4. The Medical Evaluation
A more recent development in the area of respiratory protection is the advent of the medical evaluation. Any and all workers who are doing to wear respirators need to get a medical evaluation done. This medical evaluation needs to be done before the worker can be fit tested (which is step 5).
The reasoning behind this step is that there are certain people for whom wearing a respirator might be potentially problematic. People with asthma for example might have increased difficulty breathing as a result of wearing a respirator. I can’t tell you the number of times people have come in to get fit tested and had to go away without having it done because they’ve skipped this step. We cannot and will not fit test anyone who hasn’t first been cleared medically; the liability should anything happen to the person we are fit testing is just too great.
In most cases, the medical evaluation is simple. Workers answer a number of questions. The form is then submitted to a “licensed healthcare professional” who then determines, based on those answers, whether or not the worker needs to have a full blown medical checkup before he or she can wear a respirator. Unless there is something obvious, most workers are simply cleared to wear a respirator without having to have a pulmonary test. If the questionnaire uncovers any areas of concern, the licensed healthcare professional will then order a more complete exam.
The medical evaluation is confidential. Employers are not allowed to look at the answers given by the employee. The employee simply fills in the questionnaire and seals it in an envelope to his place of employment who will send it in or he is instructed about where to submit it directly to the medical facility.
3M has the medical evaluation available to view or download on their website here.
Most doctors or medical facilities can sign off on the medical evaluation. 3M even has an online medical evaluation where employees can sit down at a computer and complete the form. 3M has a licensed healthcare professional who will look over the evaluation and sign off right then and there, making it easy and quick (as well as making it less expensive). There is a link to the 3M online medical evaluation available on our website (www.nationalsafetyinc.com) in the respiratory section. If you’ve got several employees to get into respirators, this is a convenient way to get the medical evaluation done.
Tomorrow: Step 5 – The fit test