Product Focus: Respiratory protection

Trends in ... respiratory protection

Look for ‘reliability, quality and performance’

Compliance with OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard (1910.134) could prevent hundreds of deaths and thousands of illnesses every year, according to the agency. Below, experts highlight new technologies being used in the respiratory protection industry and offer tips.


Among the new technologies in respiratory protection are those geared toward improving climate control issues. “The most popular technology involves supplied-air respirators with a flow-control device, typically worn on the hip, that spins the air so fast that the hot and cold components of the air separate,” said Grant Rowe, product line manager, respiratory protection for Cynthiana, KY-based Bullard. “The undesired component is exhausted out and the desired component gets sent into the respirator. In the case of a cooling tube, the hot component gets exhausted and the cold component (which could be 30° F colder than ambient) provides relief to the worker.”

Dennis Capizzi is outbound product line manager, respiratory protection and thermal imaging cameras for Cranberry Township, PA-based MSA, and Trish Luedtke is the company’s senior marketing copywriter. In a joint email to Safety+Health, Capizzi and Luedtke discussed a variety of new technologies in the respiratory protection field. “From rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, smaller circuit boards, improvements in scratch and fog resistance for facepieces and helmet lens coatings, to the lightweight materials such as carbon fiber that are now being used, [these advancements] have collectively contributed to making today’s products much safer, more durable and user-friendly,” they noted.

Stephanie Lowney, respiratory product manager for Appleton, WI-based Miller Electric Mfg. Co., said that creating and enforcing a written respiratory protection program, as required by OSHA, will help prevent misuse. “Too often companies distribute respiratory protection without having a program in place, which not only puts them at risk of an OSHA citation, but also potentially results in employees using respirators that are not truly protecting them as initially intended,” Lowney said. She stressed that employees should be trained on how to properly care for their respirators, noting that “developing a plan up-front ensures compliance and eases implementation.”


One common problem? Failing to properly inspect and maintain respiratory protection apparatus, according to Tony Pickett, global product manager – air supplied for Monroe, NC-based Scott Safety.

Pickett states that service schedules are critical to guaranteeing optimal performance. “A one-size-fits-all approach to respiratory protection is not going to work. It’s important to make sure facepieces are correctly fitted or you will endanger the user,” he said.

Rowe pointed out that not using the correct air source can be a big issue for workers. “Supplied-air respirators require Grade D air, and that air must be delivered to the respirator at pressure and flow that meets the respirator manufacturer’s exact specifications,” he said. Always check with the respirator manufacturer and the manufacturer of the ambient air pump before using a climate control device, Rowe advised.

Ultimately, it comes down to the basics. “Reliability, quality and performance are critical to respiratory protection,” Pickett said. “These components cannot be compromised when it comes to finding cost-effective solutions.”

Coming next month … 
Hearing protection

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association