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OSHA Proposes New Respirator Protocols

Thursday, October 13, 2016

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Federal regulators are looking to add two new fit-testing protocols to their standards on respiratory protection.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Oct. 6 that it had issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the measure, which would affect OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard. The changes, the agency said, will affect employers in the general, shipyard and construction industries.

Painter with half-mask respirator
© / Terry J Alcorn

The proposed protocols apply to full-facepiece and half-mask elastomeric respirators.

According to OSHA, the new fit protocols were proposed by manufacturer TSI Inc., and are modified versions of the PortaCount protocol that has been in use since 1988. OSHA notes that the proposed new protocols differ from the protocol already in use only in terms of exercise sets, exercise duration and sampling sequence.

Exercise Changes

The proposed new protocols eliminate some of the exercises used in the PortaCount protocol and add one exercise (jogging in place). Each exercise is performed for a shorter period, reducing the time required for the testing from 7.2 minutes to 2.5 minutes, OSHA notes.

According to the agency, TSI representatives cited peer-reviewed research in proposing the new protocols. The proposed protocols apply to full-facepiece and half-mask elastomeric respirators.

Appendix A of the Respiratory Protection Standard outlines a number of acceptable fit test protocols for different types of respirators, and allows for the proposal of new fit tests.

Public Review

The new protocols, which are subject to a public review and comment period, would not replace current protocols, but would supplement them. Employers would not be required to change protocols, but would be permitted to institute the new variations if they wished to.

The new protocols are described in detail here; the public is encouraged to submit feedback before the deadline of Dec. 6.


Tagged categories: Good Technical Practice; Government; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; Regulations; Respirators; Respiratory Protection Standard

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