Safety should be paramount for any Louisiana company. This includes companies who operate on waterways. One of the dangers nearly everyone working aboard a vessel encounters is toxic exposure, and making sure that safety equipment works properly is essential to avoid unnecessary injuries and illnesses.

Respiratory protection is vital to reducing or eliminating the risk associated with toxic substances. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that companies choose the appropriate device for the environment and make sure that a particular respirator properly fits each employee. Thereafter, the employer and each employee need to verify that the seal on the respirator works.

A company can use a negative pressure check, which requires the wearer to inhale quickly while blocking the air paths. If the face piece collapses slightly, the fit is good. In the alternative, a company can use a positive pressure check, which requires the wearer to exhale slowly while blocking the air paths. If the face piece pressurizes slightly before the pressure causes air to leak out, the fit is good. Employers should refer to the user’s manual if neither of these tests is appropriate for a particular respirator.

A seal check should happen every time an employee puts on the respirator. OSHA also requires an annual user seal check as well to make sure the device continues to work properly. An employer should not require an employee to wear a device that has not been properly checked within the last year.

An illness resulting from toxic exposure could have significant health ramifications both in the short-term and the long-term. In some cases, the exposure can happen within seconds. Wearing the proper respirator that has been properly fitted and has gone through the required user seal check could mean the difference between going home at the end of the day or going to a Louisiana hospital.