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Questions & Answers
Question icon I manage a lumberyard and am concerned about stacks of lumber collapsing during the stacking process. What precautions should I be taking?

Answer icon Stacking lumber and other materials can be dangerous if workers do not follow safety guidelines. Falling material and collapsing loads can crush or pin workers, causing serious injuries or death.

To help prevent injuries when stacking lumber, limit stacks to 16 feet if they are handled manually, and to 20 feet if using a forklift. Remove all nails from used lumber before stacking, and stack and level the lumber on solidly supported bracing. After stacking, check to ensure that stacks are stable and self-supporting.

In addition to hazards associated with collapsing stacks, your workers may also experience injuries from lifting heavy or bulky loads manually or from using forklifts and other powered equipment improperly. A recently revised OSHA publication, “Materials Handling and Storage,” (OSHA 2236) provides detailed information about the safe handling and storage of lumber and other materials. It is available at no cost on the agency website at under Publications.
Question icon I know that I should be wearing a respirator when I’m exposed to dangerous fumes and vapors in my work, but I have no idea how to pick the right one. Where do I begin?
Answer iconYou’ve already taken the first step by recognizing the need to wear a respirator. Breathing in harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, fumes, gases, vapors, or sprays can cause cancer, lung impairment, other diseases, or even death.

Choosing the appropriate respirator depends on several variables, including what the hazard is and its concentration in the air you are breathing. Respirators come in two major classes. Air-purifying respirators remove contaminants from the air you breathe, and atmosphere-supplying respirators provide clean, breathable air from an uncontaminated source. As a general rule, atmosphere-supplying respirators are used for more hazardous exposures. In addition, respirators can be tight-fitting—that is, half masks that cover the mouth and nose, or full facepieces that cover the face from the hairline to below the chin; or loose-fitting, such as hoods or helmets that cover your head completely.

Regardless of what type respirator you select, it is critical that it be certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and that you use and maintain it properly. A newly revised OSHA publication, “Respiratory Protection,” (OSHA 3079) provides more indepth information about selecting, using, and maintaining respirators. It is available at no cost on the agency website at under Publications.

Question iconI work in a noisy auto repair shop and have started to notice a ringing in my ears. I’ve tried wearing earplugs but they hurt my ears. What should I do?
Answer iconExposure to high noise levels causes temporary or permanent hearing loss. The extent of the damage depends primarily on the intensity of the noise and the duration of the exposure.

Your employer is required to monitor noise levels in your workplace. If you are exposed to noise levels of 85 decibels or more, averaged over eight working hours, your employer must provide you with hearing protectors. However, no type of hearing protection will protect you if you don’t use it. Because you have experienced discomfort in the past wearing earplugs, perhaps a hearing muff will work better for you. Your employer is required to offer you a selection of at least one variety of hearing plug and one variety of hearing muff, suitable for your work environment.

In addition, at noise levels of 85 decibels or more, averaged over eight working hours, your employer must establish and maintain an audiometric testing program. Talk to your employer about the ringing in your ears. Request a hearing test to determine if you have experienced hearing loss and initiate protective followup measures to protect against future damage.

A newly revised OSHA publication, “Hearing Conservation,” (OSHA 3074) provides more information about occupational noise exposure and ways to protect yourself. It is available at no cost on the agency website at under Publications. JSHQ