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MAINTENANCE & CARE OF RESPIRATORS

This is a video about respirator maintenance and care requirements for any worker who wears a respirator. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration - also called "OSHA" - and State OSHA Agencies require employers to have a respiratory protection program that includes provisions for the cleaning, disinfecting, inspection, repair, and storage of respirators used by workers on the job.

This video does not cover all of the things that your employer must do under Federal OSHA or State OSHA Respiratory Protection Standards. This video can be part of the OSHA-required respiratory protection training, which includes many topics, like how to put on and take off a respirator and how to use, clean, and maintain your respirator. Your employer must also provide you with worksite-specific training.

While this video discusses some of your employer's responsibilities under OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard, it is important to remember that your respirator must be properly maintained so that it can protect you.

Respirators are not maintenance-free. OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard requires your employer to have a respiratory protection program. The program must provide for the cleaning, disinfecting, inspection, repair, and storage of each type of respirator used in your workplace. This includes respirators used in emergency situations, for emergency escape, and self-contained breathing apparatuses.

In addition, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health - also called NIOSH - requires each respirator manufacturer to include a section in their user instructions that provides the recommended practices for maintenance and care of the respirator.

Your employer must ensure that the respirator you use is clean, sanitary, and in good working order. Cleaning and disinfecting must be done using either the procedures in OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard or the procedures recommended by the respirator manufacturer, provided they are at least as effective as OSHA's. The manufacturer's procedures should always be checked to see if certain cleaners or disinfectants might damage the respirator and should not be used. If this is the case, the manufacturer's instructions must be followed.

In general, cleaning and disinfecting consists of taking the respirator apart, washing it, disinfecting it, thoroughly rinsing it, and putting it back together when it is dry. Respirators must be cleaned as often as necessary to prevent them from becoming unsanitary. In addition, respirators worn by more than one user must be cleaned and disinfected before being worn by a different user, and emergency use respirators must be cleaned and disinfected after each use.

While filtering facepiece respirators cannot be cleaned or disinfected, it is still important that you inspect them for cleanliness and damage before each use.

All respirators must be inspected for basic function before each use and during the cleaning and disinfecting process. A respirator inspection must include a check of the respirator's ability to work properly; the tightness of any connections; and the condition of the various parts, such as the facepiece, head straps, valves, tubes, hoses, and any cartridges, canisters, or filters. In addition, elastomeric parts must be checked for pliability and signs of deterioration. Regular care and maintenance of the respirator is important to be sure that it works properly.

If your respirator fails an inspection or is defective, your employer must remove it from service and either repair it or discard it. Repairs or adjustments must be made only by appropriately trained people. In addition, repairs must be made according to the respirator manufacturer's instructions and must use only NIOSH-approved parts that are designed for the respirator.

It is important for respirators to be stored properly to protect them from damage, contamination, dust, sunlight, extreme temperatures, excessive moisture, and damaging chemicals. Never leave your respirator hanging on a machine, lying on your workbench, or tossed into your toolbox or a drawer.

Always store your respirator in a way that prevents deforming the facepiece or exhalation valve. Avoid carrying a cup-shaped filtering facepiece respirator in your pocket or toolbox. This could crush it and cause the facepiece to be bent out of shape, preventing the respirator from sealing tightly to your face and properly protecting you.

Air-purifying respirators use a filter or cartridge to remove hazards from the air you breathe. A properly functioning air-purifying respirator can provide effective protection for as long as the filters or cartridges work correctly.

For respirators that use filters to clean the air, the filters must be replaced whenever they are damaged, soiled, or cause noticeably increased breathing resistance. Before each use, the outside of the filter material must be inspected. If the filter material is physically damaged or soiled, the filter must be replaced or, in the case of a filtering facepiece respirator, the respirator must be discarded.

Filtering facepiece respirators can be reused by the same worker, but only if the respirator is working properly, its shape remains unchanged, and the filter material is not physically damaged or soiled.

Of course, there may be reasons for disposing of a filtering facepiece respirator that still appears to be functional. Your employer must identify the circumstances in which a filtering facepiece respirator will be considered to be contaminated, unsanitary, or otherwise not able to be reused so that you can recognize when a new respirator is needed.

Some gas and vapor hazards require the use of respirator cartridges or canisters containing materials that absorb or remove these hazards from the air.

However, cartridges or canisters can only absorb a limited amount of hazardous gas or vapor. To ensure your protection, they must be replaced before they reach this limit.

If you use a respirator for protection against gases and vapors, your employer must determine a schedule for replacing worn out cartridges or canisters. This is known as a "change-out schedule." Your employer is responsible for providing this information to you, so you know when a cartridge or canister must be changed.

Remember, never rely on your ability to smell a contaminant to warn you of cartridge or canister failure. If you do smell a contaminant while wearing your respirator, leave the area and notify your supervisor immediately.

This video has provided you with a brief overview of OSHA's respirator maintenance and care requirements. There are many other things that you must know and do before you can safely use a respirator in a hazardous work environment. While this video may be a part of your respiratory protection training, your employer must also provide you with additional training on respirators, including worksite-specific training.

Remember, if you don't know if a respirator is needed for the task you will be doing, or if you are unsure about how to properly use a respirator or which filter or cartridge to use, talk to your supervisor before entering the hazardous area.

For more information about respirator use in your workplace, refer to these OSHA and NIOSH websites. You will find OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard, additional respirator training videos, and other guidance material to help you work safely.