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Don't overlook training needs with respirators
"What good is a respirator if the wearer is not properly trained?" asks Tom Ostendorf, lead respiratory protection specialist at Lab Safety Supply, a Janesville, WI-based provider of safety products. He gives these recommendations:
Perform fit testing before an employee is required to use the respirator.
After the initial fit testing, employees will be required to be fit tested annually thereafter, says Ostendorf. "Fit testing should also be done whenever there is a change in the respirator type; a change in physical condition, such as weight gain or loss, that could affect the fit; or upon observations or reports," he adds.
Conduct proper training on respirator selection and use.
"Proper selection is critical to a respiratory program," says Ostendorf. "Respirator selection is based on the hazards to which the worker is exposed, and workplace and user factors that affect respirator performance and reliability."
This requires the employer to evaluate the respiratory hazards in the workplace by identifying the contaminants and determining the employee's exposure, he explains.
"Employees must be able to demonstrate why a respirator is necessary, consequences of improper fit, usage and maintenance," says Ostendorf. "They must be aware of limitations and capabilities of the respirator, and know how to use it in emergency situations or upon failure of the respirator."
Be sure that employees know how to inspect, maintain and store the respirator.
Make workers aware of medical signs or symptoms that would limit or prevent the use of the respirator, advises Ostendorf. "Retraining should occur whenever there are changes in the workplace or new types of respirators are used," he says.