Top OSHA Violations Remind Employers of the Need for Continued Attention to Respirators

Top OSHA Violations Remind Employers of the Need for Continued Attention to Respirators

Selecting the right respirators for your employees is essential to keeping them protected, but how do you know what kind to choose?

Earlier in 2022, OSHA released data on the 10 most commonly cited violations for the prior fiscal year (October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021). Topping its list were fall prevention, respiratory protection, ladders and hazard communication. Despite the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, a virus that heightened the world’s mindfulness surrounding respiratory health, OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134) remains a top industrial infringement.

Air pollutants and gases are common within industrial environments and many can be toxic. According to the EPA, toxic air pollutants include benzene, found in gasoline; perchloroethylene, emitted from some dry-cleaning processes; and methylene chloride, used as a solvent and paint stripper by a number of industries. Examples of other air toxins include dioxin, asbestos, toluene, and metals such as cadmium, mercury, chromium and lead compounds. With so many toxins in industrial workplaces, it is understandable that OSHA would issue guidelines to help protect workers from their potentially hazardous impacts.

Paragraph (a) of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134) requires 1. the use of feasible engineering controls as the primary means to control air contaminants; and 2. employers to provide employees with respirators that are “applicable and suitable” for the purpose intended when “such equipment is necessary to protect the health of the employee.”

For employers, selecting the most “applicable and suitable” respirator for a specific application is not always obvious. That may explain why improper respiratory protection is repeatedly one of the top five most common OSHA violations. Some of the most frequent mistakes involve atmospheric monitoring, not using the proper NIOSH-approved masks, medical evaluations and fit testing and training.

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