Many employees across the world deal with respiratory hazards while at work. From harmful dusts from mining and manufacturing to infectious particles in healthcare and public safety, these employees can fall victim to lung-related illnesses and infections by simply going to work. To best protect them, it is paramount that those in charge take a proactive approach to adequate respiratory protection.
Respiratory hazard protection is multifaceted by promoting a safe environment with preventive measures. The process should begin with a formal workplace hazard assessment. Done by qualified professionals, this assessment should cover each situation in which workers may be exposed to harmful emissions, infectious materials and other hazards impacting air quality. These air quality tests require specific special equipment but can determine the source and scope of risk.
Once the assessment has concluded, steps should be taken to mitigate and eliminate the perceived threats. It’s recommended to approach hazard reduction through administrative and engineering controls. Administrative controls refer to alterations made to employee tasks or how they are executed in order to lessen exposure. It could include strategic scheduling, establishing written operating procedures and using signage to clearly display the correct operating procedures.
Engineering controls refer to changes designed with the intention of removing or diluting the hazard. For example, an organization can outfit a site with vacuum and ventilation systems to subtract the threat from the air. Another example is the implementation of automated systems. These pieces of equipment can replace or minimizing manual tasks, limiting exposure.
Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, is essential when hazards cannot be eliminated or fully mitigated. These tools work to protect employees’ lungs from contamination or infection when worn and maintained properly.
Examples of respiratory PPE include masks, respirators, supplied air systems and self-contained breathing apparatuses. These tools work to clean the air with chemicals, filter out the particles from the air or supply clean air from an outside source. It’s important to choose the correct type of respirator based on the threat to properly prevent the inhalation of hazardous chemicals or infectious particles.
Occupational lung diseases are the primary cause of work-related illness across the United States, despite being entirely preventable. Those in charge must make changes, invest in innovative solutions, and properly maintain their PPE to lessen workplace hazards and protect the health of their workers.
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