Respirators are a critical piece of safety equipment for those who work in environments with toxic substances. While their use may seem simple on the surface, a lot goes into selecting, using, and maintaining respirators. Here we separate fact from fiction and set the record straight about respirator usage.
Fact or Fiction: Facial hair doesn’t matter with respirators.
Fiction. Facial hair may be back in style for men, but when it comes to respirators, it isn’t so fashionable. Facial hair like beards and mustaches—even a little bit of stubble—can greatly affect the respirator’s ability to work properly and potentially allow toxic air to leak into the respirator. It’s really best for a worker wearing a respirator to be clean-shaven.
Fact or Fiction: A respirator should be changed when it starts to smell or tastes odd.
Fiction. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), a changing schedule should be established for respirators. Oftentimes, the manufacturer of the respirator will recommend when to replace or disinfect chemical them.
A sense of smell or a sense of taste should not be relied upon. In fact, if the worker has been exposed to the chemical for a long period of time, the worker probably won’t be able to sense the chemical.
Fact or Fiction: If employees need to wear respirators, the company should have a respiratory protection program.
Fact. In situations where OSHA requires, or employers require respirator use, a company must have a complete respiratory protection program in place.
Fact or Fiction: As long as I have on a respirator, I’m OK to be around formaldehyde.
Fiction. If an employee is going to be working with formaldehyde, OSHA requires the employee to be wearing an air-purifying full-face respirator with a canister or cartridge specifically approved to protect against formaldehyde. The only time this can be altered and a half-mask be used instead is if the half-mask respirator has a cartridge approved to protect against formaldehyde and the employee is also wearing gas-proof goggles.
Selecting, fitting, and maintaining respirators is critical. At OHC, we perform respirator fit tests and can help your company protect your most important asset: your employees.