Through COSHH Regulation 9 Employers have a legal responsibility to control substances hazardous to health in the workplace and to prevent and adequately control their employees’ exposure to those substances. Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is used by many employers to control this exposure. Maintenance of this RPE is a requirement for all but single use equipment and should be carried out by properly trained personnel. Synergy can undertake respirator air quality testing of the air supplied to your workforce and ensure that it meets the requirements of BS EN 12021:1999
Thorough maintenance and examination tests should be carried out at least once a month. However if the equipment is used rarely then it should be tested before each use and the interval should not exceed three months. The records of examinations, testing, maintenance and repairs should be stored by the employer for a period of at least five years.
Air for breathing apparatus often originates from a compressor system, which can generate and concentrate a wide range of contaminants.
As the respirator wearer’s health depends on the air supplied from the compressor, employers have a duty to ensure that the quality of the air supplied meets the requirements given in British Standard BS EN 12021:1999 – Respiratory protective devices – Compressed air for breathing apparatus.
Compressed air for breathing apparatus must not contain any contaminants at a concentration which can cause toxic or harmful effects. In any event, all contaminants are required to be kept to as low a level as possible and shall be far as possible below the workplace exposure limit.
The purpose of carrying out Respirator air testing is to make sure that the control measures that an employer puts in place are delivering the the air quality required by BS EN 12021. BS EN 12021 sets the following limits for air quality:
- Oxygen must be at 21% ± 1%
- Carbon monoxide must be as low as possible and not exceed 15 ppm
- Carbon dioxide must not exceed 500ppm
- Oil mist and vapour must not exceed 0.5mgm-3
- Odour / taste – Without significant odour or taste
- Water (liquid) – Without significant odour or taste
In addition compressed air line breathing apparatus must have a dew point sufficiently low to prevent condensation and freezing. Where apparatus is used and stored at a known temperature, the pressure dew point shall be at least 5°C below the likely lowest temperature. Where conditions of usage and storage of the air is not known, the pressure dew point shall not exceed -11°C.
The frequency of respirator air quality testing should be based on a risk assessment, but they should take place at least every three months and more often when the quality of air cannot be assured to these levels.
Further details of air quality testing and using respiratory protective equipment at work in general is provided in the Health and Safety Executives Document HSG53 – Respiratory Protective Equipment at Work
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