Before occupational use of any respirator, a written respiratory protection program must be implemented meeting all the requirements of OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134 including, but not limited to, medical evaluation, fit testing, and training, and applicable OSHA substance specific standards. In Canada, CSA standard Z94.4 requirements must be met and/or requirements of the applicable jurisdiction, as appropriate.
A complete hazard assessment should always be performed to identify hazards present and options for dealing with them. Below are five common scenarios, with some thoughts to consider in selecting the appropriate type of respiratory protection. Of course, the hazard assessment may often point to the fact that additional personal protective equipment (PPE), such as eye protection or coveralls, may also be needed.
1. Preparing drywall
When preparing drywall or dealing with latex paint, an N95 or higher rated filter is typically used. However, if you are preparing surfaces that contain lead-based paint, you must use a “100” class particle filter (i.e., N100 or P100).
2. Applying latex paints
A disposable respirator with a carbon layer can help filter out nuisance odors associated with VOCs in paint. For heavier applications of latex paint, including where VOCs are above the permissible exposure limit, a reusable respirator with an organic vapor cartridge is commonly used. Workers who are spraying also typically add a particulate pre-filter to capture the mist.
3. Working with oil-based paints and stains, solvents and coatings
In this type of environment, a half or full-facepiece with an organic vapor cartridge and particulate pre-filter is one of the more popular options.
4. Working with decorative or faux finishes
Faux finishes can include any number of chemical components, so consult the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for chemical composition to choose a cartridge appropriate for the hazards.
5. Working with asbestos removal or mold remediation
Asbestos, lead, and mold each have their own substance-specific standards in the OSHA regulations and all require a “100” class filter. For asbestos, workers need at minimum a half-face piece reusable respirator with 100-class particulate filters. There are no government exposure limits for mold, but the EPA has guidelines for respiratory protection based on the level of contamination.