Respiratory Protection and Why SCBA’s Are So Important

Everybody should view worker safety as a top priority on a job. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 2.9 million nonfatal work-related illnesses and injuries in 2017.

Furthermore, respiratory protection sits in OSHA’s top four for most violated standards. Breathing is not an option! Workers need proper respiratory protection to stay safe on the job.

Proper Respiratory Protection

Many jobs require a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) to provide breathable air in a hazardous breathing environment. SCBA’s contain breathable, compressed atmospheric air instead of oxygen.

These devices must fit properly and not leak in order to provide proper protection. Different jobs also require unique respiratory protection, so as a result, there are many types of air compressors available.

Which Jobs Require a Breathing Respirator?

It is illegal for your employer to let you get away with not wearing your respirator on the job if you work:

  • as an interior structural firefighter
  • as a scuba diver
  • in toxic conditions as an industry worker
  • in the police force or military under certain conditions
  • at high altitudes on ladders or scaffolds

If your job is not listed but puts you in a hazardous breathing environment, then your employer should provide you with an SCBA. If they do not, then ask them to.

What is Required Before Using a Respirator?

These devices require optimal health because breathing through them requires you to breathe much differently than breathing normal air. The units can cause both physiological and psychological distress in the person wearing it. For this reason, workers should pass a physical and their doctors should clear them for using SCBA’s before they go to work.

OSHA requires employers to properly train their workers before allowing them to use SCBA’s. Proper SCBA training should include:

  • intended use and limitations of the device
  • proper donning and doffing procedures
  • personal maintenance requirements
  • buddy breathing
  • emergency procedures in the case of respiratory problems
  • unit shifting for confined spaces
  • dumping the apparatus while retaining an air supply, in case of entrapment that the unit cannot fit through

Before using, workers also need to undergo a fitness test and remove all facial hair and/or anything else that may interrupt the face mask. You do not simply put on these units and breathe. The training saves lives and should be taken seriously.

Why SCBA’s Are So Important

Workforce teams that require SCBA’s face serious risk without them. Breathing respirators protect them from harmful debris, toxic chemicals, smoke, and other breathing hazards that could potentially harm or kill them.

For instance, firefighters risk breathing in:

  • smoke
  • cyanide
  • formaldehyde
  • carbon monoxide
  • ether
  • polynuclear hydrocarbons

Potential health complications of not wearing SCBA’s or wearing them incorrectly include:

  • death by asphyxiation
  • acute respiratory failure
  • sepsis
  • pneumonia
  • cancers like mesothelioma
  • asthma attacks
  • pulmonary fibrosis
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • emphysema
  • heart failure
  • eye disease and blindness

Sometimes workers who fail to wear their SCBA’s feel okay for a while and over time destroy their lungs and/or suffer serious chronic conditions. Every time you breathe in a toxin, you create more damage and potentially scar your lungs. To prevent this, wear your breathing respirators properly at work.

Work Hard and Breathe Easy

Your respiratory health is imperative to you working hard for a long time. Always use respiratory protection if you work in an environment without clean air.

If your employer does not require the use of SCBA’s in a questionable environment, know your rights and opt for one anyhow. For more crucial information on breathing clean on the job, check out our blog!

At Max-Air, we offer leading breathing air compressors including:

Do you have any questions in regards to respiratory protection? Or do you need help finding the right air compressor for your needs?

Give us a call at 830-257-5006 or email We look forward to helping you out!