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Respiratory Protection

The Respiratory Protection Program is designed to protect employees by establishing accepted practices for the selection, use, and care of respirators.  This program is intended to meet the OSHA requirements for general industry outlined in 29 CFR 1910.134. 

The program applies to all employees who are required to wear a respirator to prevent unnecessary exposure to airborne concentrations of toxic materials equal to or greater than permissible limits.  The program also applies to those who choose to use a respirator voluntarily.     

Individual respirators are required whenever work is performed in atmospheres where harmful particulate, gas or vapor contaminants exceed OSHA specified limits or in which there is an oxygen deficiency.  In order for a respirator to adequately provide the degree of protection needed, the equipment selected must match the nature of the hazard and the respirator must be maintained and worn properly.  

Atmospheric contaminants will be eliminated as far as feasible by engineering control methods such as enclosure of the operation, general and local ventilation, or by substitution of less toxic materials.  

Air Purifying Respirator:  A type of respirator with an air-purifying filter, cartridge or canister that removes specific air contaminants by passing ambient air through the air-purifying element.

Negative Pressure Respirators:  A respirator that fits tightly to the face, where ambient air is drawn through the air purifying element by the pressure of the inhalation of the wearer, creating a lower air pressure inside the face piece than the outside air.

Positive Pressure Air Purifying Respirator:  A respirator where ambient air is drawn through the air purifying element by a motor or similar device and pumped into the face piece, creating a greater air pressure inside the face piece than the outside air.

Atmosphere Supplying Respirators:  Respirators which provide air to the wearer from a source other than the ambient air, such as an air cylinder or air compressor.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA):  An atmosphere-supplying respirator where the breathing air is designed to be carried by the user.

Supplied Air Respirator (SAR):  An atmosphere-supplying respirator where the breathing air is supplied through an airline.

Canister or Cartridge:  A container with a filter, sorbent, or catalyst, or combination of these items which removes specific contaminants from air passed through the container.

Exposure:  The potential or actual exposure to a concentration of an airborne contaminant/pathogen that would occur if the employee is not wearing respiratory protection.

Fit Factor:  A quantitative estimate of the fit of a particular respirator to a specific individual, which typically estimates the ratio of the concentrate inside the respirator when worn.

Filter:  A component used in respirators to remove solid or liquid aerosols from inspired air.

Filtering Face Piece:  A negative pressure particulate respirator with a filter as an integral part of the face piece or with the entire face piece composed of the filtering medium.

Fit Test: A protocol to quantitatively or qualitatively evaluate the fit of a tight-fitting respirator on an individual.

High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filter:  A filter that is at least 99.97% effective in removing monodisperse particles of 0.3 microns in diameter and is NIOSH approved less than 40 CFR Part 84.

Hood:  A respiratory inlet covering that completely covers the head and neck and may also cover portions of the shoulders and torso.

Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH):  An atmosphere that poses an immediate threat to life, would cause irreversible adverse health effects, or would impair an individual’s ability to escape from the environment.  For the purposes of this policy, potential oxygen deficient atmospheres are IDLH.

Loose Fitting Face Piece:  A respiratory inlet covering that is designed to form a partial seal with the face.

N-95:  The N95-level respirator is a 95% particulate respirator. It is used for solid and non-oil based particles. Applications include grinding, sanding, bagging and general processing of various minerals and other substances that do not contain oil or vapors.

Particulates:  Air contaminants which are in solid or liquid states, such as dusts, fumes, mists, or fibers.

Parts Per Million (PPM):  A measurement of the parts of an air contaminant per million parts of air.

Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL):  The maximum concentration of an air contaminant to which a worker is allowed to be exposed, in accordance with the stated exposure limits in 29 CFR Part 1910 Subpart Z.

Physician or Other Licensed Health Care Professional (PLHCP):  An individual who’s legally permitted scope of practice (i.e., license, registration, or certification) allows him or her to independently provide or be delegated the responsibility to provide some or all of the health care services required for medical clearance in compliance with the OSHA respiratory protection standard.

Respirator Inlet Covering:  That portion of a respirator that forms the protective barrier between the user’s respiratory tract and an air-purifying device or breathing air source, or both.  It may be a face piece, helmet, hood, suit, or mouthpiece respirator with hose clamp.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA):  An atmosphere-supplying respirator for which the breathing air source is designed to be carried by the user.

Threshold limit value (TLV):  The value of a chemical substance is a level to which it is believed a worker can be exposed day after day for a working lifetime without adverse health effects.

Tight Fitting Face Piece:  A respiratory inlet covering that forms a complete seal with the face.

User Seal Check:  An action conducted by the respirator user to determine if the respirator is properly seated to the face.

Safety and Risk Management Office

Safety and Risk Management has the primary responsibility for the implementation and enforcement of the program and is responsible for the following:

  • Developing, implementing, and evaluating the Respiratory Protection Program to ensure compliance.
  • Assisting with identifying the task or environment requiring the use of a respirator.   
  • Recommending appropriate respirators and filtering media for tasks that require the use of a respirator.
  • Providing general information and training related to respiratory protection for affected employees.
  • Notifying affected staff whenever a new procedure/policy change is introduced and providing additional training on the equipment.
  • Reviewing fit test and medical records of employees.
  • Maintaining a list of employees medically approved for use of respiratory protective equipment.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the program.

Supervisor Responsibilities

Supervisors in support and administrative areas are responsible for providing the necessary direction and support to ensure the effective implementation of the Respiratory Protection Program for their work areas.  Supervisors are responsible for the following:

  • Contacting the Safety and Risk Management Office when a respirator is planned to be used.
  • Ensuring that employees required to use a respirator for their work submit the Mandatory Respirator Use Form to be enrolled in the medical evaluation and fit testing requirements.
  • Ensuring that employees are provided with respirators at no cost when the use is mandatory under the program.
  • Conducting regular inspections and evaluations to determine the effectiveness of the program.
  • Attending training on the proper use and storage of a respirator.
  • Ensuring that employees are fit tested for a respirator when required under the program.
  • Ensuring the employee completes the medical evaluation when required under the program.
  • Ensuring employees properly maintain the respirator to manufacture recommendations.
  • Ensuring that employees using a filtering facepiece respirator (i.e. N95) voluntarily submit the Voluntary Use of Filtering Facepiece Form.
  • Ensuring that employees using an elastomeric or half-mask respirator voluntarily submit the Voluntary Use of Elastomeric Respirator Form.

Employee Responsibilities

Employees who are required to use respiratory protection shall:

  • Comply with all of the requirements under the Respiratory Protection Program.
  • Participate in medical clearance procedures, training sessions, tests for competency validation, and fit testing.
  • Inspect their reusable respirators before each use and clean/disinfect after each use according to procedures for reusable respirators.
  • Ensure that respirators are not being worn when there is a physical impediment to continuous contact between the sealing surface of the respirator and the wearer’s face.
  • Respirators will be used, maintained, cleaned, and stored away from contamination in a clean, sanitary place, and on a flat surface in a sealed container. Avoid extreme temperatures.  Do not hang respirator by its straps and always disinfect it in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Remove all facial hair when a respirator is required to be worn.
  • Report any significant changes or problems to their supervisor.
  • Do not reuse a contaminated N95 respirator and dispose of the mask properly.

Respirators are considered an acceptable method of protecting the health of employees only under the following circumstances:

  • When it has been determined by all parties that there are no feasible engineering or work practice controls that can be used to adequately control the hazard.
  • Where required during intermittent and non-routine operations.
  • During the interim periods when engineering controls are being designed and/or installed for a particularly hazardous operation.
  • During emergency situations.
  • During voluntary use where respiratory protection is not required.     

Respirators will be selected based on many factors including the nature of the hazard, the concentration of the contaminant to which an employee is exposed, extent of the hazard, regulatory requirements, work requirements and conditions, and the characteristics and limitations of available respirators. 

  • Respirators are to be selected based on the respiratory hazard(s) to which the worker is exposed along with workplace and user factors that affect respirator performance and reliability.
  • Each supervisor is to evaluate the respiratory hazards in the workplace and identify relevant workplace and user factors. Safety and Risk Management can help supervisors evaluate potential air contaminants and inhalation hazards.  The evaluation of respiratory hazards is to include a reasonable estimate of employee exposure and an identification of the contaminant’s chemical state and physical form.  If an unsafe exposure situation exists, the feasibility of engineering or administrative controls will be considered.  If these preferred methods of controlling exposures are not feasible, appropriate respirators shall be provided and used.
  • Tight-fitting air purifying respirators shall not be worn when conditions prevent a good face seal. Such conditions include, but are not limited to, growth of a beard, sideburns, any piece of clothing that projects under the facepiece or temple pieces on glasses. When employees are required to use tight-fitting air purifying respirators and have facial hair that interferes with seal of the respirator, such as a beard or goatee, the employee shall use a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) equipped with a loose-fitting hood.  This is the only acceptable respirator to be used under these circumstances.

Employers must provide medical evaluations for employees who are required to wear a respirator for their work to determine if the employee is medically able to wear a respirator.  The evaluation is also required for voluntary use of an elastomeric type respirator.  Respirators can make breathing more difficult and some health conditions could prevent respirator use such as a heart condition, lung disease, or psychological condition (i.e. claustrophobia).

The medical evaluation is confidential and considers health, job description, type of respirator used, and workplace conditions.  The employer is required to fund all costs associated with the medical evaluation.

General requirements for mandatory respirator use:

  • All employees that are required to use a respirator with a negative or positive pressure tight-fitting face-piece will be fit tested. The same make, model, style and size respirator will be used to conduct the fit test.  The program administrator or other designated personnel shall perform required fit tests following receipt of the medical clearance. 
  • At a minimum, all personnel must pass a qualitative respirator fit test (QLFT) before being allowed to use a tight-fitting face piece respirator. At the discretion of Safety and Risk Management, some personnel and/or task may require a Quantitative Fit Test (QNFT).
  • Respirator users shall pass a fit test prior to initial use of the respirator, or whenever a different respirator (size, style model, or make) is used, and at least annually thereafter.
  • Respirator users shall pass an additional fit test whenever the supervisor or respiratory protection program administrator observes changes in the employee's physical condition that could affect the fit of the respirator (facial scarring, dental changes, cosmetic surgery, or obvious body weight change).
  • Fit tests shall be administered using procedures specified by OSHA in 29 CFR 1910.134(f).

Fit testing documentation will include:

  • The name or identification of the employee tested.
  • Type of fit test performed.
  • Specific make, model, style and size of respirator tested.
  • Date of test.
  • Pass or fail results of the fit test.

Fit testing is to include:

  • Showing the proper way to don a respirator, proper positioning, strap tension and determining if there is an acceptable fit.
  • When assessing comfort, ask about:
  • Position on the nose.
  • Room for eye protection (have them put on eye protection if applicable).
  • Room to talk.
  • Position on face and cheeks.
  • Determining adequacy of respirator fit by checking:
  • Chin placement.
  • Strap tension.
  • Fit across nose and face.
  • Size of the respirator – goes from nose to chin.
  • Look in mirror for self-observation.
  • Have employee move head up and down and side to side while taking slow, deep breaths in order to seat the mask on face. Employee conducts a user seal check in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Fit testing exercises.
    • Normal breathing - one minute.
    • Deep breathing - one minute (slow deep breaths in order not to hyperventilate).
    • Turn head from side to side - inhale at each side – one minute.
    • Move head up and down - inhale in the up position – one minute.
    • Talk - Read prepared text or count backward from 100.
    • Bend over - at waist, pretend touching toes, or jogging in place – one minute.

Training shall be provided so employees will understand the purpose and function of the program.

  1. Supervisors shall ensure personnel required to use or to supervise other personnel using respiratory protective devices are provided training.
  2. Personnel that are required to use respirators will be trained concerning the reasons for the use of respiratory protective devices and instructions on proper selection, use, and maintenance.
  3. Training will be provided prior to the utilization of respiratory protection in the workplace.
  4. Refresher training will be administered annually and in the following situations:
  • When there is a change in workplace conditions.
  • When there is a change in the type of respirator used, rendering the previous training obsolete.
  • When there are indications that the respirator user did not retain the sufficient knowledge or skills necessary to properly utilize a respirator.
  1. The employee's training record is maintained for the period the employee is engaged in tasks requiring the use of the respirator plus 30 years after their last day of state employment.

Supervisors and employees shall be instructed by a competent person knowledgeable in the area of respiratory protection or by electronic means approved by the Safety and Risk Management Office.  Training shall cover the general requirements of 1910.134 and include:

  • Reasons to use a respirator.
  • How improper fit, usage or maintenance can compromise the protective value of the respirator.
  • Limitations and capacities of the respirator.
  • Emergency use of the respirator including times when the respirator malfunctions.
  • How to inspect, put on, remove and check the seals of the respirator.
  • Proper procedures for maintenance and storage of the respirator.
  • How to recognize medical signs and symptoms that may limit or prevent the effective use of respirators.
  • Each respirator will be maintained in a clean, sanitary condition and good working order.
  • Respirators will be cleaned at least daily or after each shift. Respirators used by more than one person shall be cleaned and disinfected before being worn by different individuals.  Disposable respirators shall be disposed of when no longer fit for use and at a minimum daily.
  • Respirators used for fit testing and training will be cleaned after each use.
  • All respirators will be stored to protect the respirator and prevent damage, contamination, dust accumulation, sunlight, extreme temperatures, excessive moisture, and chemicals from damaging the respirator.
  • Respirators will be inspected before each use and during cleaning. The respirator inspection will include a check of function, tightness of connection, and condition of parts such as the face piece, head strap, valves, and filters.  The elastomeric parts will be checked for pliability and signs of deterioration.
  • Respirators that fail inspection or are otherwise found to be defective will be removed from service and repaired or disposed of.
  • Respirator cartridges and filters shall be changed after 8 hours of use or 2 weeks after opening, whichever occurs first. Employees shall mark on each cartridge how long it has been in service.

Sometimes people may wear a respirator to avoid exposure, even if the amount of hazardous substance does not exceed the regulatory exposure limits.  If your employer provides respirators for your voluntary use, or if you provide your own respirator, you need to take certain precautions to be sure that the respirator itself does not present a hazard.

Employees who voluntarily use a respirator shall:

  • Contact your supervisor for approval to use a respirator.
  • Contact the Safety and Risk Management Office when a respirator is planned to be used.
  • Review the information contained in the Respiratory Protection Program.
  • If using a filtering facepiece (i.e. N95 mask) voluntarily, then submit the Voluntary use of a Filtering Facepiece Respirator Form to the Safety and Risk Management Office.
  • If using an elastomeric or half-mask respirator voluntarily, then submit the Voluntary Use of Elastomeric Respirator Form to the Safety and Risk Management Office.
  • Read and heed all instructions provided by the manufacturer on use, maintenance, cleaning, care and warnings regarding the reusable respirator’s limitations.
  • Choose respirators certified for use to protect against the contaminant of concern. A label of statement of certification should appear on the respirator or respirator packaging.  It will tell you what the respirator is designed for and how much it will protect you.
  • Keep track of the respirator so another person’s respirator is not used by mistake.
  • Do not wear the respirator into atmospheres containing contaminants for which the respirator is not designed. For example, a respirator designed to filter dust particles will not protect the employee against gases, vapors, or very small solid particles of fumes or smoke.
  • Inspect the respirator before each use.
  • Report any significant changes or problems to the supervisor.


    Fit-testing is not required and facial hair is not a restriction for voluntary use of a respirator.  The employer is not required to pay for voluntarily used respirators but they are required to fund any medical evaluations and cleaning supplies used to maintain the respirators.



    Employer requirements based on the type of respirator used voluntarily:
    1) Filtering Facepiece (N, R, P - 95,99,100), synonymous with dust mask.

    • Employers must determine that the masks themselves do not pose a hazard to workers.
    • Employers must provide a copy of Appendix D of the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.
    • Employees must be trained on respirator use and limitations.
    • Ensure that the Voluntary Use of Filtering Facepiece Respirator Form is submitted to the Safety and Risk Management Office.

    2) Elastomeric Respirator (tight-fitting, negative pressure, air-purifying), i.e. half-mask respirator with purifying cartridges.

    • Employer must determine that the respirator itself does not create a hazard.
    • Employers must provide a copy of Appendix D of the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.
    • Ensure that respirator users are medically evaluated to wear a respirator.
    • Ensure that the respirators are properly cleaned, stored, and maintained.
    • Ensure that the Voluntary Use of Elastomeric Respirator Form is submitted to the Safety and Risk Management Office.

    The Department supervising the employee is responsible for:

    • Funding the medical evaluation for voluntary elastomeric respirator use.
    • Providing respirator cleaning equipment.
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