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MSA Portal-Pack® Units Pose Significant User Risk, Should be Replaced Immediately with Certified Substitutes

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 260-8519
November 14, 1997

In a joint Respirator User Notice released this week, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) informed users of the Portal-Pack® self-contained self-rescuer (SCSR), manufactured by Mine Safety Appliances Co. (MSA), that “chemical fragments and fine particles may be present in the breathing tube” of those respirators.

According to the User Notice, “MSHA and NIOSH consider the presence of un-reacted chemical in the breathing tube to represent a significant risk. The manufacturer has instituted interim donning procedures to eliminate the hazard of un-reacted chemical dust in the breathing tube (inhaling ambient air and exhaling into the breathing tube three times prior to donning). However, these procedures could be unreliable in a mine disaster.”

“We want to state clearly how concerned we are and the need for immediate action to protect workers’ lives,” said NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H. “Mine operators and other employers stocking this equipment should act now to secure certified replacement devices so that the MSA Portal-Pack® can be taken out of service.”

The Portal-Pack® is a portable respirator designed to provide the user at least one hour of oxygen during a fire, explosion, or other mine emergency. Respirators of this kind also have limited uses in non-mining workplaces, such as tunneling. Tests have found that fine chemical particles may collect in the breathing tube. Inhaling the particles could cause the wearer to cough and choke, making the respirator unusable when it may be the wearer’s only source of oxygen.

NIOSH and MSHA have instituted procedures to revoke certification of the Portal-Pack®. The device can be identified by the NIOSH/MSHA certification number TC-13F-283 on a label located on the metal cap of each unit.

For information on replacing the Portal-Pack®, contact the manufacturer at 1-800-MSA-2222. For information about acceptable replacements and employer responsibilities for respirator safety, contact MSHA at (703) 235-1358.

NIOSH, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, conducts research to prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace. MSHA, in the U.S. Department of Labor, sets and enforces safety and health standards for the mining industry.

General information about the NIOSH/MSHA respirator certification program and other occupational safety and health issues is available from NIOSH at toll-free 1-800-35-NIOSH.