OSHA Proposes New Respiratory Protection Rules

OSHA published two proposed rules in the June 6 Federal Register aimed at enhancing worker protections from respiratory hazards on the job.

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. The changes are expected to prevent approximately 4,000 injuries and illnesses and prevent about 900 deaths annually from cancer and other chronic diseases.

"It's critical that workers and employers select respirators that will protect users against over-exposures and adverse health effects," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "These proposed additions will assist employers and employees in fit testing respirators and properly selecting respirators based on the conditions in their workplaces."

In a notice of proposed rulemaking, OSHA will propose amending the existing Respiratory Protection Standard 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 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.

OSHA also is seeking comment on its proposal to approve a new testing protocol for its Respiratory Protection Standard. The proposed protocol is referred to as controlled negative pressure (CNP), which requires three different test exercises followed by two redonnings of the respirator. OSHA's current CNP protocol specifies eight test exercises, including one redonning of the respirator.

Written comments on both proposed rulemakings must be submitted by Sept. 4. Written comments (10 pages or fewer) can be faxed to OSHA's Docket Office at (202) 693-1648 or sent electronically to http://ecomments.osha.govecomments.osha.gov. Three copies of written comments and attachments must be submitted to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket H-049C (APF)or H-049D (CNP), Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., Washington, DC, 20210. Further information on submitting comments can be obtained by calling the Docket Office at (202) 693-2350.

OSHA plans to hold an informal public hearing on the APF proposal in Washington, DC in late summer or early fall of 2003. Interested parties who intend to present testimony at the hearing must notify OSHA of their intention to do so no later than Sept. 4. The meeting location and date will be announced following the comment period.

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