If your employees use respirators, OSHA requires you to provide a respirator cartridge change schedule, unless the respirator includes an end-of-service-life indicator (ESLI) certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Respirator cartridges beyond their service life will not protect workers.
A change schedule is part of the written respirator program which explains how often workers should replace cartridges and what information the employer used to make that judgment.
The service life of a cartridge depends on many factors including environmental conditions, breathing rate, cartridge filtering capacity, and the amount of contaminants in the air. Employers should apply a safety factor to the estimated service life so the change schedule offers a conservative estimate.
When employers must develop change schedules, the standard covers the following requirements.
If you know the chemical used and the exposure level, you can estimate how long a respirator cartridge will work and apply the safety factor. There are three valid ways to estimate a cartridge’s service life, each with pros and cons.
Do not rely on odor thresholds and other warning properties as the primary basis for determining the service life of gas and vapor cartridges and canisters.
Account for environmental and user factors and use a conservative approach when evaluating service life testing data. Apply a safety factor to any estimate to account for uncertainty.
Mixtures, intermittent use and concentrations, storage practices, and other variables may require adopting an administrative time limit, potentially as short as one day, even if the estimated life would be longer.
Documenting procedures helps your company meet your compliance obligations. One way to communicate those expectations is through written plans and policies. The Written Plans tool in the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE offers numerous plan template that can be modified as needed, helping you establish and communicate everyone’s obligations.