Surgical masks are not respirators, and offer very little protection against fine particulate. Their main purpose is to protect the patient from sneezes and coughs by the operating room personnel, not to protect the wearer from toxic substances. You should only choose respirators which are NIOSH-certified for the particular use.
Michael J. Wright
Director of Health, Safety and Environment
(412) 562-2580 work
(412) 370-0105 cell
(412) 562-2584 fax
Sent: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 11:02 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Do surgical masks = 'respirators'?
I have an associated question to Bradley's that shows my lack of knowledge: what is/are the respiratory regulatory issues surrounding the operation of a grinder/mill, specifically one that can generate over 1 kilogram of material?
Thanks in advance, Jim
On Tue, Jan 25, 2011 at 8:53 AM,
As an analytical laboratory, we operate under the Laboratory Standard 1910.1450 of the OSHA regulations. We have excellent engineering controls, and have done monitoring for the the atmosphere contaminants that would be of concern. We don’t meet the OSHA threshold for any of those.
That being said, we sometimes have to grind samples in knife mills, and this can generate some dust (though still well below the threshold). Per 1910.134 Appendix D (http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p _table=STANDARDS&p_id=9784) we conduct and document training to ensure that our employees have a firm basis upon which to choose a dust mask appropriate to their task and comfort.
Now, my toxicology group wants to order surgical masks, and since 1910.134 defines a “respirator” as:
Filtering facepiece (dust mask) means a negative pressure particulate respirator with a filter as an integral part of the facepiece or with the entire facepiece composed of the filtering medium (emphasis added).
In light of the above definition, I am forced to ask: is a surgical mask considered a ‘respirator’? Do I now need to document a) that there is no condition which requires use of a respirator/surgical mask/form of protection in the toxicology section and b) that if not, all of the toxicologists are also trained in accordance with Appendix D to 1910.134?
Dr. Bradley K. Norwood
(804) 271-5572 ext. 307
(804) 641-4641 (cell)
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