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Respirator Standards Development (Non-CBRN)

STATUS REPORT, AUGUST 2006: NIOSH Evaluates Its Standards for Testing and Certifying Self-contained Self-rescuers; While Process Continues, All Current Certifications Remain in Good Standing

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts a long-standing program for testing and certifying different types of respiratory protection devices. The requirements of this program, which define the process that NIOSH follows in carrying out its authority, are set forth in 42 CFR Part 84.

Under the program, respirator manufacturers may voluntarily request NIOSH certification for a new product. NIOSH conducts laboratory testing of sample units, reviews the technical specifications for the product, and evaluates the manufacturer’s quality assurance program. If a respirator passes this testing and evaluation, NIOSH grants permission for the device to be labeled as “NIOSH certified.” This certification means that, based on the results of the NIOSH testing, the device is expected to perform as it purports to perform, if deployed and used appropriately as part of a formal workplace safety and health program, and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

One type of respirator tested and certified by NIOSH is the self-contained self-rescuer (SCSR). Recent discussions have focused increased public attention on SCSRs as a result of the use of SCSRs in underground mines, where they are intended to provide a temporary source of breathing-air to miners during escape from an emergency. One area of attention involves a current interaction among NIOSH and its stakeholders to evaluate the standards to which SCSRs are tested by NIOSH. The current status of this evaluation is as follows:

  • Five models of SCSRs are currently certified by NIOSH for use as escape devices in underground mines. These models are the CSE SR-100, OCENCO EBA 6.5 AND M20, DRAEGER OXY-K Plus, and the MSA LIFE-SAVER 60. All five of these certified devices have NIOSH approvals in good standing under our current certification program. No SCSRs have been tested by NIOSH to standards other than those currently in effect.
  • In 2003, NIOSH began to work with stakeholders by holding public meetings to identify and pursue actions that will result in improved SCSR performance and reliability. NIOSH held public meetings on April 10, 2003, and April 24, 2003, to share concepts on updating current SCSR certification requirements and to solicit input from manufacturers, mine operators, miners, and other stakeholders. Details about the public meetings are available at
  • The concepts under consideration are based on NIOSH technical expertise and experience in the respirator certification, experience from long term field evaluations that involved samplings of units that have been deployed in the field, and stakeholder input. At this time, it is impossible to say what the final standards may contain, to what extent any proposed changes may reflect specific NIOSH technical findings, how any proposed changes may differ from current requirements, or how any proposed changes may affect current certifications.
  • NIOSH will keep stakeholders fully informed as the process continues. NIOSH plans to hold public meetings to pursue these discussions. The time and place of those meetings will be announced in a forthcoming Federal Register notice and on the NIOSH webpage. We invite our stakeholders and partners to provide input and recommendations by submitting comments to the NIOSH Docket Office. Comments should reference docket number NIOSH-005, Closed-circuit Self-contained Escape Breathing Apparatus. The address for sending comments is: NIOSH Docket Office, Reference: NIOSH DOCKET -005, Robert A. Taft Laboratories, M/S C34, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226; Telephone 513-533-8303, Fax 513/533-8285.
  • In addition to the evaluation of the testing and certification standards, NIOSH is pursuing several other actions that will help to further the public dialogue on SCSRs. More information on those initiatives will be posted on the NIOSH web page shortly.