August 28, 2020
A ministerial order in effect temporarily amending the OHS Code
A ministerial order took effect May 3rd, 2020 which temporarily amends the OHS Code during the COVID-19 epidemic. The changes list specific respirator standards, approved for use in other countries, that employers can utilize without requiring approval.
The Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Code requires employers to develop and utilize a respiratory protective equipment code of practice (COP) whenever respirators are used at the work site.
Dangerous substances and goods often arrive at and leave the sites via trucks and tankers. Drivers will be exposed to contaminants or hazards by way of loading or unloading. Within the sites themselves, the products are often transported via pipelines/refineries to the various production buildings and plants. All conceivable precautionary measures should be planned in a way that emergencies are controlled quickly and effectively, in order to prevent or minimize harm to humans and the environment. When a respiratory hazard cannot be minimized to safe levels by engineering or administrative controls, respiratory protection is required.
The purpose of a Code of Practice is to assist in determining the proper type of respirator equipment and how to maintain and use a respirator correctly to achieve full protection of your employees. Respirators must be worn when airborne contaminants exceed occupational exposure limits.
Respiratory Protective Equipment Code of Practice (COP) – What should it include?
- Company health and safety policy
The COP should include a carrier’s health and safety policy while identifying which tasks require the use of RPE. Ensure health and safety policies are current and reflect the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Hazard Assessment
The Hazard Assessment done for the task or job in question will determine the need for respiratory protection. In trucking, respiratory hazards can include vehicle emissions, valve locking/unlocking, transporting dangerous goods, loading/unloading waste or spills . Engineering controls are the preferred methods of regulating worker exposure to hazardous contaminants in the air such controls are listed below:
- mechanical ventilation (local and general ventilation)
- enclosure or isolation of the task (process and/or equipment)
- substitution of materials with less hazardous products where possible
- in conjunction with engineering controls, administrative controls may be used to limit the workers’ exposures by decreasing work times in contaminated areas
The wearing of respiratory protective equipment maybe required according to the degree of danger presented to an employee by the conditions that are, or could be, present at the work site. The following should be considered in determining the need for respiratory protection:
- The nature of any contaminants,
- The concentration or likely concentration of any airborne contaminants,
- The duration or likely duration of the worker’s exposure,
- The workers’ activities.
- The time period that the respirator must be worn,
- The toxicity of the contaminants,
- The partial pressure of oxygen,
- The warning properties of the contaminants, and
- The need for emergency escape.
- Responsibility for the respiratory protective equipment
Carriers or employers are responsible for providing and maintaining RPE. Some workplaces may have a designated employee or safety professional responsible instead. The COP must identify the designate and provide his/her position and contact details.
Carriers must provide guidance to employees requiring respiratory protection to ensure that proper respiratory protection equipment shall be selected for the respiratory hazard. All employees requiring Respiratory Protection shall be fit tested by a qualified individual prior to respiratory equipment selection. Records of employee fit testing should be maintained.
- The selection of respiratory protective equipment
Carriers and drivers must consider the nature of contaminants, concentration or likely concentration of airborne contaminants or biohazardous materials, duration of employee exposure and toxicity or contaminants. The COP must identify the types of contaminants or hazards in the each workplace, specify chemical or bio-hazardous materials and conditions. It must also state the type of respirators required to be word for each operation or task and be approved by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or by another standard setting organization accepted by Alberta Labour.
Employees requiring respiratory protection must be physically fit to carry out the work while wearing respiratory equipment. They must also be psychologically comfortable (e.g., not claustrophobic) about wearing respirators.
A physician may examine the medical fitness of workers required to wear respiratory protection. A medical assessment, such as a pulmonary function test (PFT) may be performed before they are assigned to work in areas where respirators may be required.
Employees with beards, long sideburns, or even a two-day stubble may not wear respirators because the hair breaks the facial seal between the skin and the respirator mask. Wearing eyeglasses may also break the respirator facial seal.
This means that the respirator mask will “leak” and will not provide the needed respiratory protection. Also, if a worker has facial scars or an acne problem, the facial skin may not be able to form a good seal with a respirator mask.
TWO MAIN CLASSES OF RESPIRATORS
Air-purifying respirators (APRs)
Air-purifying respirators can remove contaminants in the air that you breathe by filtering
out particulates (e.g., dusts, metal fumes, mists, etc.). Other APRs purify air by adsorbing gases or vapours on a sorbent (adsorbing material) in a cartridge or canister. Also available are combination particulate and chemical cartridge. Powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) have a motor that draws air through the cartridge.
These types of respirators come in half mask or full-face piece type respirators.
Supplied-air respirators (SARs)
Supplied-air respirators supply clean air from a compressed air tank or through an airline.
This air is not from the workroom area. The air supplied in tanks or from compressors
must meet certain standards for purity and moisture content. Supplied air respirators
must be used in conditions that are immediately dangerous to life or health.
(e.g., CSA Standard Z180.1-M85: Compressed Breathing Air and Systems).
self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA),
airline supplied-air respirators,
hoods, helmets, or protective suits that totally encapsulate the wearer’s body and
incorporate a life-support system.
There are also combination air purifying and atmosphere supplying respirators. These will offer worker protection if the supplied-air system fails, if the appropriate air-purifier unit is selected. These cannot be used in oxygen-deficient areas or where the air concentration of a contaminant exceeds the immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) level.
- Maintenance, cleaning and storage
All RPE must be clean and function effectively. A cleaning and maintenance program must be established and included in the COP. The COP must also include cartridge or filter change out schedules.
It is never a good idea to share respirators, but if more than one person uses a respirator, the respirator should be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
Dependent on use, personally issued respirators must be cleaned regularly (i.e., weekly cleaning for routine respirator usage) To clean the respirators, always follow the manufactures instructions.
Disposable Respirator (dust, fume and mist respirators)
This respirator fits all sizes and facial shapes, and is maintenance-free. Discard the respirator if breathing becomes difficult, or if you can detect an odour.
Cartridge respirators and Supplied Air respirators
Weekly maintenance by the respirator wearer should include inspecting, cleaning and storing of the respirator according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Inspection of the respirator must verify that:
- The respirator is readily accessible for use and is isolated from dirt or any contaminants.
- All rubber and silicone parts are flexible and if applicable canisters have not surpassed thedated shelf life.
- The respirator is free of cracks, tears, worn or aging parts, or damaged components.Defective parts should be replaced immediately with manufacture’s replacement parts.
- In the case of SCBA, the air cylinder is full and is hydro tested every 3 years forhoopwrappedand fully wrapped composite cylinders and every 5 years for steel and unsupported seamless aluminum cylinders that require special permits.
- In the case of air-line respirators, the air quality delivered by the air compressors conforms to
the CSA Standard Z 180.1 Compressed Breathing Air purity specification.
- Conditions for use of respiratory protective equipment
Carriers must ensure only healthy employees are permitted to wear a respirator (free of physiological or psychological conditions). Prior to wearing a respirator, employees must be trained, complete a Respiratory Protection Medical Questionnaire and have access to the COP. Should the employee indicate that they have a medical condition, or should the supervisor have reason to suspect a medical condition, which may present a risk to the employees’ health and safety, fit testing should not be conducted until the employee has received medical clearance from a physician.
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