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The Use of Respirators is the Least Satisfactory Method

Engineering and work practice controls are generally regarded as the most effective methods to control exposures to airborne hazardous substances. OSHA considers the use of respirators to be the least satisfactory approach to exposure control because…

  • respirators provide adequate protection only if employers ensure, on a constant basis, that they are properly fitted and worn.
  • respirators protect only the employees who are wearing them from a hazard, rather than reducing or eliminating the hazard from the workplace as a whole (which is what engineering and work practice controls do).
  • respirators are uncomfortable to wear, cumbersome to use, and interfere with communication in the workplace, which can often be critical to maintaining safety and health.
  • the costs of operating a functional respiratory protection program are substantial — including regular medical examinations, fit testing, training, and the purchasing of equipment.

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