Gas, mist and fumes from hazardous chemicals are all contaminants that may be present at your course. Solid surfaces could also become hazardous when welded or ground. If exposed to these respiratory hazards, you and your crew can suffer dire medical consequences. The effects could be instant, or they could take years to take effect – as is the case with asbestos, which can lead to lung cancer.

According to the Department of Labor, over 66,000 workers suffer from exposure to airborne contaminants every year in the US alone!

Having a solid respiratory protection program at your facility could save lives… and it’s required by OSHA. The organization states that you must have a respiratory protection program in place if your workers are exposed to respiratory hazards.

Respiratory Hazards

Respiratory hazards may be present during many golf course maintenance tasks, including:

  • Spraying or mixing pesticides
  • Welding, cutting or brazing any surfaces coated with lead-based paint
  • Cutting concrete
  • Sandblasting
  • Exposure to vapors from paints Exposure to cleaning solvents

In order to control the hazards and protect your crew, you must maintain and design an effective respiratory protection program.

Respiratory Protection Program Requirements

As per OSHA’s requirements, your program should include at least the following:

  • Program administration requirements
  • Specific protection procedures for each job site
  • Employee training
  • Proper respirator selection and training
  • Fit testing – to be repeated annually
  • Medical evaluations
  • Maintenance and repair

The Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL)

This refers to the legal limit of airborne chemical concentration that a US employee may be exposed to. The PEL states the limit of exposure for an eight hour period and was established by OSHA to ensure employee health and safety.

Step 1: Detect Respiratory Hazards at Your Facility

Your first step to minimize hazards is to perform a hazard assessment to detect the hazards present at your facility. First, gather your Safety Data Sheets (used to be known as MSDSs). These provide information on the hazard, permissible exposure limit (PEL) and more.

Next, you’ll need to take air samples to determine the degree of concentration of each contaminant.

Passive monitoring badges and colorimetric tubes may be used to check the air at your facility and determine if any gas or organic vapors are present.

Colorimetric tubes are readily available through most safety companies and provide instant readings. However, they aren’t always accurate. Passive monitor badges are another option. They need to be sent out for analysis, so it takes longer to receive your results, but they are considered more accurate.

Step 2: Minimize the Hazards

After completing a hard assessment to determine the contaminants present at your facility, the next step is to develop a respiratory protection program that minimizes the hazards that your crew is exposed to. Engineering and workplace controls can be implemented to minimize those hazards.

  • Install a ventilation system (closed cab)
  • Replace the contaminant with a safer substance

You may also put administrative and work practice guidelines into place. Consider the following: 

  • Rotate employees to minimize exposure
  • Provide frequent breaks

Step 3: Provide Personal Protective Equipment

Once you’ve done your best to minimize the hazards with engineering controls and administrative practices, you should consider ways to protect your crew from the hazards present at your facility. Personal protective equipment can be very effective in protecting your crew from respiratory hazards.

As a general guideline, your crew should wear respirators anytime that the hazards cannot be reduced to a safe level.

There are different types of respirators, so take the following into consideration when selecting PPE for your facility:

  1. The type and level of hazards your crew is exposed to
  2. The material the respirator is made of – it should be suitable for the type of hazards present at your facility
  3. The comfort and weight of the respirator – your crew is more likely to use comfortable PPE

 Step 4: Train Your Crew 

Employee training is extremely important in order to be in compliance with OSHA’s guidelines and to enforce a good respiratory protection program. Your crew should be trained on respiratory protection as a whole, the protection procedures at each site, how to select the right respiratory protection, how to perform a fit test, how to don and doff the respirator, as well as how to inspect and care for the PPE.

Step 5: Document, document, document!

All hazard assessments, respirator protection program development, training, and equipment maintenance needs to be documented. In case of an accident or an audit, you need proof that you did your job. Better safe than sorry we always say.

Finally, keep in mind that respiratory hazards may be difficult to see, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Implementing a respiratory safety program is critical to ensuring your safety, that of your crew, and your compliance with OSHA regulations.

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