspondence.  Your questions are paraphrased below, followed by our responses.

Question [1]:  What is the definition of a single use and negative [pressure] respirator?

Response:  OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard does not define "single use" respirators.  The "single use respirator" used for protection from the H1N1 Influenza virus usually refers to a disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirator.  Disposable respirators are not required to be discarded at the end of each task, but discarded when they are no longer in their original working condition, whether its condition results from contamination, structural defects, or wear.  A negative pressure respirator means any tight-fitting respirator in which the air pressure inside the facepiece is negative during inhalation with respect to the ambient air pressure outside the respirator. The disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirator is a negative pressure respirator.

Question [2]:  Is fit-testing required for the disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirator used for protection from the H1N1 virus?

Response:  The respiratory protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134, under paragraph (f)(2), requires fit testing for all employees using tight fitting respirators including filtering facepiece respirators (e.g., disposable N95 respirators). The fit test must be performed before the respirator is used in the workplace and must be repeated at least annually and whenever a different respirator facepiece is used or a change in the employee's physical condition could affect the respirator fit.

Question [3]:  Is a written respiratory protection program needed for the disposable N95 respirator?

Response:  Yes.  A written respiratory protection program, in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.134(c) (including medical evaluation, training, and fit testing), is required in any workplace where respirators (including disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirators) are necessary to protect the health of the employee or whenever respirators are required by the employer.

Question [4]:  Is there any circumstance when the disposable N95 respirator can be used without fit testing?

Response:  The voluntary use of respirators in atmospheres which are not hazardous does not require the respirator to be fit tested or the wearer to maintain a tight fit.

Question [5]:  What are the requirements for the disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirator when it is used for protection from the H1N1 virus?

Response:  As stated above, the use of disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirators in the workplace must be included in an employer's written respiratory protection program.  The respirator program in 29 CFR 1910.134(c) includes medical evaluation, training, and fit testing, and is required in any workplace where respirators (including disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirators) are necessary to protect the health of the employee or whenever respirators are required by the employer.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health.  We hope you find this information helpful.  OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations.  Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations.  This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed.  Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules.  Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information.  To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.  If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.

Sincerely,

Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

Letter 3

October 5, 1998

Mr. William R. Jaggi
Trans World Airlines, Inc.
Ground Operations Center
P.O. Box 10007
St. Louis, MO 63145

Dear Mr. Jaggi:

This is in response to your letter of March 31, addressed to Ms. Bonnie Friedman, in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Office of Public Affairs. We apologize for the long delay of this response. Enforcement of this standard will begin on the compliance date, October 5, 1998.

In your letter, you requested clarification on several respiratory protection issues. There were several statements listed that you sought to determine if they were true or not. The statements are responded to in the same order as given in your letter.

Please note that in your letter, you used the term "medical surveillance." The respiratory protection standard 1910.134 uses the term "medical evaluation."

  1. Statement:  Use of the disposable paper type dust respirators does not require medical surveillance.

    Response:  Non-voluntary use of a filtering facepiece (dust mask/disposable paper type dust respirator) requires that the employer establish and implement a written respiratory protection program with worksite-specific procedures. The respiratory protection program must include the medical evaluation of employees.

    Voluntary use of a filtering facepiece respirator does not require medical evaluation. The employer needs only to ensure that the dust masks are not dirty or contaminated, that their use does not interfere with the employee's ability to work safety, and provide a copy of Appendix D to each voluntary wearer.
     
  2. Statement:  Use of an air supplied positive pressure face mask does not require medical surveillance unless intended for rescue or emergency purposes.
     
  3. Statement:  Use of an air supplied positive pressure hood does not require medical surveillance unless intended for rescue or emergency purposes.

    Response:  The new respiratory protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134, states, "The employer shall provide a medical evaluation to determine that the employee's ability to use a respirator, before the employee is fit tested or required to use the respirator in the workplace." Employees that use any respirators including respirators such as air supplied positive pressure face masks or hoods must have a medical evaluation before use. Medical evaluations are needed to prevent injuries and illnesses that can arise from respirator use. Clinical studies show that even positive pressure respirator use can harm an employee. Respirator use of all kinds can cause alterations in breathing patterns, hypoventilation, retention of carbon dioxide, and an increase in workload on the body.
     

Please note that on [November 2004, OSHA published Respiratory Protection Frequently Asked Questions. This document contains guidance and interpretations on the most frequently asked questions.] The section on medical evaluations and the attachments may be particularly helpful in developing your respiratory protection program. This can be found on the Internet on the OSHA Home Page at http://www.osha.gov.

Should you require any additional information on this matter, please, feel free to contact [the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-1850].

Sincerely,



Richard E. Fairfax
Acting Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs

[Corrected on 10/20/06]