Respiratory Protection Standard Addresses Important OSHA Regulatory Issues

June 20, 2003
The ANSI Z88 Committee on Respiratory Protection is nearing completion of a final voluntary consensus standard titled, "Standard Practices for Respiratory Protection" (ANSI/AIHA Z88.2). The previous ANSI standard is expired.

According to the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the secretariat for the standard, it has important bearing on the debate about regulatory steps recently announced by OSHA. OSHA announced The Z88 Committee approved a final draft by a consensus vote in late May, and a concurrent public review process will conclude in the near future. ANSI procedures now require that the committee address the substance of any negative votes, as well as any substantive comments received through the public review process, before the final draft becomes an American National Standard.

This draft standard is of special interest because it addresses the primary issue in the recent OSHA proposal to amend its respiratory protection standard. The agency wants to amend the Respiratory Protection Standard to include a new fit testing procedure and incorporate new Assigned Protection Factors (APFs) for respiratory protection programs.

OSHA plans to incorporate APFs as part of a complete respiratory protection program to assist workers and employers in the proper selection of respirators. APFs are numbers that reflect the workplace level of respiratory protection that respirators are expected to provide to employees. The agency's proposal contains OSHA's preliminary decisions on an APF Table, definitions for APFs and maximum use concentrations, and amendments to replace the existing APF requirements in OSHA's substance-specific standards. The draft ANSI standard recommends protective factors that are very similar to those in OSHA's proposal, except for a more conservative APF for filtering facepieces (disposable respirators).

The draft standard approved by the committee also addresses many other issues of key importance to the proper use of respiratory protection in the workplace and of interest to stakeholders, including:

  • Requirements for respiratory protection programs;
  • Standard operating procedures for programs;
  • Selection, limitation and use of respirators;
  • Training;
  • Fit testing;
  • Maintenance, inspection, storage, and disposal;
  • Breathing air and oxygen-deficient atmospheres; and
  • Recordkeeping.

Additional information about the standard and other activities of the ANSI Z88 Committee on Respiratory Protection can be found at www.aiha.org.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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