Green Job Hazards
Weather Insulating/Sealing: Respiratory Protection
Many blow-on/spray-on applications contain chemicals or materials which can cause irritation or sensitization. These have been highlighted in the unique hazards section for each application on the main weatherization webpage. However, some applications have similar respiratory protection requirements. For the blow-in materials such as fiberglass and cellulose, if engineering controls are not feasible, employers are required to supply workers with appropriate dust respirators if exposures exceed the PEL (29 CFR 1910.1000 Subpart Z, 29 CFR 1926.55 Appendix A).
SPF Respiratory Protection Recommendations
Workers in the SPF industry can be exposed to inhalation hazards from isocyanates and other hazardous chemical vapors or dusts. OSHA requires a hierarchy of controls, under which employers must first implement engineering controls (including elimination, substitution) and/or administrative controls whenever possible. If such controls are not feasible to achieve full compliance, personal protective equipment or any other protective measures must be used to ensure the employees are not exposed to air contaminants above permissible limits. However, for some situations engineering controls are not adequate. For the spray foam applicator and the helper (who is standing in close proximity and/or may switch duties with spray applicator) a respirator with full face mask should be provided and worn during application and clean-up to avoid skin contact. It is recommended that employers provide a supplied-air respirator for both safety and comfort of the worker since heat stress can become an issue.
If using a cartridge filter respirator, a full-face respirator with an organic vapor sorbent and particulate filter must be used. OSHA requires that employers develop a change-out schedule for the respirator cartridges to avoid saturating the filter capacity. See 29 CFR 1910.134 and 29 CFR 1926.103. Refer to the OSHA Respiratory Protection eTool for information on selecting the proper type of respirator and cartridge change-out schedules.
For non-applicators, respirators should be used to supplement worker protection only when engineering controls (for example, ventilation) have been shown to be inadequate or during the interim period when engineering controls are being installed. Additional information on Respiratory Protection can be found on OSHA’s web page on this topic. Employers and workers are encouraged to watch the Video on Respirator Protection.