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Employers have a responsibility to protect workers from any job-related hazards. The type of hazard workers are bound to encounter depends on the nature of the job. In some industries like construction, the major hazards are slips, falls, noise, moving objects, and physical hazards. And workers are usually protected against all these by equipping them with hard hats, ear protection, safety boots, safety gloves, and so on.

An important area of workplace safety that needs more attention is respiratory protection. The air at many work sites or workplaces may contain harmful chemicals, fumes, smokes, and particulate matter. And without adequate respiratory protection, workers will inhale these and suffer from diseases or even death.

Respiratory protection hazard is among the most violated safety procedures in the workplace, and below are ways employers can take steps to protect their employees.

  • Develop a Safety and Health Program

It's in the best interest of employers that workers are protected from any hazards they might encounter on the job. Protected employees are healthy employees, and this translates to a sound business. Since employers are obligated to protect their workers, any employee injured due to the employer's negligence can file a lawsuit against the business.

The first approach to respiratory protection, and safety in general, in any workplace, is to develop a program to prevent injuries, illnesses, and death due to hazards in the workplace. To develop a safety and health program, employers must be aware of potential hazards workers may be exposed to and comply with related safety laws and regulations.

Doing this will make drafting an official safety policy easy. The policy should contain potential hazards in the workplace and how the organization plans to protect employees from these hazards. The document will serve as a reference for employers and employees and will be reviewed periodically.

  • Choose The Appropriate Type Of Respiratory Protection

An organization will already know the appropriate type of respiratory protection after drafting the policy document. Depending on the type of hazard, respiratory protection could be Filtering Facepiece Respirators, Elastomeric Half Facepiece Respirators, Elastomeric Full Facepiece Respirators, Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs), Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBAs), or Combination Respirators that can be any two of the types mentioned above of respiratory protection.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), about five million workers in the United States must wear respirators. And in industries where the nose and mouth of workers are to be protected from toxic fumes, mist, smoke, and dust, the choice of respirator is the N95 respirator due to its high level of protection. Also, reusable N95 mask is now available, which means organizations can save cost on respirators.

  • Confidential Medical Evaluation On Workers

OSHA requires workers to undergo and pass a fitness test before being trained on using a respirator. This is because respirators can make breathing difficult, which can become dangerous in people with underlying medical conditions like anemia, epilepsy, respiratory, and cardiovascular diseases.

A medical examination will reveal employees that can safely work with a respirator. Such employees can then be trained on properly using and maintaining respirators.

  • Proper Training

Respiratory protection devices are only effective when they are used properly. And this is why employers should ensure workers are properly trained on how to use respirators and how to adjust them.

It's worth mentioning that organizations may need to make custom respirators for workers due to variations in head and nose sizes. One-size-fits-all doesn't apply when respiratory protection is concerned.

Respiratory protection gear shouldn't inhibit other protective gear like goggles and hearing protection. All safety gear should function optimally without interfering with one another.

  • Make Protection Mandatory

Employers should make it clear to workers that protection is mandatory and that they are required to wear protective gear when necessary. Some work situations may not necessitate safety gear but using them may be beneficial.

Workers should be aware of such situations and encouraged to wear recommended safety gear. Overall, workers should be encouraged to use any kind of protective gear that may benefit in a particular situation.

  • Maintenance and Replacement

Disposable safety gear should be properly discarded after use, and a policy should guide workers on properly disposing of safety gear. In the case of reusable gear, they should be properly maintained (usually involves proper cleaning and storage) and inspected for damages.

Should a respirator be found to be damaged or defective, such a respirator should be discarded immediately. Replacement for damaged respirators should be available to ensure workers' protection isn't compromised.


Daniel Jack

For Daniel, journalism is a way of life. He lives and breathes art and anything even remotely related to it. Politics, Cinema, books, music, fashion are a part of his lifestyle.