While the survey does not determine which substances prompted respirator use, it does provide such information for the broader manufacturing sector. There, dust, paint vapors, solvents, welding fumes, and silica dust were the substances for which respirators were most frequently used. A NIOSH exposure survey over a two-year period estimated that 81,000 U.S. workers were exposed to silica dust in the concrete products, stone, clay, and glass industries.

Of the manufacturers using respirators, 66% had three or more indicators of a potentially inadequate respiratory protection program as measured against OSHA requirements and NIOSH recommendations in the list on page 47.

OSHA recognizes the problem with improper respirator use. In 2005–06, it conducted 194 inspections among concrete products, stone, clay, and glass manufacturers, and issued 495 citations for respiratory protection.

The findings have limitations. Public sector, self-employed, and agriculture establishments with fewer than 11 workers weren't included. Although the instructions stated that the person most familiar with respiratory protection should answer the questions, this may not have always happened.

In spite of field testing of the survey at small, medium, and large establishments before its mailing, recipients may have misinterpreted the questions. The survey was not designed to collect exposure information specifically for these industries, though it did collect such information for the broader manufacturing category.

— The author is a hygienist with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers for Disease Control. E-mailbdoney@cdc.gov. Under the U.S. Copyright Act, copyright protection does not extend to this article.

For More Information...

Employers who suspect their respiratory protection program is in need of improvement should consider contacting the OSHA free and confidential consultation service available for small businesses in every state.

OSHA also has a Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Revised Respiratory Protection Standard available at www.osha.gov in the publications section.

Another resource is the American Industrial Hygiene Association list of consultants at www.aiha.org/Content/AccessInfo/consult/consultlisting.htm.