The lungs are amazing, so that is why it is important to understand how respirators can really protect your lungs . It surprises most people to learn that the lungs have the largest surface area of any body organ -- about 80 times more area than the skin, or about the size of a tennis court! As we breathe, our lungs are in constant contact with the outside world and that is a lot of contact area. They need to be protected.
Over three million American workers are required to wear respirators to protect themselves from hazardous airborne contaminants. Not surprisingly, OSHA has some pretty strict rules when it comes to protecting our lungs. Despite this, it is estimated that more than half of the respirators worn are not worn in accordance with OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.134
Did you know that…
- If workers are wearing respirators, a written program is required?
- A medical evaluation is required for anyone who wears a respirator?
- A fit test of each respirator worn must be conducted initially AND annually?
- The workplace must be evaluated to determine the hazard so that the proper respirator (there are many) can be selected?
These rules, and others, apply to what many people refer to as “dust masks.”
Proper training on respirator usage is also required. Why? Because wearing the wrong type, wrong size, or an improperly fitted respirator can be more dangerous than not wearing one at all. For example:
- Wearing a filtering respirator in an O2-deficient atmosphere, or the wrong cartridge, can mislead you to believe that you are protected…when you are not!
- A mask with even the slightest poor fit allows contaminates in and may actually increase exposure levels.
- Not everyone can wear a respirator. Because a respirator restricts your breathing, people with certain medical conditions can be seriously harmed by wearing them. This is why being medically cleared prior to use is so important, and required.
Not complying with the rules designed for occupational safety can be costly… and not just in fines and penalties. Too many workers have destroyed their health by failing to protect their delicate, vital lungs. And, it’s not just at work. Working around the home and yard can also present respiratory dangers, too. If you are not sure that you need more than a “dust mask” ask someone who can help.
Ask yourself… Have you been properly trained to use your respirator and fit-tested to make sure it is actually stopping hazards from reaching your lungs? Are you confident that you are using your respirator properly and that the respirator that you have selected is the best for the contaminants you are exposed to? How about the person next to you - are they in compliance? Hopefully you and your workmates can answer YES! to all these questions. If you have any questions about respiratory protection, please contact us today or Download our FREE Respirator Inspection Checklist with Proper Donning & Doffing Steps!