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CONN-OSHA Quarterly

Volume No. 35
Fall 2003


Respiratory Protection and Homeland Security
By Ken Tucker, Occupational Health Compliance Officer

Since the events of September 11, 2001, our public safety and response agencies have recognized a need to become better equipped to handle catastrophic events.  For many of us, the way we conduct our daily business has changed significantly. Anthrax, Bioterrorism, Domestic Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Weapons of Mass Destruction are now common terms used in planning response efforts.

This article will discuss different types of respiratory protection that are available when involved in response efforts.  There are many types of respiratory protection available from respirator manufacturers.  It is important to understand that selecting the appropriate respirator is critical to ensure adequate protection. 

Prior to selecting respiratory protection, response organizations must determine their role in any response effort.  As many of our response agencies have learned, preplanning is a critical component of any response.  The “Incident Command System,” often used in emergency responses, is now undergoing significant changes.  While state statutes give the fire officer-in-charge the authority to control and direct emergencies, the complexities and magnitude of the events encountered together with the various types of organizations that respond have necessitated a change to a concept called “Unified Command System.”  In general, the “Unified Command System” allows a large incident to be managed by a group of individuals or “commanders.”  These individuals may be the local fire chief who assumes command during the initial fire, rescue, and medical responses to an incident.  Command may then transfer to the local law enforcement authorities when the fire-rescue-medical threat has been neutralized and the need exists to conduct preliminary investigations in order to preserve evidence and identify witnesses.  Command may then transfer to another agency such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation if there is a suspicion of terrorism.

The selection of respiratory protection needed during an incident will vary depending on what stage an incident is in, what the respiratory hazard is, and what the airborne concentration of that particular contaminant may be.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Respirator Standard, 29 CFR 19Published by the Connecticut Department of Labor, Project Management Office.134 requires employers to select a respirator that is certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  NIOSH is the federal agency responsible for certifying the reliability, safety, and efficacy of respiratory protection.

At the initial stages of an emergency response, the hazard or contaminant is not always known and unless air samples are collected, the concentration cannot be determined.  When responding to an incident that may involve an unknown hazard, it is expected that responders will protect themselves with the highest level of respiratory protection.  Appendix B of OSHA standard 29 CFR 19Published by the Connecticut Department of Labor, Project Management Office.120 titled “Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response” (commonly referred to as HAZWOPER), divides personal protective equipment (PPE) into four categories based on the degree of protection afforded.  Level A protection is to be selected when the greatest level of skin, respiratory, and eye protection is required.  Level B protection is to be selected when the highest level of respiratory protection is necessary but a lesser level of skin protection is required. (As this article is being written strictly for respiratory protection, personal protective equipment for skin and eye protection will not be discussed at this time.)  Appropriate respiratory protection for Level A and Level B is a positive pressure, full face-piece self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), or positive pressure supplied air respirator with escape SCBA, approved by NIOSH.  At a fire scene, for example, firefighters will commonly wear an SCBA to protect them from potential respiratory hazards from unknown concentrations of hazardous substances expected at fire scenes.  Hazardous Materials (HAZ-MAT) Response Team members will wear SCBA upon an initial response to a chemical emergency.

Man in safety gear

Full Face-piece SCBA


On May 31, 2002, NIOSH issued certification for the first SCBA that firefighters and other first responders will use in environments containing chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents.  This certification program is part of a multi-agency effort between the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), OSHA, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to develop standards for all types of counter-terrorism equipment.  NIOSH evaluates SCBA use in CBRN environments using the following criteria:

  1. NIOSH 42 CFR 84, Subpart H - approval demonstrates that the SCBA is acceptable for industrial usage.

  2. NFPA Standard 1981 for Open-Circuit SCBA for Firefighters - compliance demonstrates that the SCBA can meet flame, heat and other requirements that are important to protect first responders.

  3. Special Tests under NIOSH 42 CFR 84.63(c)

* Chemical Agent Resistance Against Distilled Sulfur Mustard and Sarin - assesses the extent to which components and materials of the SCBA can be penetrated and permeated when in a hazardous chemical environment for an extended period.

* Laboratory Respirator Protection Level - assesses the ability of the SCBA to fit a wide range of facial dimensions.

SCBA respirators that demonstrate compliance with the CBRN criteria are issued an approval label that is to be displayed in a visible location on the backplate.  If an SCBA is CBRN-approved by NIOSH, it will always carry the label as shown below.  If the CBRN Agent Approval label is not on the SCBA, the device is not approved by NIOSH for use by emergency responders in CBRN environments.  The approval number for an SCBA approved for CBRN environments always includes a CBRN suffix  (TC-13F-XXXXCBRN).  For a list of those respirators that have been certified by NIOSH for CBRN purposes, refer to the CBRN NIOSH Approved Respirators Web page at


CBRN Agent Approval Label

The devices certified to date are certain versions of some models manufactured by Interspiro, Inc., Scott Health and Safety, and Mine Safety Appliances Company (MSA).  For each of these models, there is a version that NIOSH has certified only for traditional use, and a version that NIOSH has certified for use by emergency responders for CBRN environments.

When the concentration and type of airborne contaminant are known, Level C protection may be used as appropriate.  Respiratory protection for Level C includes NIOSH approved full-face or half-mask air-purifying respirators.  These may be gas masks, filter/cartridge respirators, filtering facepiece (dust mask) respirators, or powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR).

Chemical-Biological Gas Mask

In preparation for response operations involving a homeland security incident, many law enforcement personnel have been issued a chemical-biological gas mask.  These gas masks are negative pressure and are approved for protection against chloroacetophenone (CN), chlorobenzylidene (CS), and as a PPublished by the Connecticut Department of Labor, Project Management Office0 particulate filter.  Law enforcement personnel commonly wear these gas masks for protection during riot control and civil disturbances.  This type of respiratory protection was discussed at length in an article published in the Spring 2000 issue of the CONN-OSHA Quarterly titled “Respiratory Protection for Riot Control and Civil Disturbances.”  This issue can be accessed at

There are many other types of gas masks available.  These gas masks are designed to remove a specific type of contaminant from the air and can never be worn in an oxygen  deficient atmosphere, that is, an atmosphere with an oxygen content below 19.5%.  Gas masks are only effective when used with the correct filtering device.  Gas masks may be used for escape only from atmospheres that are immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH), but can never be used for entry into such environments.  The OSHA Respirator Standard defines IDLH as “an atmosphere that poses an immediate threat to life, would cause irreversible adverse health effects, or would impair an individual’s ability to escape from a dangerous atmosphere.”

The certification procedure by NIOSH for nonpowered, air-purifying, particulate-filter respirators (dust masks and half-masks with a dust filter) was significantly changed in 1995.  Although there were many reasons for implementing the new certification procedure, the most significant improvement to the new rule allows health-care and emergency response workers using high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters for protection against tuberculosis to select from a wider range of approved respiratory devices.  The certification regulation provides for three levels of filter efficiency (95%, 99%, and 99.97%) and three levels of resistance to filter efficiency degradation labeled N (Not resistant to oil), R (Resistant to oil), and P (oil Proof).  Health-care and emergency response (fire, police, and ambulance) workers typically use N95 or NPublished by the Connecticut Department of Labor, Project Management Office0 disposable respirators to protect themselves from biological agents such as tuberculosis. The NPublished by the Connecticut Department of Labor, Project Management Office0 disposable respirator is commonly referred to as a HEPA respirator. 

N95 Dust Mask

The OSHA Respirator Standard defines a PAPR as an air-purifying respirator that uses a blower to force the ambient air through air-purifying elements to the inlet covering.  The PAPR consists of a power source for moving the air that is to be breathed and is carried by the wearer.  It is usually powered by a battery powered blower.  The air is purified by being blown through a filter and then into a respirator face covering.  The covering can be tight-fitting (forming a complete seal with the face) or loose fitting with a hood or helmet that does not rely on a face-to-facepiece seal.

In September and October 2001, eleven inhalation and eleven cutaneous (four suspected and seven confirmed) anthrax cases resulted from intentional terrorist activity.  Five of the eleven inhalation infections were fatal.  As we all have learned, most of the cases were linked to unexpected workplace exposures to anthrax spores contained in letters mailed through the United States Postal Service.  OSHA recommends that modified Level C protection be worn during the investigation and clean-up of a known anthrax release where the agent is dispersed from a letter or package that can be easily bagged and there is no potential for splashing potentially contaminated materials.  The respiratory protection recommended is a tight-fitting, full-face PAPR.  If anthrax spores may have been dispersed with an aerosol-generating device but are no longer being released, or where there is a high potential for splashing potentially contaminated materials then Level B protection as described earlier is recommended.  Level A protection is recommended if the response or clean-up of a release of anthrax involves an unknown dispersal method, an aerosol-generating device and the release is still occurring, or the release has stopped but there is no information about the duration of the release or the airborne concentration of the anthrax spores.  Personnel assisting in decontamination of emergency responders or clean-up personnel should be in PPE that is equivalent to one level below that required for the responder or clean-up personnel (e.g., if responder in Level A, then decontamination personnel in Level B).

Escape only respirators are respirators intended to be used only for emergency exit.  These respirators can  never be used to enter a contaminated environment.  Usually they are used in conjunction with another type of respirator (e.g., SCBA or supplied air respirator).

In summary, the proper selection of respiratory protection is an essential element for ensuring the safety and health of emergency workers when responding to incidents involving inhalation hazards.  By requiring proper respirator selection, medical evaluations, fit testing, and training, to name a few requirements, the OSHA respiratory protection standard establishes the framework to ensure that employees are adequately protected from inhalation hazards.  Take time to analyze an incident, determine your role in the event, and select the proper type of respirator before rushing in.  It may be the difference between life and death.

In addition to having enforcement authority in the public sector, CONN-OSHA provides free consultations to public and private sector employers.  These consultations help employers recognize and control workplace hazards, as well as prevent injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.  During the consultation, the consultant can also assist in developing and implementing safety and health programs.  If you would like help complying with the Respirator Standard, other OSHA requirements, or wish to schedule a consultation, contact the CONN-OSHA office at (860) 566-4550.


CONN-OSHA News Update

  • The email addresses of the CONN-OSHA staff have changed.  If you plan to send an email, call first to ensure that
    you are using the correct address.

  • CONN-OSHA will be sponsoring bioterrorism training seminars for emergency response personnel during the late fall and early winter.  For more information about these sessions, contact John Able at (860) 566-4550 x398.

If you would like to subscribe to the CONN-OSHA Quarterly, send an email to and in the body of the email, include the following:  subscribe conn-osha your first name your last name
It is now distributed only electronically.  If you do not have electronic access, please call Lisa Costanzo at (860) 566-4550 x388.


If you have a topic that you would like to see featured in the Quarterly, please send an email to:



OSHA 300 Recordkeeping Training – What Does and Does Not Need to be Recorded
October 15, 2003**

The purpose of this workshop is to introduce the requirements and procedures related to the OSHA 300 log.  The class will help develop skills to accurately report occupational injuries and illnesses.  Resources and reference materials will be provided.  This class will be held at the Labor Department offices located at 200 Folly Brook Boulevard, Wethersfield, CT.  Class will be held from 9:00 am – 12 noon in Conference Room A on the second floor.  Pre-registration is required. 

Breakfast Roundtable Discussion Group**
October 21, 2003, November 18, 2003, December 16, 2003, January 20, 2004

The safety and health of any company can sometimes be an overlooked priority. The Labor Department’s CONN-OSHA Division has recently taken steps to help your business keep up to date on the latest information and resources. On the third Tuesday of every month, CONN-OSHA offers Breakfast Roundtable Discussion Group Meetings that cover subjects ranging from evacuation plans and fire extinguishers to air quality and ergonomics. The intent of these free 90-minute workshops is to discuss safety and health issues in a supportive and informal environment. The roundtable meetings are held from 8:15 am to 9:45 am at the Division’s offices located at 38 Wolcott Hill Road, Wethersfield. Pre-registration is encouraged, but not required.   

Powered Industrial Trucks**
December 9, 2003 and January 13, 2004

Whether you call them jitneys, hi los, forklifts, or lift trucks, powered industrial trucks are as widely used as your debit card.  It seems everywhere you look these days, lift trucks are in use performing a wide variety of material-handling tasks.  With well over one million lift trucks in operation today, emphasis must be placed on both operator and pedestrian safety.  This half-day program will help you understand OSHA safety and health regulations governing these pieces of equipment, in addition to providing you with assistance in developing training for your lift truck operators and other affected employees.  This class will be held at the Labor Department offices located at 200 Folly Brook Boulevard, Wethersfield, CT.  Class will be held from 9:00 am – 12 noon in Conference Room A on the second floor.  Pre-registration is required.

To register for one of these sessions, please call John Able at (860) 566-4550 ext. 398 or send an email to

For a complete list of upcoming training sessions, visit our web site at

** There is no charge for any of these training sessions.



Garbage Collector Dies After Falling From Back of Moving Garbage Truck

On Friday, February 14, 2003, a 48-year-old male city garbage collector died after falling from the back of a moving garbage truck.  The victim, another garbage collector, and the driver of the garbage truck were following a routine collection route of picking up residential household garbage.  At approximately 8:00 a.m., the truck proceeded to make a left turn onto a residential street while both collectors were riding on the rear steps.  At or about the time the truck was finishing its turn, the collector on the passenger side rear fell off and struck the pavement.

The 1997 garbage truck involved in this incident was a residential rear-end loader with a capacity of 32 cubic yards. The employees were standing/riding on the employer-modified rear riding steps. The employer had modified the rear riding steps to wrap around the back of the truck.

The manufacturer states the most protected position for riders on these vehicles is at the side as opposed to the rear for the following reasons:

  • Stability - Acceleration/deceleration inertial forces are more easily and comfortably accommodated by the rider if they are able to stand with their feet braced in the line with the direction of travel and with the hand holds located approximately equally spaced about and above the center line of the riding positions.

  • Visibility - The rider is visible to the driver by way of the rear view mirrors.  The driver can be sure their riders are in a secure position before moving the vehicle.

  • Mounting/Dismounting - In mounting or dismounting the step the rider is out of the travel of the vehicle.

  • Rear End Collisions - Riders are removed from the potential hazard of rear end collisions.

  • Dislodged - In the event of a rider becoming dislodged from the side riding position, they will not be in the path of following vehicles.

  • Packer Mechanism - Rider is protected from injury, which could occur should the rider be at the rear and the packer mechanism be activated.

In respect to the objections of riding at the side for fear of being hit, swept off, crushed or otherwise injured by trees, branches, walls, etc., manufacturer injury data does not indicate a problem.  Whereas, injuries resulting from falls in front of oncoming vehicles, rear end collisions, and being backed over by their own vehicle are not uncommon for those persons who ride on the back.

An alert, conscientious attitude and observance of all known safe-operating practices are the best way to prevent accidents.  Before operating any piece of equipment, become thoroughly familiar with the instructions contained in the Operator’s Manual.



November 4, 2003
Ramada Plaza Hotel, Meriden, Connecticut

The Connecticut Safety Society is continuing its tradition of offering a one-day symposium open to safety, health and environmental professionals, risk managers and healthcare providers, human resource and facility personnel, safety committee members, students and to anyone interested in safety, health and environmental issues.

Keynote speakers include representatives from CONN-OSHA, Federal OSHA and Chris Hart of the Federal Aviation Administration. Also, practical presentations by experts in the fields of Mold, Ergonomics, and Viruses are on the agenda. Various vendors, including CONN-OSHA, will be exhibiting their products and services throughout the Symposium. This is an event you will want to attend.

Contact Dave Gelpke at 203-639-2440 or send your email to to request Connecticut Safety Society Symposium information.


OSHA-Quarterly Index

Last Updated: March 01, 2017

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