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OSHA Compliance Knowledge Base
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OSHA Compliance Knowledge Base .: Personal Protective Equipment .: Dust masks vs. Respirators

Dust masks vs. Respirators

I remember hearing once that it was OK to hand out a dust mask for employees working with dusty product but it had to have only one strap.? If it had two straps it would be classified as a respirator and would need to be part of an employer-sponsored respiratory program. Do you know of any specific OSHA "dust mask" guidelines?

All quotations are direct from OSHA materials:

Information Date: 01/08/1998 Federal Register #:63:1152-1300 "Filtering facepiece (dust mask).

The definition of "filtering facepiece" in the new OSHA rule is "a negative pressure particulate respirator with a filter as an integral part of the facepiece or with the entire facepiece composed of the filtering medium."

This new definition is derived from the definition of "filtering facepiece"

in the NIOSH Respirator Decision Logic (Ex. 38-20).

Employers who allow the use of these respirators when such use is not required need to comply with only paragraph (c)(2) of the standard, which requires that the employer provide the employee with the information contained in Appendix D.

If the respirator voluntarily worn is a filtering facepiece (dust mask), the employer is not required to include these workers in a written program.

The great majority of voluntary use situations involve the use of dust masks, i.e., filtering facepieces, which are provided for the employee's comfort. For example, some employees who have seasonal allergies may request a mask for comfort when working outdoors, or an employee may request a dust mask for use while sweeping a dusty floor. There are no medical limitations on the use of these respirators, so employers who allow their use need only ensure that the masks are not dirty or contaminated, that their use does not interfere with employees' ability to work safely, and that they provide the employees with the information contained in Appendix D, as required by paragraph (k) of the final rule.

Here is what Appendix D says:

Appendix D to Sec. 1910.134 (Mandatory) Information for Employees Using Respirators When Not Required Under the Standard. "Respirators are an effective method of protection against designated hazards when properly selected and worn. Respirator use is encouraged, even when exposures are below the exposure limit, to provide an additional level of comfort and protection for workers. However, if a respirator is used improperly or not kept clean, the respirator itself can become a hazard to the worker.

Sometimes, workers may wear respirators to avoid exposures to hazards, even if the amount of hazardous substance does not exceed the limits set by OSHA standards. If your employer provides respirators for your voluntary use, of if you provide your own respirator, you need to take certain precautions to be sure that the respirator itself does not present a hazard.

You should do the following:

1. Read and heed all instructions provided by the manufacturer on use, maintenance, cleaning and care, and warnings regarding the respirator's limitations.

2. Choose respirators certified for use to protect against the contaminant of concern. NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, certifies respirators.

A label or statement of certification should appear on the respirator or respirator packaging. It will tell you what the respirator is designed for and how much it will protect you.

3. Do not wear your respirator into atmospheres containing contaminants for which your respirator is not designed to protect against. For example, a respirator designed to filter dust particles will not protect you against gases, vapors, or very small solid particles of fumes or smoke.

4. Keep track of your respirator so that you do not mistakenly use someone else's respirator."

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