The Importance of Respirator Medical Clearance Tests
As known, employees are the most valuable resource of any company. Therefore safety at the workplace plays a critical role for the normal performance of the activities of workers. In order to address occupational safety and health. Employers need to take care of their employees according to some common law duties established by a competent official organization.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is an agency of the United States Department of Labor in charge of assuring proper work environment conditions for employees, so their duties do not represent a serious hazard. OSHA sets and enforces a series of standards that stipulates the rights and responsibilities, under which both employers and employees must work.
One of these OSHA standards is related to the use of respirators. In order to ensure safety at the workplace, respirators must be used by employees who are exposed to hazardous airborne contaminants. However, wearing a respirator can represent a risk itself for the user. Therefore, all employees that will be required to work under hazardous conditions that require the need to use a respirator, must first be medically evaluated.
Respirator medical evaluations, also known as respirator clearances, are mandatory assessments for all companies in the United States, that determine if a worker can wear a respirator without risks. Respirator clearances correspond to the OSHA’s standard 29 CFR 1910.134 and are normally applied in the form of a questionnaire. That includes questions regarding the current and past employee’s health and working conditions.
The respirator clearance test is designed to detect any medical condition that can add difficulty to wearing a respirator. Some of those conditions might include vision obstruction, normal breathing impediment, difficulties in communication with others, health conditions like lung and heart diseases, psychological issues such as claustrophobia, and etc.
As stipulated by 29 CFR 1910.134, all respirator medical clearance tests must be performed and evaluated by a physician or other licensed health care professional (or PLHCP). The PLHCP will determine if an employee is fit for the use of respirators or if a follow-up examination must be performed before rendering a final decision. Also, the PLHCP has to administer and examine the test confidentially in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA compliance), in order to protect personal information from fraud and theft.
Some of the possible outcomes from the respirator clearance test can be: Respirator cleared without restrictions; respirator cleared with restrictions; not respirator cleared in any condition; and required for a follow-up exam.
Normally, 90-98% of the employees who take the respirator clearance test will obtain a final result for the use of a certain respirator with this particular evaluation. The remaining employees will require a further examination by the PLHCP so as to look into specific medical aspects that might not be considered in the questionnaire.
It is important to mention that OSHA regulations require companies to provide respirator medical evaluations for their workers without any cost and all tests must be taken during normal working hours. This certainly has an impact on labor costs and work efficiency for the companies, given that every hour their workers are away from their duties represents a cost. The respirator clearance status of employees is recommended to be reevaluated every one or two years and must be performed when there are changes in: type of respirator, workplace environment conditions, or employee’s health.
The most commonly used method for administering respirator medical evaluations are the in-clinic evaluations, which add commuting costs and times to the “invoice.” The existence of a more convenient way of performing respirator clearances is in demand.
This is why ICS Respirator has developed a certified online version of OSHA’s Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire. We use digital technologies in order to provide solutions that make work safety easier and more cost-effective for companies.
Our Online Respirator Clearance Tests will reduce your company costs since your workers will be able to take the test and be evaluated without leaving the workplace in just 15 minutes.
If you want to learn more about the advantages of online respirator clearance tests vs in-clinic versions, we invite you to read more in our blog.