As seen in Hammer & Dolly

In my last article, I told you that I would share some of the most common OSHA regulations that shop owners are cited for.

I discussed OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, or “Right to Know” law and the pieces of the law that business owners must comply with. As you will recall, the new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) requirements include new container labeling, a transition from MSDS to Safety Data Sheets (SDS), and employee training. By December 2016, all employers must be in full compliance with the regulation.

This month I’d like to discuss another regulation that is not only misunderstood by many shop owners (and also, quite a money-maker for OSHA)… Respiratory Protection.

Respirators are one piece of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required when working with certain dangerous chemicals such as welding fumes, paint and body dust. While there is a law regarding PPE in general, OSHA considers respirators so important that they dedicated an entire regulation solely to their proper selection and use.

Because inhalation is the most serious route of entry for chemicals into the body, respirators are required as a defense against these hazards.

The best source of information regarding proper PPE, including respirators, is the product’s SDS. The manufacturer, using knowledge of their product as well as OSHA’s safe exposure levels (PEL’s), instructs end-users on required safety equipment.

Two main types of respirators include air-purifying (APR) and supplied-air (SAR). APR’s filter certain contaminants out of the air, while SAR’s provide clean fresh air from a known source. A motorized belt pack is not supplied-air.

Before a respirator can be used in the workplace, several procedures must be in place. An evaluation of the chemical to determine the proper type of respirator is the first step. Second, each employee must be certified by a medical professional to be healthy enough to wear it. A standard OSHA employee questionnaire will be reviewed, and a limited physical exam or breathing test (PFT) may be needed.

Third, once a year, the employee must be trained and fit-tested with his/her model and size of respirator.

With all OSHA regulations, proper documentation is crucial. You must have a record of the training, fit-testing and medical clearance for each employee who wears one. A Written Respiratory Protection Program (WRPP), which spells out your company’s policies and procedures, is the last major requirement.

Above are the basics of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard. Many finer points of this regulation simply won’t fit in this space. As I said last time, most injuries, illnesses and fines are due to lack of knowledge, not lack of caring by shop owners. I hope you find this information useful in making your workplace safer. If you have a question, or would like to suggest a future topic, give me a call.

Joseph J. Kenny, II is president of Safety Regulation Strategies, Inc. a nationwide safety and environmental training and consulting firm. He has helped thousands of businesses create safe and compliant workplaces, and can be reached at 800-723-3734 or on the web at