Creating a respiratory protection program is how your business complies with OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard 1910.134. The standard is lengthy, but the process is simple. A respiratory protection program is designed to ensure your employees are properly fitted with respirators, are medically able to wear respirators, and are protected from any airborne hazards in the workplace. In this blog post, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about respiratory protection programs.
In its simplest form, these are the 3 main steps to wrap your head around:
1. Create a Written Respiratory Protection Program
2. Complete OSHA Medical Evaluations
3. Conduct Annual Fit Testing
So, what’s your plan of attack? It’s your written program. The goal of your written program is to document how you will maintain respiratory compliance step-by-step. It’s the playbook your staff will go by when selecting respirators, completing medical evaluations, and more.
Let’s outline the 7 required sections of a written respiratory protection program and how you can start putting pen to paper:
1. Respirator Selection
To select your employee’s respirators, you must evaluate potential risks. For instance, a healthcare facility’s risks may include COVID-19, influenza, and TB – requiring a selection of N95 respirators.
When choosing respirators, keep in mind that they must be NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health)-certified.
2. Medical Evaluations
OSHA medical evaluations ensure your employees are medically able to wear a respirator by evaluating their health history. These evaluations must be completed by every employee required to wear a respirator in the workplace. Your written program will note how you will conduct these evaluations and how often you will conduct them. OSHA requires employees to pass a medical evaluation before completing a respirator fit test. Check out this article to learn more on ‘How often do you need an online medical evaluation?’
3. Use of Respirators
This section will establish procedures for the use of respirators, specifically addressing these 2 areas:
Facepiece Seal Protection
A user seal check verifies that the respirator is correctly sealed to the user’s face and that no harmful substances can enter through leakage around the respirator’s edges. Respirators will not have the right fit and seal if your employees have facial hair or any condition preventing a respirator from sealing directly on the user’s skin. Always make sure your employees perform user seal checks each time they put the respirator on!
Respirator Fit Testing
Employees using tight-fitting facepiece respirators must pass a respirator fit test prior to initial use of the respirator. Make sure to outline how often you will perform respirator fit testing for your staff! OSHA requires annual testing, along with additional testing when a different mask must be used or when an employee experiences significant weight gain/loss or dental/cosmetic changes.
4. Maintenance and Care
Employers must provide policies and procedures for the cleaning, disinfection, storage, inspection, maintenance, and repairs of respirators.
Here are a few questions this section should answer for your workplace:
How are respirators being used, stored, disinfected, or disposed of in your workplace?
How are employees trained in the proper donning and doffing of respirators, including user seal checks?
What process is in place for conducting repairs, maintenance, and inspections of reusable equipment?
5. Assuring Adequate Air Quality
This section only applies to industries requiring atmosphere-supplying respirators. For instance, a self-contained breathing apparatus used by firefighters. You must outline procedures to ensure adequate air quality, quantity, and flow of breathing air for atmosphere-supplying respirators.
6. Training and Fit Testing Training:
Training protocols for respirator use will be outlined in section four – your game plan to complete this training with your employees is outlined here in section six. Training must include these items: review of written procedures, respiratory hazards, mask use, limitations, donning, doffing, user seal checks, maintenance and storage, and hands-on practice.
This section will outline how you plan to accomplish qualitative and quantitative fit testing. Qualitative testing is accepted for tight-fitting half-face respirators, while quantitative fit testing is required for full-face respirators.
7. Ensuring Program Quality
This is a plan to follow the plan. This section will outline how you will track progress, identify obstacles, and streamline your program over time. In this section, you can identify an employee as your QAPI (Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement) Coordinator or designate one person as your Respiratory Program Administrator to champion the initiative and keep the team on track.
Mobile Health has templates to get you started on your written program. Plus, online medical evaluations, self-administered fit testing solutions, 6,500+ clinics, and on-site teams to make fit testing effortless. Contact our Respiratory Protection Consultants to get access to our free resources and respirator fit testing solutions.