F.A.Q.’s on Respiratory Protection

Q: What is a respirator?
A: A respirator is a protective facepiece, hood or helmet that is designed to protect the wearer against a variety of harmful airborne agents.

Q: Can any respirator be used?
A: No, respirators shall be selected on the basis of hazards to which the worker is exposed (i.e., particulates, vapors, oxygen-deficiency, or combination).

Q: Why is a formal respirator program needed?
A: A respirator program increases the chances of using a respirator correctly. A respirator will only protect if it is used correctly.

Q: Who is in charge of the respirator program?
A: The program must be administered by a trained program administrator who is qualified and knowledgeable in respiratory protection to run all aspects of the program.

Q: How is the proper respirator size determined?
A: Proper respirator size is determined through a fit test. Employees using negative or positive pressure tight-fitting facepiece respirators must pass an appropriate fit test.

Q: When is respirator fit testing required?
A: Fit testing of all negative or positive pressure tight-fitting facepiece respirators is required prior to initial use, whenever a different respirator facepiece is used, and at least annually thereafter. An additional fit test is required whenever there are changes in the user’s physical condition that could affect respirator fit (e.g., facial scarring, dental changes, cosmetic surgery, or an obvious change in body weight). The employer must be fit tested with the same make, model, style, and size of respirator that will be used.

Q: What can be done if an employee has a very small face and has trouble being fit tested for a respirator?
A: Manufacturers make several different sizes. Respirators may also vary in size from manufacturer to manufacturer. Users may be able to get a better fit by trying a respirator made by another manufacturer. In some cases, the use of powered air-purifying respirators may be appropriate. Employers must help employees find a suitable respirator.

Q: Can a respirator be used by more than one person? How often should it be cleaned and disinfected?
A: Disposable respirators cannot be disinfected, and are therefore assigned to only one person. Disposable respirators must be discarded if they are soiled, physically damaged, or reach the end of their service life.

Q: How long can a particulate respirator be used before it must be discarded?
A: Respirators with replaceable filters are reusable, and a respirator classified as disposable may be reused by the same worker as long as it functions properly. All filters must be replaced whenever they are damaged, soiled, or causing noticeably increased breathing resistance (e.g., causing discomfort to the wearer). Before each use, the outside of the filter material should be inspected. If the filter material is physically damaged or soiled, the filter should be changed (in the case of respirators with replaceable filters) or the respirator discarded (in the case of disposable respirators). Always follow the respirator Employers must develop standard operating procedures for storing, reusing, and disposing of respirators that have been designated as disposable and for disposing of replaceable filter elements.

Q: What is the proper way to store a respirator that is used routinely?
A: Respirators must be stored to protect them from damage, contamination, dust, sunlight, extreme temperatures, excessive moisture, and damaging chemicals. They must also be packed or stored to prevent deformation of the facepiece and exhalation valve. A good method is to place them in individual storage bins. Keep in mind that respirator facepieces will become distorted and the straps will lose their elasticity if hung on a peg for a long time. Check for these problems before each use.

Q: Are there any additional requirements for the storage of emergency respirators?
A: Yes, emergency respirators must be kept accessible to the work area and stored in compartments or in covers that are clearly marked as containing emergency respirators, and stored in accordance with any applicable manufacturer instructions.

Q: Is training required before a respirator is used?
A: Yes, training must be provided to employees who are required to use respirators. The training must be comprehensive, understandable, and recur annually, and more often if necessary. This training should include at a minimum:

Q: Why the respirator is necessary and how improper fit, use, or maintenance can compromise its protective effect
Limitations and capabilities of the respirator
Effective use in emergency situations
How to inspect, put on and remove, use and check the seals
Maintenance and storage
Recognition of medical signs and symptoms that may limit or prevent effective use.

Q: If employees have a beard or moustache, is their respirator still effective?
A: Tight-fitting facepiece respirators must not be worn by employees who have facial hair that comes between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face or that interferes with valve function. Respirators that do not rely on a tight face seal, such as hoods or helmets, may be used by bearded individuals.

Q: Can employees wear glasses while wearing a respirator?
A: Yes, but if an employee wears corrective glasses or goggles or other personal protective equipment, the employer must ensure that such equipment is worn in a manner that does not interfere with the seal of the facepiece to the face of the user. Contact lenses can be worn with any type of respirator, but their use is not recommended in dusty atmospheres while wearing a half-mask facepiece

Q: If employees get a rash when they wear a respirator with a latex seal, how can this be prevented?
A: Users might have an allergy or sensitivity to the latex or its additives used in the manufacture of some respirators. Changing to a respirator using a silicone-based compound for the face seal, or a respirator that doesn’t have a face seal (like a hooded PAPR) may solve the problem.

F.A.Q.’s on Hearing Protection

Q: How can I tell if a noise situation is too loud?
A: There are two rules: First, if you have to raise your voice to talk to someone who is an arm’s length away, then the noise is likely to be hazardous. Second, if your ears are ringing or sounds seem dull or flat after leaving a noisy place, then you probably were exposed to hazardous noise.

Q: How long can someone be in a loud noise before it’s hazardous?
A: The degree of hearing hazard is related to both the level of the noise as well as to the duration of the exposure. But this question is like asking how long can people look at the sun without damaging their eyes. The safest thing to do is to ensure workers always protect their ears by wearing hearing protectors anytime they are around loud noise.

Q: What is the best possible way to protect my ears from getting damaged by loud sounds at work?
A: The surest method of preventing occupational deafness is to reduce noise at the source by engineering methods. However, in certain workplace conditions, there is very little or nothing one can do to reduce noise at the source. In such workplaces, workers wear hearing protectors to reduce the amount of noise reaching the ears.

Q: How do I pick my hearing protectors?
A: The choice of hearing protectors is a very personal one and depends on a number of factors including level of noise, comfort, and the suitability of the hearing protector for both the worker and his environment. Most importantly, the hearing protector should provide the desired noise reduction. It is best, where protectors must be used, to provide a choice of a number of different types to choose from. If the noise exposure is intermittent, ear muffs are more desirable, since it may be inconvenient to remove and reinsert earplugs.

Q: What is the difference between earplugs and earmuffs?
A: Earplugs are simple to use, less expensive than muffs, and more comfortable in hot or damp work areas. Ear muffs are easier to fit, generally more durable than plugs, and they have replaceable parts. In areas where noise levels are very high, muffs and plugs can be worn together to give better protection.

Q: How long does it take to get used to hearing protectors?
A: Think about getting a new pair of shoes. Some shoes take no time to get used to. Others – even though they are the right size – can take a while to get used to. Hearing protectors are no different from other safety equipment in terms of getting used to them. But if hearing protectors are the wrong size, or are worn out, they will not be comfortable. Also, workers may need more than one kind of protector at their job. For example, no one would wear golf shoes to go bowling. If hearing protectors are not suitable for the work being done, they probably won’t feel comfortable.

Q: Can you poke out your eardrums with earplugs?
A: That is unlikely for two reasons. First, the average ear canal is about 1 1/4 inches long. The typical ear plug is between 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch long. So even if you inserted the entire earplug, it would still not touch the eardrum. Second, the path from the opening of the ear canal to the eardrum is not straight. In fact, it is quite irregular. This prevents you from poking objects into the eardrum.

Q: We work in a dusty, dirty place. Should I worry that our ears will get infected by using earplugs?
A: Using earplugs will not cause an infection. But use common sense. Have clean hands when using earplugs that need to be rolled or formed with your fingers in order for you to insert them. If this is inconvenient, there are plenty of earplugs that are pre-molded or that have stems so that you can insert them without having to touch the part that goes into the ear canal.

Q: Can you hear warning sounds, such as backup beeps, when wearing hearing protectors?
A: The fact is that there are fatal injuries because people do not hear warning sounds. However, this is usually because the background noise was too high or because the person had severe hearing loss, not because someone was wearing hearing protectors. Using hearing protectors will bring both the noise and the warning sound down equally. So if the warning sound is audible without the hearing protector, it will usually be audible when wearing the hearing protector. For the unusual situations where this is not the case, the solution may be as simple as using a different hearing protector. Also, many warning systems can be adjusted or changed so warning signals are easier to detect.

Q: Won’t hearing protectors interfere with our ability to hear important sounds our machinery and equipment make?
A: Hearing protectors will lower the noise level of your equipment; it won’t eliminate it. However, some hearing protectors will reduce certain frequencies more than others; so wearing them can make noises sound different. In cases where it’s important that the sound just be quieter without any other changes, there are hearing protectors that can provide flat attenuation. There are also noise-activated hearing protectors that allow normal sounds to pass through the ear and only ‘turn-on’ when the noise reaches hazardous levels. There are even protectors that professional concert musicians use that can lower the sound level while retaining sound fidelity.

Q: Will we be able to hear each other talk when wearing hearing protectors?
A: Some people find they can wear hearing protectors and still understand speech. Others will have trouble hearing speech while wearing hearing protectors. Being able to hear what other people say depends on many things: distance from the speaker, ability to see the speaker’s face, general familiarity with the topic, level of background noise, and whether or not one has an existing hearing impairment. In some cases, wearing hearing protectors can make it easier to understand speech. In other instances, people may be using hearing protectors to keep out too much sound. You may need a protector that reduces the sound enough to be safe without reducing the sound too much to hear speech at a comfortably loud level. For those people who work in noise and must communicate, it may also be necessary to use communication headsets. Allow your employees to try different protectors. Some will work better than others at helping them to hear speech, and different protectors may work better for different people.

Q: What should I know about the fit of my hearing protectors?
A: Follow manufacturer’s instructions. With ear plugs, for example, the ear should be pulled outward and upward with the opposite hand to enlarge and straighten the ear canal, and insert the plug with clean hands. Ensure the hearing protector tightly seals within the ear canal or against the side of the head. Hair and clothing should not be in the way.

Q: How should I care for my hearing protection device?
A: Check hearing protection regularly for wear and tear. Replace ear cushions or plugs that are no longer pliable. Replace a unit when headbands are so stretched that they do not keep ear cushions snugly against the head. Disassemble ear muffs to clean. Wash ear muffs with a mild liquid detergent in warm water, and then rinse in clear warm water. Ensure that sound-attenuating material inside the ear cushions does not get wet. Use a soft brush to remove skin oil and dirt that can harden ear cushions. Squeeze excess moisture from the plugs or cushions and then place them on a clean surface to air dry. (Check the manufacturer’s recommendations first to find out if the ear plugs are washable.)

Q: How often should your hearing be tested?
A: Anyone regularly exposed to hazardous noise should have an annual hearing test. Also, anyone who notices a change in his/her hearing (or who develops tinnitus) should have his or her ears checked. People who have healthy ears and who are not exposed to hazardous noise should get a hearing test every three years.

Q: Since I already have hearing loss and wear a hearing aid, hearing prevention programs don’t apply to me, right?
A: If you have hearing loss, it’s important to protect the hearing that you have left. Loud noises can continue to damage your hearing making it even more difficult to communicate at work and with your family and friends.

Q: Don’t we lose our hearing as we age?
A: It’s true that most people’s hearing test gets worse as they get older. But for the average person, aging does not cause impaired hearing before at least the age of 60. People who are not exposed to noise and are otherwise healthy; keep their hearing for many years. People who are exposed to noise and do not protect their hearing begin to lose their hearing at an early age.

F.A.Q.’s on Head Protection

Q: How do I know if I need to be wearing a helmet?
A: Is there a possibility that something might fall from overhead?
Are there any exposed electrical components (wiring, conductors, etc…) that might come into contact with your head?
Are there fixed objects that are low enough that they might be bumped into?
If you answered “yes” to anyone of these questions, then you should be wearing a helmet.

Q: Can I wear a cap under my helmet?
A: Currently, there are no requirements or tests to examine the effect that a cap or any other object worn inside a helmet may have on helmet performance. Therefore, it is recommended that helmet users should never carry or wear anything inside a helmet as, 

1. A clearance must be maintained between the helmet shell and the wearer’s head for the protection system to work properly. An additional cap or other object may limit this clearance.
2. Wearers may be unaware that the cap or object contains metal parts, such as a metal button at the top of a cap, which may diminish the dielectric protection provided by the helmet.
3. Under no circumstances should any item be placed above or below the crown straps. This will effect the performance of the helmet.

Q: Can I wear my helmet backwards?
A: To perform properly in this manner, the suspension must be reversed in the helmet, so that the headband is oriented normally to the wearer’s head (i.e., with the brow pad against the forehead and the extended nape strap at the base of the skull). In this manner, only the shell of the helmet is backwards on the head. This applies to ANSI Z89.1-2003 Type I helmets only. ANSI Z89.1-2003 Type II helmets, because of the lower rear edge of the shell and the asymmetrical pattern of protection offered by their more complex design, should not be worn backwards.

Q: When should I replace my helmet?
A: Users of industrial head protection devices must realize that these products do not have an indefinite user life. It is recommended that a regular head protection replacement program be conducted by employers as a responsive solution to the task of addressing service life of helmets as per the conditions on the work site. Where user environments are known to include higher exposure to temperature extremes, sunlight or chemicals, helmets should be replaced periodically. If a helmet has been struck by a forcible blow of any magnitude, both the helmet shell and suspension should be replaced immediately, even if no damage is visible.

Q: Why is it necessary to have an 8 point suspension?
A: An 8 point suspension gives a higher distribution of weight and thus provides increased protection and comfort. The suspension protects the wearer from heavy blows, falling or protruding objects etc.

F.A.Q.’s on Eye Protection

Q: Why is eye safety at work important?
A: Eye injuries in the workplace are very common. More than 2,000 people injure their eyes at work each day. About 1 in 10 injuries require one or more missed workdays to recover from. Of the total amount of work-related injuries, 10-20 % will cause temporary or permanent vision loss. Experts believe that the right eye protection could have lessened the severity or even prevented 90% of eye injuries in accidents.

Q: What are the common causes of eye injuries?
A: Common causes for eye injuries are:
Flying objects (bits of metal, glass)
Harmful radiation
Any combination of these or other hazards

Q: What is my best defense against an eye injury?
A: There are three things you can do to help prevent an eye injury
Know the eye safety dangers at work-complete an eye hazard assessment
Eliminate hazards before starting work. Use machine guarding, work screens, or other engineering controls)
Use proper eye protection.

Q: When should I protect my eyes at work?
A: You should wear safety eyewear whenever there is a chance of eye injury. Anyone working in or passing through areas that pose eye hazards should wear protective eyewear.

Q: What type of safety eyewear is available to me?
A: Safety eyewear protection includes:
Non-prescription and prescription safety glasses
Face shields
Welding helmets
Full-face respirators

Q: What type of safety eye protection should I wear?
A: The type of safety eye protection you should wear depends on the hazards in your workplace. If you are working in an area that has particles, flying objects, or dust, you must at least wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields). If you are working with chemicals, you should wear goggles. If you are working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fiber optics) you must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for that task.

Q: What is the difference between glass, plastic, and polycarbonate safety lenses?
A: All three types of safety lenses meet or exceed the requirements for protecting your eyes.

Glass lenses

  • Are not easily scratched
  • Can be used around harsh chemicals
  • Can be made in your corrective prescription
  • Are sometimes heavy and uncomfortable

Plastic lenses

  • Are lighter weight
  • Protect against welding splatter
  • Are not likely to fog
  • Are not as scratch-resistant as glass

Polycarbonate lenses

  • Are lightweight
  • Protect against welding splatter
  • Are not likely to fog
  • Are stronger than glass and plastic
  • Are more impact resistant than glass or plastic
  • Are not as scratch resistant as glass

Q: Why should safety eyewear be light?
A: Light safety eyewear are easy to handle, providing more comfort and can thus be worn over long periods of time without strain.

Q: Why should safety eyewear protect against UV and IR rays?
A: Various industrial processes emit UV & IR rays. These radiations can cause cataract, retinal burn, painful eye condition, skin cancer around the eyelids etc. The lens of safety spectacles are made up of polycarbonate material which block the entry of this radiation into the eyes.

Q: Why should safety eyewear be optically correct?
A: Optically correct lenses are thick at the center and taper towards the edges. These lenses create no distortion and greatly reduce glare.

Q: Why do I see distortion in my safety eyewear?
A: Distortion denotes the alteration of the original shape of an object or image. It may result from heat-treatment of glass, thickness variability of the materials used, mechanical stress applied by the framing system and changes in exterior wind pressure and interior building pressure. The range between the eyes and the lens of spectacles can also create image distortion.