One of the principal routes by which chemicals can enter the body is through inhalation. If an individual is exposed to an excessive airborne concentration of a chemical over a long period of time, undesirable health effects can result.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set maximum exposure standards for many airborne toxic materials. The Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) can assist in determining whether a worker's exposure to chemicals and/or particulates with which he or she works exceeds these standards. If the permissible exposure limit is exceeded, the exposure must be reduced to acceptable levels through the use of engineering and/or administrative controls.
Engineering controls include the following:
Administrative controls include employee training, use of standard operating procedures, and work scheduling to minimize the length of exposure.
Respirators and other personal protective equipment may be used where engineering controls are not feasible or cannot reduce exposure to acceptable levels, or while engineering controls are being installed. The need for a respirator is dependent upon the type of operations and the nature and quantity of the materials in use and must be assessed on a case by case basis.
The use of respirators at Baylor University is subject to prior review and approval by EHS, per University policy. The OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard regulates any use of respiratory protection.
Any individual, who has received approval by EHS to use a respirator, including self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), must be enrolled in the Respiratory Protection Program. A physical examination and health history review will be arranged through EHS for medical approval and surveillance.
Respiratory protection, through the use of supplied air or self-contained breathing apparatus, is required for work in oxygen deficient atmospheres. It also may be necessary during non-routine operations in which the individual is exposed briefly to high concentration of a hazardous substance (e.g., maintenance or repair activities or during spill clean-up).
The use of respirators is regulated by OSHA through the Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134). The standard requires the development of a Respiratory Protection Program, including all of the elements described below.
Initial Hazard Assessment
Anyone who believes that respiratory protection is needed during the course of his or her work must notify EHS. An industrial hygienist from EHS will evaluate the potential hazards of the work and determine whether respiratory protection is needed. This may involve personal and area air sampling to measure exposure levels.
Departments in which respirators are used are required to establish and maintain a written respiratory protection program covering all aspects of the use of respiratory protection. The written program must include provisions for:
Each department must appoint a Respiratory Protection Program Manager, to be responsible for developing and implementing the Respiratory Protection Program in that department.
The written program must be reviewed and updated at least annually. A model written program is available through EHS.
An EHS industrial hygienist determines the type of respirator needed (e.g., half-face or full-face air purifying respirator, powered air purifying respirator, supplied air respirator or self-contained breathing apparatus) based on the results of the initial hazard assessment. When air purifying respirators are recommended, the appropriate type of filter or chemical cartridge is selected. Only respirators and supplies approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) may be used at Baylor University.
Departments purchase the appropriate respirator and supplies. If the respirator is needed for a limited time or for a special project, the department may rent the appropriate equipment from EHS, upon availability.
Prior to the assignment of respiratory protection, the individual must be evaluated by Concentra Medical Center to determine whether he or she is able to wear a respirator. This involves the completion of a medical history questionnaire, a limited physical examination and baseline laboratory testing. This may include a pulmonary function test, a chest x-ray, an echocardiogram, a urinalysis and a complete blood count.
The medical history questionnaire (which is part of the annual Respirator Fitting Form) must be completed annually by each individual enrolled in the Respiratory Protection Program and is reviewed by a licensed healthcare professional. The frequency of physical examinations and laboratory testing is at the discretion of the physician, based, in part, on age and general health.
Training and Fit-Testing
Individuals who require respiratory protection must receive training before using a respirator. The training is provided by EHS and includes discussion of the need for respiratory protection, the elements of the Respiratory Protection Program and the individual's responsibility under it, the medical surveillance program, proper use of respiratory protection, respirator maintenance, and handling emergency situations.
Individuals required to wear negative pressure respirators must be fitted properly and tested for an adequate seal prior to use in a contaminated atmosphere. Qualitative fit-testing using irritant smoke is performed by EHS. Instructions on performing positive and negative pressure checks are provided to respirator users so that they may check their respirator's fit in the field.
SCBA users must show proficiency donning and doffing the respirator. It is imperative that they know how the SCBA functions and how to use it under varying conditions.
All respirator users must attend training and be fit-tested annually.
Respirator users are responsible for regular cleaning and inspection of their respirators, including looking for defects and missing parts. Respirators must be stored properly in order to protect them from dust, sunlight, excessive heat or cold, moisture and chemicals. Inspection forms are available through EHS and are distributed during annual training.
SCBA must be inspected at least monthly and a record of the inspection must be maintained. The department appoints an individual or group to be responsible for the monthly inspections. Inspection forms are available through EHS and are distributed during annual training.
The departmental Respiratory Protection Program Manager should periodically spot check respirators to ensure they are in good condition.
For each individual assigned a respirator, the department maintains records of training, fit-testing, and respirator inspections. Medical records and results of physical examinations are kept by Concentra Medical Center.
Contact EHS at 710-2900.
Full text of the OSHA Respiratory Standard (29 CFR 1910.134) is available through EHS.
A model written departmental Respiratory Protection Program is available through EHS.
The following references are available through EHS: