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Are you ready to show OSHA your ROAM Written Policy as per Law?

OSHA ROAM (Rule of Air Management) Policies and Practices

Respiratory Protection so are you ready to show them your, WRITTEN AUTHORIZED WORSITE POLICIES INCLUDING THE ROAM POLICY? A respirator is a protective device that covers the nose and mouth or the entire face or head to guard the wearer against hazardous atmospheres. Respirators may be:

  • Tight-fitting – that is, half masks, which cover the mouth and nose and full face-pieces that cover the face from the hairline to below the chin; or
  • Loose-fitting, such as hoods or helmets that cover the head completely.
  • In addition, there are two major classes of respirators:
  • Air-purifying, which remove contaminants from the air; and
  • Atmosphere-supplying, which provide clean, breathable air from an uncontaminated source. As a general rule, atmosphere-supplying respirators are used for more hazardous exposures.

Why do employees need respirators? When employees must work in environments with insufficient oxygen or where harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, fumes, gases, vapors, or sprays are present, they need respirators. These health hazards may cause cancer, lung impairment, other diseases, or death. Where toxic substances are present in the workplace and engineering controls are inadequate to reduce or eliminate them, respirators are necessary. Some atmosphere-supplying respirators can also be used to protect against oxygen-deficient atmospheres. Increased breathing rates, accelerated heartbeat, and impaired thinking or coordination occur more quickly in an oxygen-deficient or other hazardous atmosphere. Even a momentary loss of coordination can be devastating if it occurs while a worker is performing a potentially dangerous activity such as climbing a ladder.

When do employees need to wear respirators? Employees need to wear respirators whenever engineering and work practice control measures are not adequate to prevent atmospheric contamination at the work-site. Strategies for preventing atmospheric contamination may include enclosing or confining the contaminant-producing operation, exhausting the contaminant, or substituting with less toxic materials. Respirators have their limitations and are not a substitute for effective engineering and work practice controls. When it is not possible to use these controls to reduce airborne contaminants below their occupational exposure levels, such as during certain maintenance and repair operations, emergencies, or when engineering controls are being installed, respirator use may be the best or only way to reduce worker exposure. In other cases, where work practices and engineering controls alone cannot reduce exposure levels to below the occupational exposure level, respirator use is essential. Where respirators are required to protect worker health, specific procedures are necessary to ensure the equipment’s effectiveness. OSHA’s respirator standard requires employers to establish and maintain an effective respiratory protection program when employees must wear respirators to protect against workplace hazards. Different hazards require different respirators, and employees are responsible for wearing the appropriate respirator and complying with the respiratory protection program. The standard contains requirements for program administration, work-site-specific procedures, respirator selection, employee training, fit testing, medical evaluation, and respirator use, cleaning, maintenance, and repair. Employees must use respirators while effective engineering controls, if they are feasible, are being installed. If engineering controls are not feasible, employers must provide respirators and employees must wear them when necessary to protect their health. The employee’s equipment must be properly selected, used, and maintained for a particular work environment and contaminant. In addition, employers must train employees in all aspects of the respiratory protection program.

The primary objective of the respiratory protection program is to prevent exposure to air contaminated with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, vapors, or sprays, and thus to prevent occupational illness. A program administrator must be responsible for the program. This person must know enough about respirators to supervise the program properly. Any respirator program should stress thorough training of all respirator users. Employees must be aware that a respirator does not eliminate the hazard. If the respirator fails, the user will be overexposed to dangerous substances. To reduce the possibility of failure, the respirator must fit properly and be maintained in a clean and serviceable condition. Employers and employees must understand the respirator’s purpose and limitations. Users must not alter or remove the respirator even for a short time, even if it is uncomfortable.

An effective respirator program must cover the following factors:

  • Written work-site specific procedures;
  • Program evaluation;
  • Selection of an appropriate respirator approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH);
  • Training;
  • Fit testing;
  • Inspection, cleaning, maintenance, and storage;
  • Medical evaluations;
  • Work area surveillance; and
  • Air quality standards.

Whenever OSHA standards or employers require respirator use, there must be a complete respiratory protection program. Employers must have written operating procedures to ensure that employees use the respirators safely and properly. Users must be familiar with these procedures and with the respirators available and their limitations. In workplaces with no hazardous exposures, but where workers choose to use respirators voluntarily, certain written program elements may be necessary to prevent potential hazards associated with respirator use. Employers must evaluate whether respirator use itself may actually harm employees. If so, employers must medically evaluate employees and, if necessary, restrict respirator use, as well as comply with program elements. Employers must inform employees voluntarily using respirators of basic information in Appendix D of OSHA’s respiratory protection standard. Employers must evaluate the effectiveness of a company’s respirator program regularly and modify the written operating procedure as necessary to reflect the evaluation results. A labor-management team may be effective in conducting these periodic evaluations.

How do you choose the correct respirator? Choosing the right equipment involves:

  • Determining what the hazard is and its extent,
  • Considering user factors that affect respirator performance and reliability, and
  • Selecting an appropriate NIOSH-certified respirator.

Air-purifying respirators use filters or sorbents to remove harmful substances from the air. They range from simple disposable masks to sophisticated devices. They do not supply oxygen and must not be used in oxygen-deficient atmospheres or in other atmospheres that are immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH). Atmosphere-supplying respirators are designed to provide breathable air from a clean air source other than the surrounding contaminated work atmosphere. They include supplied-air respirators (SARs) and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) units. The time needed to perform a given task, including the time necessary to enter and leave a contaminated area, is an important factor in determining the type of respiratory protection needed. For example, SCBAs, gas masks, or air-purifying chemical-cartridge respirators provide respiratory protection for relatively short periods. On the other hand, an atmosphere-supplying respirator that supplies breathable air from an air compressor through an air line can provide protection for extended periods. The peak airflow rate also is important in the use of a constant-flow SAR. The air-supply rate should always be greater than the maximum amount of air being inhaled in order to maintain the respiratory enclosure under positive pressure. Higher breathing resistance of air-purifying respirators under conditions of heavy work may causer the user breathing difficulty, particularly in hot, humid conditions. To avoid placing additional stress on the wearer, use the lightest respirator possible that presents the least breathing resistance. The following list presents a simplified version of characteristics and factors used for respirator selection. It does not specify the contaminant concentrations or particle size. Some OSHA substance-specific standards include more detailed information on respirator selection.

Hazard Respirator
Immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) 2
Oxygen deficiency Gas, vapor contaminants and other highly toxic air contaminants Full-facepiece, pressure-demand SCBA certified for a minimum service life of 30 minutes. A combination full-facepiece, pressure-demand SAR with an auxiliary self-contained air supply.
Contaminated atmospheres – for escape Positive-pressure SCBA. Gas mask. Combination positive-pressure SAR with escape SCBA.
Not immediately dangerous to life or health
Gas and vapor contaminants Positive-pressure SAR. Gas mask. Chemical-cartridge or canister respirator.
Particulate contaminants Positive-pressure SAR including abrasive blasting respirator. Powered air-purifying respirator equipped with high-efficiency filters. Any air-purifying respirator with a specific particulate filter.
Gaseous and particulate contaminants Positive-pressure supplied respirator. Gas mask. Chemical-cartridge respirator with mechanical filters.
Smoke and other fire-related contaminants Positive-pressure SCBA.


“Immediately dangerous to life or health” (IDLH) means an atmosphere that poses an immediate threat to life, would cause irreversible adverse health effects, or would impair an individual’s ability to escape from a dangerous atmosphere. Training must include an explanation of the following:

  • Why respirator use is necessary;
  • Nature of the respiratory hazard and consequences of not fitting, using, and maintaining the respirator properly;
  • Reason(s) for selecting a particular type of respirator;
  • Capabilities and limitations of the selected respirator;
  • How to inspect, put on and remove, and check the seals of the respirator;
  • Respirator maintenance and storage requirements;
  • How to use the respirator effectively in emergency situations, including when the respirator malfunctions; and
  • How to recognize medical signs and symptoms that may limit or prevent the effective use of the respirator.

Users should know that improper respirator use or maintenance may cause overexposure. They also should understand that continued use of poorly fitted and maintained respirators can cause chronic disease or death from overexposure to air contaminants.

OSHA has an electronic compliance assistance tool, or eTools, on its website that “walks” users through the steps required to develop a comprehensive safety and health program. The eTools are posted at, and are based on guidelines that identify four general elements critical to a successful safety and health management system:

  • Management leadership and employee involvement,
  • Work-site analysis,
  • Hazard prevention and control, and
  • Safety and health training.
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