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Making respiratory protection safer and more comfortable

Many employees in Louisiana are exposed to dangerous substances at the workplace on a daily basis. According to the National Safety Council, there were about 15,000 cases of lost work days and 110 workplace deaths due to exposure to dangerous substances around the country during 2012. However, these numbers could be greatly reduced had these employees been compliant with OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standards.

While employees are offered respiratory protection products at the workplace, many refrain from using them because they are uncomfortable to wear. As a result, plans are underway to create respiratory facepieces that are not only more comfortable, but also safer. This is achieved by making them compact, lighter and less restrictive on vision and breathing so employees will desire to wear them routinely.

In addition, for the respirators to be effective, they must be systematically maintained. Therefore, employers are required to have a respiratory protection maintenance program in which employees are trained how to properly inspect, clean, repair, disinfect and store all of the various kinds of workplace respirators to keep them in good working order and in the same condition they were when they were first made. It is also vital that employers are aware of the specific types of hazards at the workplace, and that they obtain the right type of respiratory protection for their employees. A safety professional who has a complete understanding of what causes an exposure hazard at the workplace can confirm that the correct respiratory protection is being used.

Employers are required to provide a safe workplace environment. This includes making sure each employee is wearing the proper gear that provides full protection from respiratory-type dangers. This type of occupational disease should be covered by workers' compensation, and an attorney can be of assistance to a worker who has developed such an illness.

Source: Safety and Health, "Trends in ... respiratory protection", Tracy Haas, Feb. 21, 2016

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