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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has planned a study to re-evaluate the benefits of an annual fit test requirement for employees required to use a respirator at work. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will perform the study, which is currently in its development stages, to determine the necessary intervals of respirator fit testing.
OSHA adopted new requirements in 1998 for occupational respiratory protection programs requiring respirator users to receive training and pass an annual fit test before using a respirator. This requirement was developed based on requirements from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and public comments citing workplace experiences. This requirement was questioned in 2004 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Workshop on Respiratory Protections for Airborne Infectious Agents in Atlanta, Ga. Participants questioned the benefit of the study and called for evidence of the scientific validity of annual fit testing.
NIOSH plans to recruit 220 study participants representative of the United States workforce. Participants will be fit at the onset of the study and every six months thereafter for three years. The study will determine the rate at which respirator fit changes as a function of time. The results will be used to formulate hypotheses for additional studies to determine the necessity of annual respirator fit testing.
The study and methodology is currently being developed through the NIOSH Science Blog. Public comments are encouraged by June 1, 2008. To view the link to the blog, visit www.TakingTheHill.com. The link can be found in the “Press Center” under “References and Bills.”