Workers and respirators: What factors influence medical clearance? Experience in the petrochemical industry 2004–2008

Mary Theresa Gleinser, The University of Texas School of Public Health


This retrospective cohort study analyzed data from more than 2200 OSHA-mandated respirator medical evaluations performed between 2004 and 2008, with information initially obtained using an online questionnaire, to determine what factors influence medical clearance and the ability to safely wear respiratory protection in a large petrochemical company. The employees were mostly white males with a high school education, ranging in age from 25 to 60 years of age, who had been employed with the company an average of eight years. Their work was typically performed outdoors in a rural or offshore setting. Respirators were typically required for emergency response – escape or rescue only – and/or limited to less than four hours per month. Approximately 90% of the population achieved medical clearance by utilizing the online questionnaire. Of the remaining 10%, 66% were cleared after additional "hands-on" medical examination exam; 28% of the individuals' jobs were modified by their supervisor in order to not use a respirator, and 6% of the individuals (n=13) were excluded from wearing a respirator on the basis of the medical examination. The primary causes for exclusion from respirator use were cardiovascular (37.5%) and respiratory (31.3%) issues, followed by psychological (18.8%) and musculoskeletal (12.5%) concerns. Ultimately, over 99% of workers evaluated under this system were found capable of using respiratory protection safely. This questionnaire has proven to be an excellent health screening tool capable of initiating early detection and further investigation of potentially serious medical conditions within a large and diverse population in multiple locations.

Subject Area

Occupational health

Recommended Citation

Gleinser, Mary Theresa, "Workers and respirators: What factors influence medical clearance? Experience in the petrochemical industry 2004–2008" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1474771.