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Dust Mask Respirators – Make Sure You’re in Compliance

Does this sound like you? You have employees who wear disposable dust masks, but you’re not sure if that means you need to have a full-blown respirator program. Did you tell your employee to put on the dust mask or did they decide to wear it voluntarily? Are you working in an environment where OSHA states dust masks must be worn? Well, OSHA states you need to do something but what exactly is that “something”?

There are many OSHA regulations which state employees must wear dust masks or respirators. But there are also times when employees want to wear a dust mask voluntarily. If workers are voluntarily wearing dust masks, a complete respirator program is not a necessity. Once workers are in areas where dust masks become a necessity, you better make sure you have a program in place.

OSHA does consider single-use dust masks, such as N-95s, to be air-purifying respirators (APRs). The Respiratory Protection standard at 1910.134(b) refers to these dust masks as “filtering face-pieces”and defines them as negative pressure particulate respirators with a filter that is an integral part of the face-piece, or with the entire face-piece composed of the filter medium. These masks must be NIOSH-certified to be acceptable by OSHA as respirators under the standard. Look on the packaging (or on the dust mask) for the NIOSH mark.

Because OSHA considers NIOSH-approved disposable dust masks to be air-purifying respirators, medical evaluations and fit testing are required prior to wearing mandatory-use dust mask respirators.

If your employees are voluntarily wearing dust masks, employers still have some responsibility. For these users, you need to:

  • Provide the information in Appendix D of the Respiratory Protection standard
  • Provide a medical evaluation
  • Provide training on procedures for cleaning, disinfecting, storing, repairing, removing from service or discarding, and otherwise maintaining respirators; and
  • Set up schedules for these elements, according to the regulation

If you need your Respiratory Program reviewed or need a program written, please contact L.A.W. Construction Safety Consultants today!

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