The NIH has established a Respiratory Protection Program in accordance with OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR, 1910.134). The program provides NIH-wide procedures for the proper selection, use and care of respiratory protective equipment, and is maintained by Office of Research Services (ORS), Division of Occupational Health and Safety (DOHS).
If you are required to wear a respirator for work at the NIH, you must be enrolled in the NIH Respiratory Protection Program (RPP). Under this program you need to:
Complete an initial respirator medical clearance questionnaire through the NIH Occupational Medical Service, or OMS (Building 10, 6th floor clinic, (301) 496-4411). The clearance is required for users of ALL respirators, INCLUDING powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) and N-95 respirators. The clearance is only required upon initial enrollment.
Complete initial, or refresher (12-month), respirator training.
Schedule and complete initial, or refresher (12-month), respirator fit testing (fit testing is not required for PAPRs).
Once enrolled, training and scheduling will be coordinated through email notifications.
For voluntary use of a respirator, and for any other questions concerning respirator training and fit testing, contact the ORS, DOHS Respiratory Protection Program Manager (firstname.lastname@example.org or (301) 496-3457).
The program covers all NIH employees with the exception of those working in the NIH Clinical Center and the Building 41A, Maximum Containment Laboratory (MCL). The Clinical Center provides administrative management for respiratory protection of personnel working with Mycobacterium tuberculosis in the Clinical Center. The DOHS provides administrative management for personnel working in the MCL and has established specific requirements for the use of Positive Pressure Airline Suits (PPAS).
Worksite evaluations, respirator selection, respirator training and fit testing are performed by ORS, DOHS. Medical clearance to wear a respirator is performed by the NIH, ORS, DOHS, Occupational Medical Service (OMS). Appropriate respirators are provided to employees by the NIH at no cost to the employee.
Voluntary use of a NIOSH approved negative pressure, tight fitting respirator (e.g., class N-95 respirator) requires partial participation in the program. If ORS, DOHS determines that voluntary use will not in itself create a hazard, the supervisor must provide the employee with the written information provided in Appendix D, 29 CFR 1910.134, "Information for Employees Using Respirators When not Required Under the Standard", and the employee must be medically cleared to wear a respirator by ORS, DOHS, OMS. Contact ORS, DOHS to schedule an appointment with ORS, DOHS, OMS.
Employees using dust/mist masks are not required to be included in the program.
The following training videos have been developed the U.S. Department of Labor and provides valuable information about respirators.
U.S. Department of Labor's Respirator Safety Video
U.S. Department of Labor's The Difference Between Respirators and Surgical Masks Video
If you have any questions regarding NIH's Respiratory Protection Program or other respirator issues, contact the ORS, DOHS Technical Assistance Branch at (301) 496-3353.
Respirators are an effective method of protection against designated hazards when properly selected and worn. Respirator use is encouraged, even when exposures are below the exposure limit, to provide an additional level of comfort and protection for workers. However, if a respirator is used improperly or not kept clean, the respirator itself can become a hazard to the worker. Sometimes, workers may wear respirators to avoid exposures to hazards, even if the amount of hazardous substance does not exceed the limits set forth by OSHA standards. If your employer provides respirators for your voluntary use, or if you provide your own respirator, you need to be sure that the respirator itself does not present a hazard. You should do the following:
Read and heed all instructions provided by the manufacturer on use, maintenance, cleaning and care, and warnings regarding the respirators limitations.
Choose respirators certified for use to protect against the contaminant of concern. NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, certifies respirators. A label or statement of certification should appear on the respirator or respirator packaging. It will tell you what the respirator is designed for and how much it will protect you.
Do not wear your respirator into atmospheres containing contaminants for which your respirator is not designed to protect against. For example, a respirator designed to filter dust particles will not protect you against gases, vapors, or very small solid particles of fumes or smoke.
Keep track of your respirator so that you do not mistakenly use someone else's respirator.
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