In 2001 the Survey of Respirator Use and Practices gathered information on respirator use from 40,002 randomly selected U.S. establishments, collecting data on the types of respiratory protection workers used, the types of respirator fit-tests performed, and presence of substances that prompted use of respiratory protection. The survey was conducted by the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Survey information for the fabricated metal products (except machinery and transportation equipment) industry covered manufacturers of cans; shipping containers; cutlery; hand tools; general hardware; heating equipment; plumbing fixtures; fabricated structural products; forgings and stampings; coating and engraving; ordnance; and screw machine components, bolts, nuts, screws, rivets, and washers. Approximately 6,862 establishments in the "fabricated metal products" category - 19 percent-used respirators" a higher percentage than the overall "manufacturing" and "all private industry" categories, which registered 12.8 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively. Air-supplied respirators were used in 6.2 percent of "fabricated metal products" establishments. In addition, 4.4 percent of employees in this category used respirators, compared to 3.1 percent in "al1 private industry," Respirators were used most frequently for dust, paint vapors, solvents, welding fumes, and silica dust. Of the "fabricated metal products" establishments using respirators, 69 percent of companies - an estimated 4,700 - had three or more indicators of a potentially inadequate respiratory protection program, as measured against OSHA requirements and NIOSH recommendations. Potentially inadequate programs are indicated by lack of a trained respirator program administrator; management-adopted, written respirator program and maintenance procedures; and training in need, use, limitations, and capabilities of respirators. Recognizing improper respirator use in the industry, OSHA conducted 177 inspections among these establishments from October 2005 through September 2006, issuing 458 citations for inadequate respiratory protection. The survey findings are "subject to limitations - public-sector, self-employed, and agriculture establishments with less than 11 workers were not included. Employers seeking to improve their respiratory protection program can contact OSHA's free, confidential consultation service, available to small businesses in every state.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV 26505