OSHA Releases New Respiratory Protection Guidance

April 1, 2009
In its newly published guidance document, Assigned Protection Factors (APF), OSHA provides employers with vital information for selecting respirators for workers exposed to contaminants in the air.

The guidance focuses on mandatory respirator selection provisions added to the existing Respiratory Protection standard. OSHA revised this standard in 2006 to add APFs and Maximum Use Concentration (MUC) provisions.

APF means the workplace level of respiratory protection that a respirator or class of respirators is able to provide to workers. The higher the APF number (5 to 10,000), the greater the level of protection provided to the user. APFs are used to select the appropriate class of respirators that will provide the necessary level of protection against airborne contaminants. Such exposures can come from particles or a gas or vapor.

MUC, meanwhile, represents the limit at which the class of respirator is expected to provide protection. Whenever a hazard's exposure level exceeds MUC, employers should select a respirator with a higher APF. MUC means the maximum atmospheric concentration of a hazardous substance for which a worker can expect to be protected from when wearing a respirator.

"Proper respirator selection prevents exposure to hazardous contaminants and is an important component of an effective respiratory protection program," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Donald G. Shalhoub. "This guidance document serves as another useful resource for protecting the health and safety of workers at risk for respiratory illnesses."

APF and MUC are mandatory respirator selection requirements that can only be used after respirators are properly selected and are used in compliance with the entire standard. The Respiratory Protection standard requires fit testing, medical evaluations, specific training and proper respirator use. The standard applies to general industry, construction, longshoring, shipyard and marine terminal workplaces.

Access the guidance.

About the Author

Laura Walter

Laura Walter was formerly senior editor of EHS Today. She is a subject matter expert in EHS compliance and government issues and has covered a variety of topics relating to occupational safety and health. Her writing has earned awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI) and APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Her debut novel, Body of Stars (Dutton) was published in 2021.

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