Learn about NIOSH certification and the OSHA standard for respiratory protection
Thanks to the National Safety Council, National Safety Month 2021 is in full bloom for summertime and is celebrated month-long, every year in June. It is an annual observance to help keep each other safe on the job site. Insulators Local 2 prides itself on the accommodation of safety and taking precautions while on the job so that its members can go to work with the highest safety measures in place and return home fulfilled by their career as well as happy and healthy with their loved ones. For National Safety Month 2021, Local 2 members should be informed of the industry standard in respiratory protection while out in the field.
“Our members have witnessed family members, friends, and co-workers become sick, disabled, and die painful deaths from occupational diseases caused by breathing air contaminated with fibers from the materials we install to insulate mechanical systems throughout their working lifetime,” says Thomas Mulholland, Local 2 President. “To protect ourselves and limit the number of fibers we are chronically exposed to, our contractors should supply our members to use NIOSH certified respirators.”
Based on the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, (NIOSH), only certified respirators will be used in compliance with the conditions of its certification.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 established NIOSH as a research agency focused on the study of worker safety and health, and empowering employers and workers to create safe and healthy workplaces. NIOSH is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its mandate assures “every man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources.” Make sure to follow NIOSH on Facebook to learn more about the organization and celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021.
Here’s what our members should know:
- While working, the employer shall have a written respiratory protection program in place for each member to acknowledge, the employer shall provide an appropriate respirator based on the respiratory hazard, and workplace which includes user factors that affect respirator performance and reliability.
- In continuing the safety guidelines, the employer shall identify and evaluate respiratory hazards in the workplace including a reasonable estimate of employee exposure to hazards and the identification of contaminates. As noted, where the employer cannot identify or reasonably estimate employee exposure, the employer should consider the atmosphere to be “Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health” (IDLH).
- Does a one-size fit all? It does not! The employer will select respirators from a sufficient number of models and sizes to ensure a correct fit for each member. In addition, the employer shall provide a medical evaluation to determine the employee’s ability to use a respirator before the employee is fit tested.
Most importantly, masks and gaiters used for COVID-19 ARE NOT NIOSH certified and are not considered respirators.
There are many other factors and considerations for respirator use on the job, and it is important to know where to find these resources during National Safety Month and any time of the year. You can refer to your OSHA Standard and 29CFR1910.134 for more details.