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Interim Guidance for Protecting Deepwater Horizon Response Workers and Volunteers

NOTE: This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

E. Voluntary Use of Respirators

Even when comprehensive and routine air monitoring indicates that no inhalational hazard exists, an employer may permit respiratory protection to be worn voluntarily by employees provided it will not in itself create a hazard. See the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR Section 1910.134).31 The Interim Guidance makes clear those exposure situations where the use of respiratory protection is recommended (see Section IX.C.1. through 5.).

The only situation where voluntary use may be helpful is when an individual is bothered by non-hazardous levels of hydrocarbon odor and cannot be relocated to another work area. In that case, a carbon-impregnated odor-reduction filtering facepiece respirator may provide some odor reduction potential—and can be worn voluntarily without the employer having to implement a respiratory protection program. These types of respirators do not provide health protective effects; they only provide odor reduction. In addition, all respirators have adverse effects on breathing, vision and communication, result in some discomfort, and are associated with additional physiological stress. 32

Employers or volunteer organizations who supply respirators for voluntary use must provide response workers with the information in Appendix D (Information for Employees Using Respirators When Not Required by the Standard) of the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR Section 1910.134.33

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