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National News Release   USDL: 98-04
Thursday, January 8, 1998
Contact: Frank Kane (202) 219-8151


INCLUDES SAVING LIVES OF FIREFIGHTERS BATTLING BLAZES

OSHA IMPROVES RESPIRATOR PROTECTION FOR FIVE MILLION WORKERS IN 1.3 MILLION WORKSITES

Firefighters battling indoor blazes are among the more than 900 workers annually whose lives can be saved by revision of a 25-year-old standard on respirator protection, Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman announced today.

The strengthened respirator protection also is estimated to prevent more than 4,000 injuries and illnesses annually. The new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements will cover about five million American workers in 1.3 million establishments (mostly manufacturing) in all industry sectors covered by OSHA except agriculture.

"One of my top priorities is to guarantee a safe and healthful workplace for all of America's workers," said Herman. "This is a major step forward in improving employee protection against toxic substances. In addition to saving lives and preventing injuries and illnesses, employers will realize up to $94 million a year in savings on injury and illness-related costs."

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Charles N. Jeffress said, "OSHA's ultimate goal is to reduce injuries and illnesses. Improving and updating existing standards, as we did with this one, is one way to reach that goal."

The new standard reflects current respirator technology and better ways to ensure they fit. The revised standard also clarifies responsibility for administering a respirator program and its provisions, adds definitions, and provides specific guidance on respirator selection, use, hazard evaluation, medical evaluations, fit testing, and training.

The changes also will simplify respirator requirements by deleting duplicated provisions and revising other respirator-related provisions in OSHA standards to make all of them consistent.

It also addresses use of respirators in Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) atmospheres, including firefighting. During interior structural firefighting (an IDLH atmosphere), self-contained breathing apparatus is required and at least two firefighters must enter and remain in visual and voice contact with each other at all times. In addition, two firefighters must be on standby if two firefighters are engaged in interior structural firefighting in the burning building ("two-in / two-out") to provide safety. This requirement will be applicable to state and local government firefighters in the 25 states that operate OSHA-approved state plans through the adoption of an identical or "at least as effective" standard. Federal OSHA has no jurisdiction over such workers but it does have jurisdiction over federal employees who fight fires and private-sector employees who fight fires (e.g., those in industrial fire brigades).

Other major requirements of a respirator program as outlined in the standard are:
  • Written plan with worksite-specific procedures to tailor program to each worksite.

  • Hazard evaluation required to characterize respiratory hazards and conditions of work to assist employers in selecting appropriate respirators.

  • Medical evaluation required to determine ability of workers to wear the respirator selected.

  • Fit testing of tight-fitting respirators required to reduce faceseal leakage and ensure that the respirators provide adequate protection.

  • Training required to ensure that employees use respirators safely.

  • Periodic program evaluation required to ensure that respirator use continues to be effective.

States and territories with their own occupational safety and health plans must adopt comparable standards and extend their applicability to state and local government employees within six months. These states and territories include Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Virgin Islands, Washington and Wyoming. Connecticut and New York, whose plans cover public employees only, also must adopt a comparable standard.

The revised standard will be published in the Thursday, Jan. 8, 1998, Federal Register. The effective date is April 8, 1998.



Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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