The need for improved respirator programs and a lack of information about respirator use led the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to conduct a survey of the respirator use and practices of u.s. industrial employers in 2001-2002. The survey revealed that the "mining" industry (including the "oil and gas extraction" industry) had the second highest percentage of establishments (12%) and the highest percentage of employees (10%) that were required to use respirators (required either by the employers or by federal regulation). The respirator use and practices reported by mining establishments often fall short of American National Standards Institute Inc. (ANSI) and NIOSH recommendations for respiratory protection (ANSI, 1969; NIOSH, 1987, 2005). Mining respirator-using establishments generally had a lower percent of occurrence of indicators of potentially inadequate respiratory protection programs than all private-sector respirator-using establishments. The notable exception is the relatively higher percentage (40.0%) of mining establishments using airline respirators that have couplings that are compatible with other air or gas supply lines or didn't know if the couplings were compatible with other air or gas supply lines, as compared to all private-sector establishments (23.7%); this should prompt all mining establishments using airline respirators to carefully examine their airline respiratory protection because even one misuse of this equipment can result in a fatality. The most common indicators of potentially inadequate respiratory protection programs within the mining industry, based on this data, are those reflecting a lack of written respirator program elements.
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