Setting up a Respirator Fit Test Program for Occupational Health and Safety
Hospitals are unique work environments with challenging occupational health and safety issues. Hazards such as bacteria, viruses, and inhalable chemicals can cause illness, and employing a solid fit test program to ensure tight-fitting respirators is mandated by the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “if respirators are used in a health-care setting, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires the development, implementation, administration, and periodic reevaluation of a respiratory protection program1.”
At a minimum, a respiratory protection program must include:
1) assignment of responsibility
3) fit testing
4) record keeping
Despite the requirement, respirator fit tests continue to rank as the 4th most frequently cited OSHA violation2 with an average fine of $630 per violation3.
How does your respirator fit-test program measure up? Here’s a quick scorecard so you can do a self-assessment on your hospital.
OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard Scorecard*
Rate each of the following from 1 (we don’t have) to 5 (our program is consistently outstanding)
- A documented respiratory protection program
- Medical evaluations of respirator users
- Regularly scheduled and well-documented fit-testing
- Provide voluntary users with mandatory information
- Ensure the respirator itself does not create a hazard
- Written program when respirators other than filtering face pieces are voluntarily used
- System to evaluate respiratory hazards in the workplace
- Users trained before being assigned to wear a respirator
- Proper storage of respirators
- Enforced requirements around respirators and facial hair
If you scored below 35, you may need to re-evaluate your respirator fit test program and designate one or more individuals to maintain the program.
*Note: the scorecard questions are listed in the order of the most commonly cited infractions to the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard, with more than half of all penalties coming from the first three items.
Respirator Fit Test Programs and Venato
Here are some steps you can take right away:4
- Create a written program including guidance on the selection, use, and care of respirators
- Review the annual OSHA respiratory questionnaire
- Perform a medical evaluation prior to fit testing or respirator use
- Turn to Venato to automate your program and tracking
A comprehensive occupational health management solution, Venato tracks all of your employee and volunteer fit tests. That means employee health records are stored securely, and information for transferred employees can be accessed immediately, before their paper health file arrives. And, audit-readiness has never been easier – all the data is accurate and at your fingertips, no matter where you are! In addition, personnel-specific notes such as physical limitations or the need for a follow-up exam can be logged in the employee’s electronic medical record. Venato can then send the employee and their supervisor an automated email notifying them of when the follow-up exam is due. If the employee leaves, Venato is linked to the HR system, so their record is automatically deactivated.
If you’re ready to bring your occ health and safety program into the 21st century, join a webinar and see how Venato can automate your respirator fit test program as well as your staff vaccinations, NHSN flu reporting, and more.
For more tips on setting up a Hospital Respirator Program, we’ve compiled a list of some great tools and resources:
- CDC Fact Sheet: Respiratory Protection in Health-Care Settings
- OSHA PDF Toolkit: Hospital Respiratory Protection Program Toolkit
- Joint Commission Guidelines and Case Studies: Implementing Hospital Respiratory Protection Programs: Strategies from the Field
- OSHA Fact Sheet: Respiratory Infection Control: Respirators Vs. Surgical Masks
- OSHA Links on Respiratory Protection
3 Industrial Safety & Hygiene News – Oct. 29, 2014 http://www.ishn.com/articles/99932-respiratory-protection-the-average-osha-fine-is-62958
4 AHC Media Half measures, full fines: OSHA resp violations