OSHA Most-Cited Violation: Respirator Protection

For the last five years, OSHA’s annual list of most-cited violations has included “Respirator Protection” as a frequently cited violation – in fact, it has held steady at #4 on the list for the preliminary numbers for 2015 and for the final numbers from 2010 – 2014. For 2015, the preliminary numbers show that OSHA standard 1910.134, “Respiratory Protection,” was cited 3,305 times. So the question becomes, why does this standard continue to be cited year after year, and what can employers do to better follow the standard and avoid an OSHA citation?

Stonehouse Signs Danger Respirator Required OSHA PPE SignAccording to OSHA, an estimated 5 million workers in the U.S. are required to wear respirators in the course of their job responsibilities. And there are two different types of respirators that may be required – one that filters out airborne contaminates such as particles, chemicals or gases; and one that supplies clean breathing air from another source to the worker. Sounds simple enough, however experts say one of the major obstacles in complying with the respirator protection standard is that it is extensive – the standard contains 150 separate provisions with 13 major sections. Another common obstacle in compliance is the lack of a written standard: in the majority of OSHA respirator standard citations (about 66%,) workplaces were cited because the company did not have or had an inadequate written respirator program for their workers.  

Other parts of the respirator standard that employers must follow, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, include: 

  • “When employees wear respirators when they are not required to, the employer must establish a partial RP program to ensure that respirator use itself does not harm the worker.
  • Employers must assess whether respirators are needed and provide the appropriate type.
  • Employers must make sure that employees are medically fit to wear respirators and that tight-fitting respirators have the proper fit.
  • Employers must ensure that workers wear their respirators appropriately and that equipment is properly cleaned and maintained.
  • Employers must train workers to use respirators properly.
  • Employers must keep records to document that the preceding steps have been carried out and periodically evaluate their RP program.”

So clearly following the standard is more than making sure employees have respirator PPE to use. OSHA has even released a flowchart guide for small businesses to assist them in following respirator compliance. 

However, whether a business is big or small, the first step in complying with the OSHA “Respiratory Protection” standard is to read and understand all aspects of it. Once the standard is read and understood, employers can then develop their individual comprehensive written respirator program, including proper use, storage and cleaning of respirators, and train workers on the program. And of course, employers must continually ensure worker compliance with the written respirator program, with continued education, written or verbal reminders (such as using Respirator Signs in areas where respirators must be worn,) and additional training for all new workers. 

Since its founding in 1863, Stonehouse Signs has produced high-quality visual communications solutions for various industries and the government. The company specializes in custom products for safety, information and accident prevention, and manufactures a full line of safety signs and facility signssafety tags, vinyl safety decals, and custom magnetic whiteboards designed for extended outdoor life, harsh environments and demanding applications. For more information call 1-800-533-9914 or visit www.stonehousesigns.com.

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