OSHA Delays Enforcement of Respiratory Protection Rule Provisions

OSHA plans to delay enforcing several provisions of the respiratory protection standard for establishments required to provide respirators for protection from potential exposure to tuberculosis. The new implementation deadline is July 1.

The six-month delay was adopted to allow affected employers to come into compliance with the additional requirements, and follows OSHA's withdrawal last month of its 1997 proposal on tuberculosis and the revocation of a separate respiratory protection standard for workers exposed to TB.

"Requirements such as annual fit testing and medical evaluations for covered employees may be new for some employers," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "We want to make sure they are aware of these new requirements and give them every opportunity to be able to successfully come into compliance."

With the withdrawal of the TB rule, OSHA announced it would begin applying the general industry respiratory protection standard for protection against the disease. This rule includes several requirements that were not as detailed in the revoked rule, such as updating the facility's respirator program, medical evaluation requirements, annual fit testing of respirators, and some training and recordkeeping provisions. During this six-month period, OSHA will not cite these new requirements for establishments with workers exposed only to tuberculosis. All elements of the revoked rule continue to be enforced under the corresponding elements of the current respiratory protection standard.

To meet the requirements of the agency's respiratory protection standard, employers will need to:

  • Revise their respiratory protection program
  • Conduct annual respiratory fit testing
  • Perform a medical evaluation and annual training for employees using respirators.

The announcement does not affect establishments already covered under the respiratory protection rule where there is exposure to hazardous substances other than tuberculosis. All provisions of the rule will continue to be applied to those employers.

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