Respirator Use and Exposures During Road Building and Repair

Abstract No:


Abstract Type:

Professional Poster 


B Doney1


1Respiratory Health Division/NIOSH/CDC, Morgantown, WV


Dr. Brent Doney, PhD, MS, MPH, CIH  
Respiratory Health Division/NIOSH/CDC


For this study National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researchers conducted air monitoring and evaluated respirator use at 12 companies constructing or repairing roads and bridges.

Situation / Problem:

Construction workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals, dust and fumes. Engineering controls such as exhaust ventilation on tools or use of water on concrete saws may not always be adequate to reduce the airborne hazards. Therefore respiratory protection may be essential to protect workers from airborne hazards.


A convenience sample of small construction establishments with ≤150 workers were invited to participate in this study. NIOSH researchers visited work sites, assessed respirators used by type of work, and conducted air monitoring for chemicals during constructing or repairing roads and bridges. The types of activities sampled included, abrasively blasting and painting bridge metal surfaces, saw cutting, blasting, and drilling concrete roads. Sampling and analytical methods used included NIOSH Methods 0600, 7500, 7303, and 1501.

Results / Conclusions:

Six companies had exposures which exceeded the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limits (REL). The REL for certain chemicals was exceeded while performing these tasks: 1) lead, during abrasive blasting of steel surfaces on bridges, 2) arsenic, when hooking up ventilation in an enclosure, 3) xylene, when painting a bridge, and 4) silica dust exposures, during grinding, bush hammering, and saw cutting concrete. Overall, workers used half- and full-facepiece air-purifying respirators and air-supplied abrasive blasting respirators. However, there were times when exposures exceeded the REL and appropriate respirators were not used. Air monitoring at construction sites is important to help identify exposures and select respirators to protect worker health.

Primary Topic:

Respiratory Protection

Secondary Topics:

Sampling and Analysis

Acknowledgements and References

List any additional people who worked on the project or provided guidance and support along with details on the role they played in the research. (Please include first name, last name, organization, city, state and country).

Girija Syamlal, MBBS, MPH, Co-author, Respiratory Health Division/NIOSH/CDC, Morgantown, WV, USA
Chris Coffey, PhD, CIH, Co-author, National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory/NIOSH/CDC, Morgantown, WV, USA

Learning Levels

What learning level(s) is the presentation content geared towards?

Novice - new to the job, role, or task, with no or limited knowledge of the content.