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MSA Provides Fit-Testing for Rescue Workers

Rescue workers at the World Trade Center site will be breathing a little easier, thanks to a new partnership that's providing respirator fit-testing.

It's been called one of the most hazardous work sites in the country. The World Trade Center in New York City has enough workplace hazards to challenge any safety professional.

MSA, a leading manufacturer of safety equipment, has formed a new "Partnership in Safety" to improve the level of safety at the World Trade Center site.

Sponsored by a $100,000 commitment from MSA, the partnership was formed to provide respirator fit-testing to all recovery workers at the World Trade Center site. Fit-testing is a process that allows qualified workplace safety professionals to ensure the proper fit of every worker's respirator.

"MSA is pleased to lead this important program," said John T. Ryan III, chairman and CEO of MSA. "Because of the support from the New York City Department of Health and the International Union of Operating Engineers, as well as from our distributors, we are confident that the recovery workers will receive the proper respiratory protection from potential hazards."

Along with MSA, the Partnership in Safety includes the International Union of Operating Engineers, New York City Department of Health and two safety equipment distributors: Safeware and Olympic Glove and Safety. These partners, in close coordination with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), are ensuring that workers at the site have the proper protection from respiratory hazards.

OSHA Administrator John Henshaw said his agency appreciates the work MSA is doing to help the New York recovery operation. "The company is to be commended for their generous and quick response to help ensure the safety and health of the rescue workers at the World Trade Center site," Henshaw added.

The World Trade Center site has multiple stationary fit-testing facilities, operated by professionals who are performing the fit-testing. Professionals from OSHA and the International Union of Operating Engineers also are providing on-site assistance with scheduling, training and distribution of respiratory protection, along with other personal protective equipment.

"We were delighted we when heard about the Partnership in Safety program," said Ralph Pascarella, training director for the International Union of Operating Engineers. "The International Union of Operating Engineers has been working non-stop since the disaster to supply hard hats and fit-testing. With the collective resources of all involved in the Partnership In Safety, we will be able to heighten the protection provided to our workers."

Approximately 100 workers are being fit tested per day at the World Trade Center site. To serve workers on all shifts, fit-testing is conducted from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. each day. The partnership estimates that 2,000-3,000 workers will have been fit-tested by the conclusion of the program.

"The New York City Department of Health has been working to ensure that site conditions at the World Trade Center site are compliant with safety standards," said Kelly McKinney, associate commissioner of regulatory and environmental health for the New York City Department of Health. "We are confident that the Partnership in Safety program will lead to improved respiratory protection at ground zero."

The Partnership in Safety program is part of MSA's ongoing disaster relief efforts. Since Sept. 11, MSA has provided on-site assistance at the World Trade Center site to train personnel on the proper use of their safety equipment. Along with on-site assistance, MSA also was able to ship several truckloads of safety equipment to New York and Washington within 24 hours of the attacks. The company continues to supply safety equipment to the sites.

For employers and employees at companies where respirators are used, MSA offers a Respirator Fact. Respirators provide varying levels of protection from airborne contaminants and the type of respirator used depends on the contaminants and the conditions where employees are working.

Respirators that supply air and are self-contained, such as the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) worn by firefighters, deliver the highest levels of protection and are used in atmospheres considered by OSHA to be "Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health" (IDLH). But air-purifying respirators, which rely on filtering media to prevent inhalation of particles, gases and vapors, provide acceptable levels of protection for many common applications. However, they cannot be used in atmospheres that are oxygen deficient. The key differences between the main types of respirators are.

  • SCBA: Delivers air through pressurized cylinders, carried on the back or hip, that provide air for up to 60 minutes. Common applications include firefighting/HAZMAT/emergency response.
  • Air-line respirator: Provides air to user via an air-supply hose connected to a larger, pressurized air cylinder or air compressor. Generally used at nuclear power plants, for HAZMAT operations, and by utilities and chemical plants.
  • Powered air-purifying respirator: Pulls outside air through filters by battery-powered motor/blower module. Cools user's face with constant flow of air. Used in asbestos abatement, mining, and chem-bio remediation operations.
  • Gas Masks: Resistant to most chemical-biological (chem-bio) hazards. Used by the military and for chem-bio remediation.
  • Full-mask respirator: Provides full-face protection and is used with filter cartridges. Applications cover all industries.
  • Half-mask respirator: Used with filter cartridges, and are durable and reusable. Covers only the mouth and nose. Used in all industries and for home improvement projects.
  • Disposable respirator: Provides inexpensive protection. Breathing resistance is low. Used in all Industries and for home improvement projects.

MSA explains that particulate filters are divided into three levels of efficiency for each of three filter classes. The three levels of efficiency are 95 percent, 99 percent and 99.97 percent. The three classes of filters are labeled N for "not resistant to oil;" R for "resistant to oil;" and P for "oil proof."

edited by Sandy Smith

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