Respiratory Protection Week 2020 (Sept. 8-11) is an event to raise awareness about occupational respiratory health. Proper respiratory protection helps you to return home safely at the end of your shift, response or workday. It can also keep you healthy for the remainder of your career or volunteer service, allowing you to enjoy retirement and future endeavors.
With the ever-changing environment that emergency responders work in today, respiratory protection is critical for your good health. There are multiple and evolving toxic substances, chemicals, viruses and other agents that may cause you physical damage or worsen diseases, sometimes many years later. These agents may also be fatal if you are exposed.
History of respiratory protection devices
Respiratory protection began hundreds of years ago with simple devices like cloth or other materials to cover the nose and mouth. Eventually, more scientifically developed devices were used in specific industries, such as mining and aviation.
The fire service began using some creative and questionably effective items starting in the late 1800s. Development of advanced respiratory protection devices continues today in response to challenges from new products and equipment that burn and/or cause respiratory hazards. The byproducts of fire are continually changing due to new or combined elements. Blended wildfire and structure fire smoke is an example of combined elements that can affect your respiratory health.
Proper use and maintenance of occupational respiratory protection devices can help you to live a full life not impacted by respiratory health issues.
Protect your respiratory health
In order to provide proper protection against respiratory hazards, devices such as self-contained breathing apparatus, N95 masks and powered air-purifying respirators require:
- Careful selection for the specific hazard(s).
- User fit testing.
- Training for employees.
- Cleaning, sanitizing and other device maintenance, if reusable.
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