Why use NIOSH certified parts?
The need for respiratory protection in your application is determined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They create the respiratory protection standards that employers and employees must adhere to in order to keep everyone safe at work. Respirator requirements are determined by the associated risks of exposure to hazards in the work environment which can negatively impact your health. Manufacturers of respiratory protective equipment complete a certification process that sees their products go through stringent testing by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to prove that these products can perform as intended and meet the safety standards that they have been manufactured to.
By manufacturers products gaining this certification users can be confident that every time they use their respirator, they’re receiving the claimed level of protection that they need for the task. But what happens when replacement parts are used that are not certified by NIOSH?
Knowing the risks
When non-NIOSH certified parts and accessories are used, the user’s safety can be significantly compromised. The appropriate protection from airborne contaminants and particulates cannot be guaranteed when non-genuine parts are used, and this poses a serious health and safety risk. Non-certified parts have not been tested and evaluated to the same consistent high level as NIOSH approved parts and therefore there is no reliable way to know if they meet the fit, function, reliability, repeatable performance requirements, and safety standards of NIOSH.
Respirators that have NIOSH certification are approved as a complete unit. The approval is granted when the respirator has been evaluated, tested, and deemed to follow all of the applicable requirements of the NIOSH regulations. All parts that they comprise of receive the certification as part of the whole respirator. Only parts that are approved within that certification, can be used as replacement parts, hence why it is so vital to purchase genuine parts from the manufacturer. To ensure the product continues to meet NIOSH standards, manufacturers are also required to have an effective quality assurance program.
Aside from the health risks, there are also extensive financial implications for using non-NIOSH certified parts which are enforced by OSHA. As part of the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard 1910.134, it is stated that employers must select a NIOSH certified respirator. The respirator must be used in compliance with the conditions of the certification. As using non-NIOSH certified parts is not part of the certification, this violates not only this condition but also the warranty of the product. For those that are cited by OSHA for violating the Respiratory Protection Standard, they can face a fine of up to $13,494 for an ‘Other-than-serious’ violation per citation. Failure to abate the violation the employer has been cited for can result in fines of $13,494 per day for every day they do not remedy the situation. If an employer repeats this violation, they are then liable for a fine of up to $134,937 per repeated violation.
Purchasing NIOSH certified parts
The main reason non-certified parts are purchased is to cut costs for businesses. Non-genuine parts retail for less and this can be appealing for businesses, however, there is no way to know if these parts are going to provide proper protection. The use of non-genuine parts also voids the manufacturer’s warranty and should there be any issues with this, they will no longer be serviced by the manufacturer. When purchasing parts, it is important to find out if the retailer is authorized to sell the manufacturer’s products and if the parts are genuine.
There are some simple actions you can take if you do have concerns that your parts may not be genuine. NIOSH approved respirators have an approval label either on the box itself or within the user’s instruction manual. You can verify this by looking at the approval number on the NIOSH certified equipment list (CEL). If there are no NIOSH markings, model number, lot number, approval number, or filter class then there is a chance that the product is counterfeit. If you’re still unsure, contact the manufacturer. They want to protect you and it’s important for them to know if there are parts on the market that have not been manufactured by them and are being sold under their name as genuine.
Manufactures go to great lengths in order to gain certification for their products. They do this because they stand by their product and want the best level of protection for their end users. Look after your equipment and yourself by using NIOSH approved parts.
Ahlers, H. W. (2007, May 4). Respirators Users Notice. Retrieved from Department of Health & Human Services: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/usernotices/pdfs/UsersNotice05042007-508.pdf
CDC. (2020, April 9). Certified Equipment List. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/cel/default.html
NIOSH. (2016, February). Use of Aftermarket Replacement Component Parts for NIOSH-Approved Respirators. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2016-107/default.html
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OSHA. (2012, January). Transcript for the OSHA Training Video Entitled Counterfeit & Altered Respirators: The Importance of Checking for NIOSH Certification. Retrieved from Occupational Safety and Health Administration: https://www.osha.gov/video/respiratory_protection/niosh_transcript.html
OSHA. (2020). 1910.134 - Respiratory Protection. Retrieved from Occupational Safety and Health Administration: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.134
OSHA. (2020, January 15). OSHA Penalties. Retrieved from Occupational Safety and Health Administration: https://www.osha.gov/penalties
Safety By Design. (2018, December 10). OSHA Violation Types & OSHA Fines List. Retrieved from Safety By Design: https://www.safetybydesigninc.com/osha-violation-types-osha-fines-list/