Respiratory Protection & Medical Evaluations

by Eric Schmitz on November 14, 2016

Article Contributor: Eric Schmitz

Keeping your employees safe over the long-term is challenging in a collision center environment.  Employees can be exposed to Volatile Organic Carbons, Solvents, Isocyanates, and a myriad of other chemicals.  We’ve previously alerted you about chemical exposures in painting operations and truck bed-liner applications, including a Client Alert 2 years ago on Isocyanates and the use of fresh air systems.  KPA’s stance on the use of fresh air, nitrile gloves, eye, face, and overall skin protection stands.  All of these chemicals serve valuable purposes and are integral to the performance of your business, but these same chemicals can have adverse effects on your workforce if they’re not properly protected.

Remember, implementing engineering controls and issuing personal protective equipment can be a lengthy process, especially when it comes to respiratory protection.  In order to wear a respirator an employee first has to be medically evaluated to ensure that he/she is healthy enough to do so.  Most of these medical evaluations consist of online questionnaires and follow-up doctors’ phone calls or visits as needed.  These medical evaluations serve a valuable purpose – ensuring your employee’s ongoing good health.

KPA has always pointed to the OSHA regulations requiring medical evaluations at time of first respiratory protection use, or when employee health or work conditions are changed.  While that is the basic regulatory requirement; it is difficult for you as the employer to keep track of changing work conditions, newly introduced chemicals and the overall health of an employee since their medical conditions include so many factors (such as diet, exercise, recent colds, family history…).

Based on industry workers compensation claims, potential lawsuits and the propensity for some employees to become sensitized to solvents, isocyanates, and other chemicals in the workplace – KPA recommends you consider conducting medical evaluations more frequently, perhaps annually, to track employee medical health over time.  With this regular medical clearance you’ll be able to help employees who may have concerns, and prevent any facility conditions or medical issues from seriously impacting your business in the future.

We recognize that conducting medical evaluations will result in added up-front expenses, but we anticipate your long-term savings on this investment will exceed the minor added costs.

Have questions on respiratory protection and medical evaluations? Contact [email protected].

Eric SchmitzRespiratory Protection & Medical Evaluations