Respiratory Protection

Many workplaces have operations and processes that generate airborne concentrations of dusts, mists, fumes, aerosols, gases or vapours that necessitate the use of control measures such as engineering and/or administrative controls. When these measures fail or are impractical, the use of respiratory protective equipment may be necessary to protect employees from the effects of harmful substances. Different sections of the General Regulation identify what must be done when respiratory protective equipment is required.

There are different types of respirators, ranging from disposable paper masks to self-contained breathing apparatus with full face masks and air cylinders. When respiratory protection is required, it is important to ensure that the right type of respirator is used. The two basic types of respirators are: air-purifying and supplied-air.

As an employer, you must ensure that:

  • Adequate respiratory protective equipment is provided to each employee who may be exposed to the following conditions:
    • The level of concentration of an air contaminant may exceed 50% of the threshold limit value , (TLV)
    • There is the possibility of accidental exposure to a level of concentration of an air contaminant in excess of the TLV , or
    • The oxygen content of the atmosphere is less than (or may be less than) 19.5% by volume. Normal oxygen concentration is approximately 21%.
  • When respiratory protective equipment is required, a written code of practice is developed. The code must address the proper selection, care, use, maintenance, and fitting of the equipment to be used.
  • The code of practice:
    • Complies with the CSA standard Z94.4-93, "Selection, Use, and Care of Respirators" .
    • Is sufficient to protect employee health and safety when the code is followed.
    • Is developed in consultation with the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative, if any, or with employees if there is no committee or representative.
    • Is readily available to an officer or affected employees upon request.
    • Is implemented and adhered to in the workplace.
    • Is followed by employees.
  • Unless specified by the General Regulation 91-191, or by a health and safety officer, the following elements should be contained in a code of practice:
    1. Administering the program
      • Who is responsible to administer and maintain the program in the workplace?
    2. Identifying the hazards
      • What airborne hazards do employees need to be protected against?
    3. Selecting the appropriate respirator
      • Is the respirator NIOSH-approved for contaminants the employees will be exposed to?
    4. Respirator facial fit
      • Have employees been fit tested and field checked to ensure a proper facial fit with no leaks?
    5. Training
      • Have employees been properly trained in the selection, use and care of their respirators?
    6. Respirator use
      • Do supervisors ensure employees use and care for their respirators properly?
    7. Cleaning, maintenance and storage of respirators
      • Are respirators in good condition and properly stored?
    8. Health surveillance of respirator wearers
      • Do employees have any medical conditions that could affect their ability to wear respirators?
    9. Evaluating the program
      • Is the respirator program evaluated regularly to ensure it's adequate to protect all employees?
    10. Records
      • Are records kept for all employees who wear respirators?

(From: Developing a Code of Practice For Respiratory Protective Equipment, WorkSafeNB. Note: Appendix B of this document provides a sample code of practice that can be easily modified to meet the needs of your workplace.)

  • A training program is implemented for any employee who may have to use, issue, test, or maintain respiratory protective equipment or supervise an employee who may have to use respiratory protective equipment. The training program content must be guided by clause 8 of CSA standard Z94.4-93, "Selection, Use, and Care of Respirators" .

As an employee, you must:

  • Be trained and authorized by your employer to use respiratory protective equipment.
  • Wear required respiratory protective equipment and make sure that all the parts are present and working correctly (filters, valves, face piece, straps and buckles).
  • Notify your employer of any damaged respiratory protective equipment.
  • Follow the code of practice developed by your employer.
  • Co-operate in attaining an effective fit of the equipment and, in particular, be as clean shaven as is necessary to ensure an effective facial seal.

General Regulation - Occupational Health and Safety Act
N.B. Reg. 91-191

Part III AIR QUALITY

Section 25

25. Where

(a) the level of concentration of an air contaminant may exceed 50% of the threshold limit value in conditions that are part of the normal work procedure,

(b) there is the possibility of accidental exposure to a level of concentration of an air contaminant in excess of the threshold limit value, or

(c) the oxygen content of the atmosphere is less than or may be less than 19.5% by volume,

an employer shall provide adequate respiratory protective equipment to each employee who may be exposed to the conditions described in paragraphs (a) to (c).

Part VII PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

Section 45 Respiratory Protective Equipment

45. (1) Where an employer is required to provide respiratory protective equipment, the employer shall establish a written code of practice covering the proper selection, care, use, maintenance and fitting of the equipment that may be required to be used at that place of employment.

(2) An employer shall comply with CSA standard Z94.4-93 , "Selection, Use, and Care of Respirators" in developing a code of practice.

(3) An employer shall ensure that the code of practice referred to in subsection (1) is, when followed, sufficient to provide for the health and safety of employees at the place of employment.

(4) An employer shall consult with the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative, if any, or with employees if there is no committee or representative, in developing the code of practice.

(5) An employer shall ensure that a copy of the code of practice is readily available to an officer upon request and to employees in the areas where the respiratory protective equipment may be required to be used.

(6) An employer shall ensure that the code of practice referred to in subsection (1) is implemented and adhered to at the place of employment.

(7) An employee shall adhere to a code of practice referred to in subsection (1).

[N.B. Reg. 2001-33, s. 19]

Section 46

46. (1) An employer shall implement a training program for an employee who may have to use, issue, test or maintain respiratory protective equipment or supervise an employee who may have to use respiratory protective equipment.

(2) An employer shall use clause 8 of CSA standard Z94.4-93 , "Selection, Use, and Care of Respirators" as a guide to the necessary content of the training program required by subsection (1).

[N.B. Reg. 2001-33, s. 20]

Section 47

47. An employee who may be required to use respiratory protective equipment shall co-operate in attaining an effective fit of the equipment and, in particular, be as clean shaven as is necessary to ensure an effective facial seal.