Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gotta Love Those Loop Holes

If you are like most people, reading federal regulations is not something you do on a regular basis. Doing so can definitely lead one to want to chew on aluminum foil, get your teeth cleaned or some other such relatively fun activity. However, if you can bare reading through certain regulations you can not only find little gold nuggets of information to improve your production, you can find lovely little loop holes to boost your profits.

OSHA’s 29CFR 1910.134 Respirator Protection is one such regulation. It provides valuable information for companies whose workers must wear respirators and has one of those loops holes that helps residential remodeling companies avoid the expense of complying with all the stipulations of the Respirator Protection regulation.

1910.134 has three main goals:

1. Advise workers on the types of respirators available.
2. Institute medical surveillance of workers before they wear a respirator.
3. Provide methods of ‘fit testing’ ensuring workers are protected.

The Respirator Protection regulation further requires employers to develop and maintain a written respirator protection program when respirators are required. So, the next obvious question is, “Are respirators required on your remodeling jobs?”

For those of you that do have workers wearing charcoal filtered respirators such as those worn during painting activities using airless or HVLP the answer is yes.

If your operations are those typically found in residential remodeling projects around the county, those that create dust or are potentially exposed to mold or lead dust, the answer is no.

Why is the answer no? Well, after slogging through the Respirator Protection regulation you will come across section 1910.134(c)(2)(ii). The second sentence of this section states, “Exception: Employers are not required to include a written respiratory protection program for those employees whose only use of respirators involves the voluntary use of filtering face pieces (dust masks).”

Translation: Loop hole.

Well, sort of. You still need to look out for the respiratory safety of your workers. You do not necessarily need a written respirator protection program if your employees only wear dust masks. But, we all know that the run of the mill dust mask isn’t worth a darn. There is a dust mask that provides a high level of protection for workers and thus allows you to drive through the loop hole.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) does have standards for dust masks. The type of dust mask that provides protection against lead particles and has a HEPA rating is a NIOSHA N100 dust mask.

If you want to protect your workers and avoid the costs of designing, implementing and maintaining a costly written respirator protection program, run out and buy your workers NIOSH N100 dust masks. Be sure to train them on the proper use of these personal protective devices and the potential health hazards for not wearing them.

For further information as to whether respirators are required, refer to the MSDS sheets of the products you workers are using. For those of you merely performing tasks where you are exposed to mold, lead dust or other types of remodeling dust, the N100 dust mask is just the ticket.