Caution Urged for North and South Carolina Employees Required to Wear Respirators

Most U.S. workers don’t wake up in the morning anticipating the possibility of having to wear a mask that day to protect them from potentially harmful chemicals or gases.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control, about 5 percent of employees do.

In fact, respirators will become necessary for workers in about 20 percent – or about 1.3 million – of establishments at some point during their job.

Think firefighters or chemical clean-up crews, to name a few.

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A respirator is essentially protective gear that covers the face, nose and mouth and purifies the air of hazardous particles, such as dust, gases, vapors or possible infectious diseases.

Our Spartanburg workers compensation attorneys know that the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration has updated guidelines for employers that require their workers to use these devices.

It’s considered to be the “last line of defense” to ensure worker safety, used only if other methods of filtering the air are not feasible or haven’t yet been enacted.

According to the CDC, they work in two basic ways. The first removes air contaminants and allows you to breathe through them. Other types of respirators supply a fresh supply of clean air from a separate source.

But not all of these devices are created equal, and some may not provide the proper level of protection to prevent workplace illnesses or injury in Spartanburg and elsewhere.
Respirators that are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Health and safety have been tested by government scientists for effectiveness and durability.
But the CDC is warning buyers and users to beware.

Unfortunately, there have been a number of companies that have falsely labeled their respirator products as NIOSH-approved, when the agency had in fact found a number of those models showed up to 80 percent leakage of harmful airborne chemicals and gases.

The agency admits it can be tough to differentiate from an approved product and one that isn’t. The most reliable indicator is the NIOSH TC# printed on both the box and the product. It can also be verified by checking the TC number on the agency’s website.
Another indicator can be if the respirator has a design on it, such as a floral print, it’s probably not approved. And the agency doesn’t approve surgical masks – only respirators with very specific qualities.

In addition to falsely-advertised respirator products, there are also more than 50 different brands of respirators that were once approved by the agency, but are no longer, either because of shifting industry standards or changes to the product itself. So your employer may have purchased these respirators, thinking they would provide adequate protection, but they won’t.

And simply purchasing the correct product isn’t enough. Under federal OSHA guidelines, employers are required to develop a written and comprehensive respiratory protection program for all workers who may need to use respirators.

These written programs have to include company procedures for:

-Selecting and maintaining respirators.

-Fit-testing the respirators.

-Training workers on the airborne hazards they face.

-Training workers on the proper use and maintenance of respirators.

-Medical evaluations for respirator use.

If you or someone you love has become seriously ill from a work-related hazard or is exposed to a hazardous substance on the job and need to file a disability claim contact the Lee Law Offices, P.A. for help regarding your case. Call 1-800-887-1965 for a free initial consultation to discuss your rights today.

Additional Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Respirator Trusted-Source Information Page

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