ever, if a safety shower is immediately available, it should be used (as noted in section 6.F.2.5).

Automatic Fire-Extinguishing Systems

In areas where fire potential and the risk of injury or damage are high, automatic fire-extinguishing systems are often used. These may be of the water sprinkler, foam, carbon dioxide, halon, or dry chemical type. If an automatic fire-extinguishing system is in place, laboratory workers should be informed of its presence and advised of any safety precautions required in connection with its use (e.g., evacuation before a carbon dioxide total-flood system is activated, to avoid asphyxiation).

6.F.2.4 Respiratory Protective Equipment

The primary method for the protection of laboratory personnel from airborne contaminants should be to minimize the amount of such materials entering the laboratory air. When effective engineering controls are not possible, suitable respiratory protection should be used after proper training. Respiratory protection may be needed in carrying out an experimental procedure, in dispensing or handling hazardous chemicals, in responding to a chemical spill or release in cleanup decontamination, or in hazardous waste handling.

Under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, only equipment listed and approved by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) may be used for respiratory protection. Also under the regulations, each site on which respiratory protective equipment is used must implement a respirator program (including training and medical certification) in compliance with OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134); see also ANSI standard Z88.2-1992, Practices for Respiratory Protection.

Types of Respirators

Several types of nonemergency respirators are available for protection in atmospheres that are not immediately dangerous to life or health but could be detrimental after prolonged or repeated exposure. Other types of respirators are available for emergency or rescue work in hazardous atmospheres from which the wearer needs protection. In either case, additional protection may be required if the airborne contaminant is of a type that could be absorbed through or irritate the skin. For example, the possibility of eye or skin irritation may require the use of a full-body suit and a full-face mask rather than a half-face mask. For some chemicals the dose from skin absorption can exceed the dose from inhalation.

The choice of the appropriate respirator to use in a given situation depends on the type of contaminant and its estimated or measured concentration, known exposure limits, and hazardous properties. The degree of protection afforded by the respirator varies with the type. Four main types of respirators are currently available:

  • Chemical cartridge respirators can be used only for protection against particular individual (or classes of) vapors or gases as specified by the respirator manufacturer and cannot be used at concentrations of contaminants above that specified on the cartridge. Also, these respirators cannot be used if the oxygen content of the air is less than 19.5%, in atmospheres immediately dangerous to life, or for rescue or emergency work. These respirators function by trapping vapors and gases in a cartridge or canister that contains a sorbent material, with activated charcoal being the most common adsorbent. Because it is possible for significant breakthrough to occur at a fraction of the canister capacity, knowledge of the potential workplace exposure and length of time the respirator will be worn is important. It may be desirable to replace the cartridge after each use to ensure the maximum available exposure time for each new use. Difficulty in breathing or the detection of odors indicates plugged or exhausted filters or cartridges or concentrations of contaminants higher than the absorbing capacity of the cartridge, and the user should immediately leave the area of contamination. Chemical cartridge respirators must be checked and cleaned on a regular basis. New and used cartridges must not be stored near chemicals because they are constantly filtering the air. Cartridges should be stored in sealed containers to prevent chemical contamination.

    Respirators must fit snugly on the face to be effective. Failure to achieve a good face-to-face piece seal (for example, because of glasses or facial hair) can permit contaminated air to bypass the filter and create a dangerous situation for the user. Respirators requiring a face-to-face piece seal should not be used by those with facial hair, for whom powered air-purifying or supplied-air respirators are at times appropriate. Tests for a proper fit must be conducted prior to selection of a respirator and verified before the user enters the area of contamination.

    Organic vapor cartridges cannot be used for vapors that are not readily detectable by their odor or other irritating effects or for vapors that will generate sub-

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