RRP: Air Monitoring the OSHA Way

How do you know if a job has created or is creating levels above the PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit)? Usually it will require having a trained person conduct air monitoring that measures the amount of dust in the air. These measurements determine if respirators are required by OSHA, and specify the appropriate level of protection. Workers must wear proper respirators while air monitoring is being done. A worker being monitored wears a small plastic canister clipped to his/her clothing near the face. A pump in a device clipped to the belt draws air and dust into the canister. The canister is then sent to a lab to measure how much lead dust was in the air. The results are measured in micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3). If the amount of lead dust in the air exceeds the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3, workers must wear at least a half-face respirator with an N100 (or HEPA) rating and certain OSHA requirements must be followed. Results may show that respirators are not necessary or that a greater level of protection is needed. If the results show lead dust levels in the air above 500 µg/m3, a more protective respirator is required. OSHA Requires Worker Training Training must be provided to employees who are required to use respirators. The training must be comprehensive, understandable, and recur annually or more often if necessary. This training should include at a minimum: - Why the respirator is necessary and how improper fit, use, or maintenance can compromise its protective effect - Limitations and capabilities of the respirator - Effective use in emergency situations - How to inspect, put on and remove, use and check the seals - Maintenance and storage - Recognition of medical signs and symptoms that may limit or prevent effective use - General requirements of OSHA's respirator standard, 29 CFR 1910.134 All respiratory protection must meet NIOSH Testing standards (National Institute for Occupational Health). They will be marked with NIOSH designations like P100, N95 or the like. Basically, the “code” for breathing protection is as follows: The number is the efficiency of filtration. An N100 and a P100 basically filter 100%. Correspondingly, an N95 or a P95 filter at 95% efficiency. The Letter identifications mean N = Not to be used with oil. R = R means "resistant to oils." Can be used for eight hours with chemicals and pesticides that contain oil. P = P means "oil proof." Can be used with oil and non-oil hazards; may be able to use longer than eight hours. HE = High Efficiency, the filter used on a PAPR (Can be used with oils.) Check with manufacturer's instructions for time restrictions; or change when you notice a decrease in airflow. Respirator Selection Airborne concentration of lead: Not in excess of 50 µg/m3 OSHA Required respirator (1) = Half-mask air-purifying respirator equipped with high efficiency filters (2,3) Airborne concentration of lead: Not in excess of 250 µg/m3     OSHA Required respirator = Full facepiece, air-purifying respirator with high efficiency filters (3). Airborne concentration of lead: Not in excess of 500 µg/m3     OSHA Required respirator = (1) Any powered, air-purifying respirator with high efficiency filters (3); or (2) Half-mask supplied-air respirator operated in positive-pressure mode (2). Airborne concentration of lead: Not in excess of 1000 µg/m3     OSHA Required respirator = Supplied-air respirators with full facepiece, hood, helmet, or suit, operated in positive pressure mode. Airborne concentration of lead: Greater than 1000 µg/m3, unknown concentration, or fire-fighting OSHA Required respirator = Full facepiece, self-contained breathing apparatus operated in positive-pressure mode. (1). Respirators specified for higher concentrations can be used at lower concentrations of lead. (2). Full facepiece is required if the lead aerosols cause eye or skin irritation at the use concentrations. (3). A high efficiency particulate filter means 99.97 percent efficient against 0.3 micron size particles. Regardless of EPA, RRP, OSHA, HUD or any other alphabet regulation, personal protection is a good idea, and respiratory protection is perhaps the smartest, because regardless of whether it is required or recommended, lead dust is the most toxic form of lead and breathing it on a regular basis (even in small quantities) will cause lead poisoning. Manufacturers and sources of masks and respirators such as 3M and Certified Renovator Supply can help you find the right product at the best cost for personal protection that may be priceless.