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ENGINEERING

Getting Ventilation Right A Primer on Regulations, Standards, and Guidelines
BY D. JEFF BURTON
To provide a healthy and comfortable environment, ventilation is necessary in every human occupancy; it is the one industrial hygiene control that is always required, and every occupational health and safety professional needs to know how to apply and manage it.

But how do we know when we (or others) have the ventilation right? The best way is to compare existing or planned conditions and equipment with established standards of good practice. When we use and follow recognized SGP, we are more likely to provide better employee health and comfort, enhance performance, minimize costs, and protect ourselves from legal actions such as OSHA citations and third-party lawsuits. This article provides examples of ventilation SGP ranging from the “required” to the merely “suggested.” Some overlap, some have different requirements, and some are more stringent than others. Because there can be more than one SGP, most IH professionals look for and follow the current “standard of practice”—the one recognized to be the most effective in light of costs, legal requirements, suitability, and other factors. (And, in the event of legal action, it is the one the opposing attorney will likely ask about to determine whether you followed it.) REGULATIONS OSHA is the primary federal agency with ventilation-related regulations for employee occupancies. The term “regulation” implies a legal requirement for complying with its provisions. OSHA has promulgated a number of rules and regulations that refer to what it calls “engineering controls”; in 29 CFR 1910 - General Industry, for example, there are more than 80 references to engineering controls. Unfortunately, many OSHA ventilation regulations and rules are both outdated and considered secondary to other standards. If actual exposures to employees are within OSHA’s permissible exposure limits, the agency will often assume compliance with ventilation regulations. 
D. JEFF BURTON, PE, CIH (VS 2012), is an industrial hygiene engineer with broad experience in ventilation used for emission and exposure control. He is the author of many books and training courses, and is current chair of the ANSI Z9.2 and Z9.10 subcommittees. His full biography can be found online. He can be contacted via email.  Send feedback to The Synergist.