Respiratory Protection for Inhalation Hazards During Emergency Response

April 17, 2020
According to OSHA’s HAZWOPER regulations at 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(3)(iv), employees engaged in emergency response and exposed to hazardous substances presenting an inhalation hazard or potential inhalation hazard must wear positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBAs) while engaged in emergency response.
An emergency response as a response is defined as any effort by employees from outside the immediate release area or by other designated responders (i.e., mutual aid groups, local fire departments, etc.) to an occurrence which results, or is likely to result, in an uncontrolled release of a hazardous substance.
SCBA equipment must be used until the person in charge of the site’s incident command system determines, through the use of air monitoring, that a decreased level of respiratory protection will not result in hazardous exposures to employees.
For example, if a damaged container generates smoke, visible fumes, fumes irritating to the skin, nose, throat, mouth, or eyes, or a strong odor, or if the contents are unknown, then any personnel involved in the emergency response must wear SCBA until surveillance of the contaminants in the air demonstrates no hazardous exposures.