OSHA Clarifies Policy on Use of Air Purifying Respirators

OSHA clarified its policy on the use of air purifying respirators to protect workers exposed to diisocyanates -- a group of\r\nchemicals with poor odor-warning properties.

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OSHA clarified its policy on the use of air purifying respirators (APRs) to protect workers exposed to diisocyanates -- a group of chemicals with poor odor-warning properties.

Under the Respiratory Protection Standard, revised in January 1998, employers may use air purifying gas and vapor respirator cartridges for hazardous chemicals, including those with little or no odor-warning properties.

Diisocyanates are contained in chemical compounds widely used in the manufacture of flexible and rigid insulating foams and specialized paints and varnishes, and are increasingly used in the automobile industry, auto body repair and construction.

Vapors from these chemicals can cause eye damage, skin irritation and sensitization, and various respiratory ailments.

"We''re clarifying this policy," explained OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress, "because the new standard makes obsolete some earlier interpretive letters on the use of APRs for protection against chemicals. We want to make sure there is no confusion about the use of APRs under our standard and compliance directive."

OSHA''s policy on the use of APRs for protection against chemicals with little or no odor-warning properties was outlined in both the respiratory protection standard, as well as its compliance directive in September 1998.

The policy was also explained in an interpretive letter on July 18, 2000 in response to requests for clarification.

The letter can be viewed on OSHA''s Web site at www.osha-slc.gov/OshDoc/Interp_data/I20000718.html

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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