PHYSICAL PLANT Services Respiratory Protection Program FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions pdf format, Adobe Acrobat Required (for printing)
  1. Are we using North exclusively?

    North is the standard issue for half and full-face negative pressure respirators for Physical Plant shops, primarily to make filter replacement easy and uncomplicated. Other brands are used for Powered Air Purifying Respirators, airline respirators, sandblasting helmet and ambient (fresh air) respirator set-ups.

  2. Do we have fresh air pumps?

    Yes. The Department of Facility Services has two such units. One has a 25-foot hose and one has a 100-foot hose. Neither unit gets constant use, so with some planning the fresh air pumps can be made available to Physical Plant.

  3. If someone asks for a dust mask can I just give it to him/her?

    I recommend that no one issue a respirator to anyone else, unless the wearer is part of a respirator program. Additionally, I would strongly recommend against giving a respirator to someone who doesn't work for you. Dust masks can be used by people not in a full respirator program, but there are two important requirements that must be met. First, a one page OSHA mandated form must be given or made available to the voluntary respirator wearer. Second, the supervisor must determine that the respirator is not going to be used to protect against any exposure above the Permissible Exposure Limit.

  4. What is considered an exposure and what isn't?

    An exposure event is an incident of contact with a chemical, biological or physical agent (e.g., air contaminant, infectious agent, noise, radiation, etc.) in the workplace by inhalation, ingestion, skin contact or absorption. In the case of our respiratory protection program, an inhalation exposure above the Permissible Exposure Limit is considered an overexposure and must be addressed by engineering or administrative controls. If those measures are infeasible, respirators may be used (not voluntarily) as a control. Any exposure below the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) is still an exposure, although not allowed by OSHA.

  5. Does the supervisor have to make sure that the employee is wearing his respirator?

    It is not the sole responsibility of the supervisor, but a combined effort of training from University Safety and Assurances and Facility Services management and the responsibility of the worker to utilize such training in his everyday work assignments. It is the supervisor's responsibility to make sure the training is available and to discipline those employees who are not following procedure or who are exercising poor judgment.

  6. Are supervisors supposed to be in the respirator program?

    Yes. Not as users, however. They play a critical role. Supervisors must determine whether exposure assessments are needed. Supervisors are in the best position to monitor day-to-day respirator activities and program compliance.

  7. Is fit testing required for positive pressure (PAPR) respirators, like it is for negative pressure respirators?

    Fit-testing is only required for tight-fitting respirators. However, even tight-fitting positive pressure respirators such as Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) require fit-testing.

  8. Will we receive the results of our medical exams?

    Corporate WORx Occupational Health Services will let you know the outcome of your exam. You may get copies of your medical records from Corporate WORx directly. If you need a copy for your own physician or another purpose, work directly with Corporate WORx for those requests. The University does not get or see any medical records - only a determination of your capability to wear a respirator.

  9. If you're wearing a respirator you're not be exposed to anything at all, are you?

    Wrong. Any filter of cartridge will let a percentage of the contaminant through. The filter or cartridge efficiency, in conjunction with the type of mask help determine the protection factor for a particular respirator, which translates into how effective (how many times over the Permissible Exposure Limit) that mask will be. If we could measure the actual concentration of the contamination outside the mask versus the concentration inside the mask, that ratio would be the actual protection factor. In most cases, employers will use the protection factors assigned to a particular class of respirators (10 for -faced respirators, 50 for full-faced respirators, etc.) which are established by NIOSH and OSHA based upon test information for that class. A safety margin is incorporated into the assigned protection factors. Even a protection factor of 1000 means, theoretically that one-thousandth of the concentration outside of the mask could be present inside of the mask. If 10 ppm of a solvent was present outside of a half-faced respirator, that translates into a maximum of 1 ppm of that solvent inside of the respirator. That is why we need to know the expected concentrations of the contaminants in the workplace, especially when respirators are in use. Also, the wrong filter may not filter out anything!

  10. Does a chemical have more penetration with a dust mask?

    Chemical vapors and gases will penetrate (or break through) a dust mask more quickly than through a chemical cartridge used with a respirator. Dust masks and filters are primarily designed to filter out particulate, dust, fibers and the like. As filter and dust masks load up, they actually become more efficient, eventually letting little breathing air through.

  11. How do we know about Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) trumping when we get into a situation?

    If air monitoring indicated any concentration even approaching the IDLH level we would emphatically require better ventilation and other engineering controls, rather than a respirator. If a respirator is used, an SCBA or a positive pressure respirator, with a backup escape respirator would need to be used until all air monitoring levels indicated less protection was sufficient. Again, the importance of air monitoring and exposure assessment.

  12. If I'm using caulk, do I need to use a respirator? Why don't they just get rid of the Vulkum caulk?

    Vulkum caulk is like any other product that is used. People need to be trained in its safe use. More monitoring needs to be conducted to establish its safe use in our workplace.

  13. Explain "sensitizers."

    Certain chemicals, such as Toluene Diisocyanate can have an effect on certain people who are exposed to a threshold concentration of that chemical. When the concentration of that effect decreases with each successive exposure event, the chemical is considered a "sensitizer." The opposite of this effect is called "acclimation" or "desensitization."

  14. Are the exposure acronyms included on the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)?

    Yes, and often the acronyms are used without defining what they represent. The most common acronyms seen are PEL (for the Permissible Exposure Limit), STEL (Short Term Exposure Limit) C (Ceiling Limit), and IDLH (for an exposure that is Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health).

  15. What's the shelf life for black/charcoal filters?

    Left with their original packaging intact, the charcoal filters can be stored indefinitely. Once opened, the cartridges should not be used if stored more than a few days, and then only if they were stored in an airtight container.

  16. How does heat and humidity affect the respirator cartridges when used during coil cleaning?

    Humidity will decrease the service life of the respirator cartridge. Heat tends to decrease the service life of the cartridge because more of the contaminant is evaporated at a higher temperature.

  17. What respirator do I wear to go into the acid neutralization pit outside of the Chemistry Building?

    That acid neutralization pit is a Permit Confined Space. In order to enter that space, additional training on special air-supplied respirators and confined space rescue must first be taken. At this time, no on e from UWM is authorized to enter that confined space. When need to enter that pit arose in the past, an outside environmental services contractor with Confined Space Entry certification has been used.

  18. What respirator do I wear during paint spraying?

    The North 770 half mask with the Organic Vapor cartridges is the most appropriate respirator for normal paint spraying. The combination cartridges are also good to use, but those cartridges will not last as long. Also dust pre-filters, which attach to the front of the organic vapor (or combination) cartridges will help prolong the life of the cartridge. If an unusual type of spray painting is scheduled (such as urethane or epoxy painting) please contact Dan Walker or Physical Plant Services (x4576) before using a respirator for out-of-the-ordinary spray coating. A special cartridge respirator may be needed.

  19. What respirator do I wear with Hydrofoam Coil Cleaner?

    Neither HEPA filters nor organic vapor cartridges efficiently filter out Hydrofluoric acid, a component of Hydrofoam. If this material is used, please contact Physical Plant Services or University Safety and Assurances. We will need to make an assessment of the levels of exposure possible during the use of Hydrofoam. Air monitoring may be necessary. The monitoring and assessment would lead to an additional respirator selection decision. A special cartridge and/or respirator may be required.

  20. What respirator do I use with shot-blasting equipment?

    Generally, shot-blasting equipment includes an air-supplied helmet type respirator. While fit testing is not needed for positive pressure type respirators such as this, both training on the operation of the respirator and a medical certification is required. In addition, the air source for the air supplied respirator will require periodic testing and certification to assure that it meets purity standards for breathing air. Often air-supplied helmets will be connected to oil and gas scrubbers to remove oil mist and carbon monoxide from the air source. These scrubbing systems require continuous monitoring plus audible and visual alarms for carbon monoxide. Contact Physical Plant Services or University Safety and Assurances for further information.

  21. Does the Powered Air Purifying Respirator take oxygen off of a box?

    No. A Powered Air purifying Respirator, or PAPR simply acts like a conventional negative pressure respirator where a pump assists in bringing air across the filterpiece, rather than relying completely on the user's lungs.

  22. When you start adding filters, does it get harder to breathe when you're using a negative pressure respirator?

    This may occur, especially if HEPA type filters are used, and especially once the HEPA filter is loaded up. NIOSH has a minimum specification for the allowed pressure drop across a respirator filter, which manufactures must meet in order to get the NIOSH certification for that product. Combination filter may add to the pressure drop, or resistance of air flow across the filters, but the difference should be imperceptible for most applications.

  23. Do you need a medical certificate for wearing a single strap dust mask?"

    Single strap dust masks are not NIOSH approved and should not be used at UWM. The two strap filtering facepeice or dust masks that are approved by NIOSH can be worn and even supplied to UWM workers for use on a voluntary basis. The supervisors' responsibility will be limited, in those cases, to giving the worker a copy of the OSHA's Information for Employees Using Respirators When not Required Under Standard, found on the Web at:

    Otherwise, the supervisor must be sure that the voluntary respirator use is done in a sanitary fashion, and that no contaminants are present in concentrations approaching the Permissible Exposure Limits. Physical Plant Services or University Safety and Assurances are available to conduct appropriate types of air monitoring, upon request. Medical certification would not be necessary for voluntary respirator users.

  24. Can you use a vapor cartridge for dust?

    No. A vapor cartridge relies on a different filtering mechanism from a dust filter. While large particulate may not get through a vapor cartridge, the small particles which are the real threat to a person's lungs and health, would likely pass right through a cartridge designed to filter out vapors.

  25. What is the appropriate respirator filter when working with Xylol (i.e., xylene)?

    The MSDS and the 3M respiratory guide indicate that an "OV", or organic vapor cartridge is the appropriate filter. You could use either the black cartridge or the magenta and black combination filter.