OSHA Update
OSHA Issues Assigned Protection Factors (APFs) for Respirators

September 6, 2006

On August 24, 2006, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule on Assigned Protection Factors (APFs) and Maximum Use Concentrations (MUCs) for respirators used in the workplace.  APFs are numbers that indicate the level of workplace respiratory protection that a respirator, or class of respirators, is expected to provide to employees when used as part of an effective respiratory protection program.  An MUC is the maximum atmospheric concentration of a hazardous substance from which an employee can be expected to be protected when wearing a respirator, and is determined by multiplying the APF specified for a respirator by the required OSHA permissible exposure limit, short-term exposure limit, or ceiling limit for the hazardous substance.

The new final rule takes effect on November 22, 2006.  It includes a table of APFs (attached to this message) for the four basic types of respirators -- air-purifying respirator (APR), powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR), supplied-air respirator (SAR), and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).  The table lists factors for each respirator type based on the style of mask, facepiece, or helmet used -- quarter mask, half mask, full facepiece, helmet/hood, or loose-fitting facepiece.

OSHA points out in notes accompanying the new APF table that the half mask air-purifying respirator category, which is assigned a protection factor of 10, includes both filtering facepieces (i.e., dust masks) and half masks with elastomeric facepieces.  According to the table, dust masks can provide the same level of protection as the more expensive elastomeric half-mask respirators, provided that the employer includes the dust masks in an effective respiratory protection program that meets all of the requirements of the Respiratory Protection Standard, including testing to ensure a proper fit.

Once the new rule takes effect, employers will be required to use the protection factors in the APF table to select the appropriate type of respirator based upon the exposure limit of a contaminant and the concentration of the contaminant in the workplace.  This is done by multiplying the respirator's protection factor by the contaminant's exposure limit to arrive at a MUC for the particular respirator/contaminant combination.  If the actual level of the contaminant in the workplace is expected to exceed the respirator/contaminant's MUC, then the employer must choose a type and/or style of respirator with a higher protection factor.  Also, employers may not apply MUCs to conditions that are immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH), but must instead use respirators listed for IDLH conditions in paragraph (d)(2) of the Respiratory Protection Standard.  Employers may, however, select respirators assigned for use in higher concentrations of a hazardous substance for use at lower concentrations.

Regardless of the respirator selected, OSHA points out in its notes to the new table that the APFs are "only effective when the employer implements a continuing, effective respirator program as required by [the Respiratory Protection Standard], including training, fit testing, maintenance, and use requirements."

The new APF table will supersede the respirator selection provisions of existing substance-specific OSHA standards (e.g., formaldehyde, benzene, cotton dust, asbestos, lead, cadmium, etc.), except for the respirator selection provisions of the 1,3-Butadiene Standard.  With that one exception, the new APFs must be used whenever there is an applicable OSHA exposure limit.  When there is no OSHA exposure limit for a hazardous substance, the rule provides that the employer "must determine an MUC on the basis of relevant available information and informed professional judgment."  OSHA states in the preamble to the new final rule that when no OSHA exposure limit exists, employers can utilize a wide range of available information in calculating an MUC.  According to OSHA, "While not required, some employers may choose to conduct individualized assessments of hazards.  Others may consult information from manufacturers or other published exposure limits  . . . for making MUC determinations."  OSHA emphasizes, however, that whatever approach employers choose to take in such a case, the MUC arrived at must provide adequate protection for their employees.

New Injury/Illness Reporting Requirements for Kentucky Facilities For those of you who have facilities in Kentucky, beginning November 1, 2006, employers in that state will be required to report to Kentucky OSHA any work-related incident that results in the in-patient hospitalization of 1 or 2 employees, if the hospitalization occurred within 72 hours of the incident.  An in-patient hospitalization is defined as the admission to a hospital for more than 24 hours for any reason other than observation.  Employers will also be required to report any amputation.  Both the in-patient hospitalizations and the amputations must be reported within 72 hours of when the employer, an employer's agent, or another employee becomes aware of the hospitalization or amputation.  

These new reporting requirements do not affect the existing obligation to report work-related fatalities or the hospitalization of 3 or more employees from a single incident within 8 hours of the incident.

These new reporting requirements will be in effect from November 1, 2006, through December 31, 2008.  The effectiveness of these new requirements will be assessed during this time frame and a decision will be made whether to extend the requirements beyond the December 31, 2008, expiration date.

Violations of the reporting requirements will be cited under the "Other Than Serious" category, with penalties of up to $5,000.

If you have any questions, please email us at:
Bill Principe at bprincipe@constangy.com,
David Smith at dsmith@constangy.com,
Pat Tyson at ptyson@constangy.com, or
Neil Wasser at nwasser@constangy.com

You may also call us at 404-525-8622.

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