News | August 23, 2006

OSHA Revises Respiratory Protection Standards

Washington - New Assigned Protection Factors (APFs) for respiratory protection programs are being incorporated into the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) respiratory protection standard, the agency announced.

This APF final rule completes the revision of the reserve sections of OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard as published in 1998. The Respiratory Protection Standard will now contain provisions necessary for a comprehensive respiratory protection program, including selection and use of respirators, training, medical evaluation and fit testing.

"This standard helps employers and employees select the right respirator for the job," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. "And with the right respirator employees will have adequate protection to be safe and healthy at work."

APFs are numbers that indicate the level of workplace respiratory protection that a respirator or class of respirators is expected to provide to employees when used as part of an effective respiratory protection program. An APF table is being included in the final standard to guide employers in the selection of air-purifying, powered air-purifying, supplied-air (or airline respirator) and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) respirators. (The table is attached to this release).

Employers must follow these new requirements and use APFs to select the appropriate type of respirator based upon the exposure limit of a contaminant and the level of the contaminant in the workplace. Employers select respirators by comparing the exposure level found in the workplace and the maximum concentration of the contaminant in which a particular type of respirator can be used (the Maximum Use Concentration, or MUC). Employers generally determine the MUC by multiplying the respirator's APF by the contaminant's exposure limit. If the workplace level of the contaminant is expected to exceed the respirator's MUC, the employer must choose a respirator with a higher APF.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health.

SOURCE: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)