4-9 Respiratory protection program
Firefighters, as a condition of their work, may be exposed to airborne hazards such as particulates (smoke, dusts, mists or fumes), gases, vapours and oxygen-deficient atmospheres.
Where respiratory hazards cannot be avoided or effectively controlled, firefighters may be at risk of exposure to these hazards.
Actions for employers
Generally, employers must protect workers from exposure to a hazardous biological or chemical agent without requiring them to wear and use a respirator. Where exposure to these hazards cannot be avoided or effectively controlled, employers must provide a respirator appropriate in the circumstances to protect the workers from exposure.
Employers who provide a respirator must comply with the respiratory protection requirements in Regulation 833, including, but not limited to:
- establishing written measures and procedures regarding the selection, care and use of respirators
- providing training and instruction to workers in the care and use of the respirator before the worker first uses the respirator
Employers must also ensure that respirators provided are maintained in good condition.
Employers should appoint a respiratory protection program administrator.
Workers must be trained on:
- care and use of a respirator before using it for the first time
- limitations of the respirator
- inspection and maintenance of the respirator
- proper fitting of the respirator
- cleaning and disinfecting the respirator
Tight-fitting respirators must be tested for fit by either a qualitative or quantitative fit test.
Prior to each use of a tight-fitting elastomeric respirator, a worker must conduct positive and negative pressure user seal checks.
A tight-fitting respirator must not be used by a worker with facial hair that comes between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face or that interferes with the functioning of the respirator.
Respiratory protection program
In addition to the requirements in Regulation 833, a respiratory protection program should address the following:
- program administration, documentation and evaluation
- program administrator training
- training of persons administering fit testing
- proper use of Rapid Intervention/Universal Air Connections and other emergency procedures
- fit testing for all respirators every 2 years (quantitative fit testing for SCBA)
- air quality testing prior to filter change and following major service work, modifications or extensive repairs
- under what conditions respiratory hazards arise, such as:
- an unknown atmosphere that is suspected of being hazardous
- a hazardous atmosphere, such as overhaul
- an atmosphere that may rapidly become hazardous, such as wind change
- working below ground level or inside a confined space (unless the safety of the atmosphere can be established by testing and continuous monitoring)
- potential exposure to biological hazards
- potential use of longer duration SCBA cylinders based on risk assessment of larger and/or complex structures
The program should be developed in consultation with the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative.
Applicable regulations and acts
- Occupational Health and Safety Act
- clause 25(1)(b) for maintaining equipment and protective devices in good condition
- clause 25(2)(a) for providing information and instruction to a worker
- clause 25(2)(h) for taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers
- Regulation 833 – Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents for occupational exposure limits and respiratory protection requirements
- O. Reg. 490/09 – Designated Substances for respiratory protection requirements for designated substances
For information about the required quality of compressed air used in SCBA cylinders, read CSA Standard Z180.1 Compressed breathing air and systems
For information on the requirements for qualitative and quantitative fit testing, read Annexes B and C of CSA Standard Z94.4 Selection, use and care of respirators
For guidance on the administration of an effective respiratory protection program and training requirements, read CSA Standard Z94.4 Selection, use and care of respirators
For information on levels of respiratory protection and functional requirements for SCBA used in fire fighting, read NFPA 1981 Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services