NIOSH Publishes SCBA Service-Life Indicator Final Rule

It requires setting a minimum alarm point at 25 percent of the rated service time but allows manufacturers to set it at a higher point.

A final rule published Jan. 14 by NIOSH updates its respirator approval standards, 42 CFR 84.83, by requiring self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) manufacturers to set the service-life indicator to alarm when the breathing air supply is down to 25 percent of the unit's rated service time. The final rule allows manufacturers to set it at a higher point if they choose to or if based on the purchaser's use scenario.

A CDC agency, NIOSH proposed this change in June 2012. The current rule requires that SCBA service-life indicators alarm within the 20-25 percent range; a representative of the Columbus, Ohio, Local 67 of the International Association of Fire Fighters requested in 2003 that it be amended, and stakeholders agreed the lower value should be eliminated, according to NIOSH.

The final rule will take effect in 30 days. It notes that NFPA sought to develop a consensus on the right value to use and recently amended the NFPA 1981 Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services to require an indicator alarm at 33 percent.

In the rule, NIOSH says it decided that specifying a minimum setting of 25 percent and allowing manufacturers to offer different alarm settings based on purchasers' needs "will result in a more meaningful alarm that may offer greater protection for users."

Purchasers may have indicators modified for SCBA units already in the field by an authorized representative of the manufacturer, as long as that respirator model has received a new NIOSH approval specifying the new alarm set point, it states.

The rule also codifies a NIOSH policy of long standing that requires demand and pressure-demand open-circuit SCBA indicators to alarm continuously until the unit's breathing air is exhausted. In response to a comment, the agency said manufacturers aren't required to modify existing approvals to comply with the final rule and can market and sell respirators approved under the current rule indefinitely. But if they choose to sell respiratory that activate at the 25 percent minimum requirement or earlier, they must obtain a new or revised NIOSH approval.

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