Respiratory Protection

Trends in ... respiratory protection

A Q&A with an industry insider


OSHA estimates that, in the United States, 5 million workers are required to wear respirators in 1.3 million workplaces. These safety devices play a critical role in worker protection. OSHA notes that “respirators protect workers against insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors and sprays” – hazards that could lead to cancer, other diseases or even death.

Safety+Health spoke to John Raimondi, marketing manager for Cranberry Township, PA-based MSA, about what’s new in the respiratory field, how workers can avoid misuse and what’s important to remember.

Safety+Health: What are some new respiratory protection technologies being used?

John Raimondi: When it comes to new technologies in respiratory protection, innovations in ergonomics always come to mind. But it’s not always just about comfort, as ergonomics can be imperative to getting the job done safely. These types of innovations can be seen in the facepiece as well, as increased fields of view and lighter-weight masks are becoming increasingly important attributes to users who may be working in respirators for extended periods of time.

In addition, much of the innovation in respiratory protection is being led by the fire service. Increasingly, integrated PASS devices and electronics are being required by the fire service, driven by NFPA. Beyond this, we have seen the emergence of integrated thermal imaging into the SCBA, which makes this technology accessible to more and more firefighters and even industrial users. It’s exciting to see how technology is changing the way people are able to do their jobs.

S+H: How are these products and technologies being misused, and how can this be corrected?

Raimondi: A sound respiratory program requires medical clearance and fit testing procedures. This cannot be overlooked by the user or the employer. It also is important that users of respirators wear the appropriate type of respiratory protection for the identified hazard for as long as the job requires it. This is why comfort and ergonomics play such a critical role in innovation today, as it helps to ensure workers are not compelled to remove their respiratory PPE. Respirators are only good when they are worn and worn properly, so it’s critical that workers follow the proper procedures at all times.

S+H: What should be of the utmost importance to workers when it comes to respiratory protection?

Raimondi: The development and implementation of the respiratory protection program is of utmost importance. This includes everything from the hazard assessment to training, as well as maintenance of the respirators. Each of the key elements within OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard requires careful consideration and review in alignment with standard operating procedures.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:
Hearing protection

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