Personal protective equipment is crucial in keeping workers safe while on the clock and works to minimize exposure to hazards that could result in injury, illness, or even death. OSHA has set and enforces regulations regarding personal protective equipment to most workers in the United States. Many of OSHA’s requirements are aligned with the standards set forth by the American National Standards Institute, including eye and face protection, head protection, and hearing protection. OSHA requires employers to provide PPE to workers at no charge and to train workers on the proper use and care of the equipment. The PPE provided by the employer must fit well and match the level of hazard present.
However, there are several other agencies who develop and publish their own set of standards. For instance, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has several codes regarding standards for breathing apparatuses, personal alert safety systems, and other forms of personal protective equipment used in fire protection; the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has developed standards to address infectious diseases in healthcare; and the FDA set forth PPE regulations for equipment used as medical device, like medical gloves, surgical masks etc.
If respirators are used as PPE in a workplace, the facility will need to have a written “respiratory protection program that lays out the rules of selecting, testing, wearing, storing, and cleaning this type of PPE.”
When OSHA conducts an inspection of the workplace, they will be looking for the following:
- Records of PPE training,
- a respiratory protection written program,
- appropriate PPE available to employees, and
- existing procedures for testing, storing, and cleaning PPE.
If OSHA finds a workplace in violation of their regulations or noncompliant, the inspector can issue a citation or fine. Even though PPE is regulated and monitored by OSHA, the government agency also provides comprehensive training materials and materials to keep the workplace in compliance.