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A Guide to Respiratory Protection

D. Allen Hughes, PE

In industry, respirators are often viewed as a quick fix for protecting employees against overexposures to airborne contaminants in areas of inadequate ventilation. However, there are limitations on the use of respirators that, if exceeded, can subject employees to serious or fatal health consequences. References to respirators can been found as early as ancient Roman times and the Middle Ages. Early respirators consisted of animal bladders and rags wrapped around the nose and mouth. In the 19th century, fire fighters developed masks, that combined aerosol filters and vapor absorbents. During World War I, the Bureau of Mines developed respirators for use by the army. Following the war, the need to protect uniformed individuals from the improper use of army surplus respirators led to the development of the first US respirator standards by the Bureau of Mines. The first respirator approval was issued in 1920 for a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). Other federal standards, certifications and approvals followed which eventually led to the present OSHA respiratory standards and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

For many people the term “respirator” may invoke images of single strap dust masks similar to those sold at most hardware store, the gas masks worn by military personnel, or self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) worn by fire-fighters. Regardless of the type of respirator, if it is not properly used it can have detrimental health effects ranging from slight irritation, to illness or, in the worst case, death. This course introduces the correct uses of the various types of respirators.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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NY PE & PLS: You must choose courses that are technical in nature or related to matters of laws and ethics contributing to the health and welfare of the public. NY Board does not accept courses related to office management, risk management, leadership, marketing, accounting, financial planning, real estate, and basic CAD. Specific course topics that are on the borderline and are not acceptable by the NY Board have been noted under the course description on our website.