Environmental Health and Safety

Effective Date: 11/03/00

Policy Statement 15: Respiratory Protection

OSHA Requirements

According to OSHA, the minimum acceptable respiratory protection program must include written procedures governing the selection and use of respirators, appropriate training for employees, regular cleaning, proper storage, and routine inspection of respirators, surveillance of work area conditions, medical surveillance, and program evaluation. The Environmental Health and Safety Office is responsible for administering an effective respirator program to insure the fulfillment of the above requirements. Each employee is responsible for using the provided respiratory protection in accordance with instructions and training received. A formal written program is maintained by Environmental Health and Safety and should be consulted for detailed information.

Engineering Controls

Atmospheric contamination by harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, or vapors must be eliminated as far as feasible by accepted engineering control measures, such as enclosure or confinement of the operation, general and local ventilation, or substitution of less toxic materials.

Safety Plan

For work environments requiring the use of respirators, the work supervisor is responsible for preparing a Safety Plan outlining the nature of the work, the hazard to which employees are exposed, and safety procedures to be followed. This Safety Plan must be reviewed by the Environmental Health and Safety Office before respirators are issued to employees. Planning assistance is also available from the office by contacting the staff Industrial Hygienist.

Classification of Respiratory Hazards and Respirators

Respiratory hazards include oxygen deficiency, gas and vapor contaminants, particulate contaminants, and the combination of vapor and particulate contaminants. Respirators fall into the following general classifications, according to the mode of operation: atmosphere-supplying respirators, air-purifying respirators, and combination atmosphere-supplying and air-purifying respirators. Respirators can be further classified as either negative pressure or positive pressure.

Selection of Respirators

The selection of a respirator for any given situation requires consideration of many factors including: nature of the hazard, extent of the hazard, work requirements and conditions, and characteristics and limitations of available respirators. Respirator selection and purchases must be coordinated through the Industrial Hygienist. Improper or unapproved respirators are subject to confiscation in order to eliminate the chance of an employee being improperly protected and feelings of "false security. "

Standby Assistance

For atmospheres immediately dangerous to life or health, standby personnel must be present with suitable rescue equipment.


Both the user of the respirator and the supervisor must be trained in the proper selection, use, and maintenance of respirators. Fit testing by the staff Industrial Hygienist is required for all employees using respirators with tight-fitting facepieces. Minimum training is to include the following:


Routinely used respirators must be collected, cleaned, and disinfected as frequently as necessary to insure that proper protection is provided for the wearer. Respirators maintained for emergency use must be cleaned and disinfected after each use. If used by more than one person, the respirator must be cleaned and disinfected after each use.


Respirators must be stored to protect against dust, sunlight, heat, extreme cold, excessive moisture or damaging chemicals. Respirators should not be stored in such places as lockers or tool boxes unless they are in carrying cases or cartons. Respirators should be stored so that the facepiece and exhalation valve will rest in a normal position and function will not be impaired by the facepiece setting in an abnormal position.


Respirators are to be inspected before and after each use. A respirator that is not routinely used but is kept ready for emergency use must be inspected after each use and at least monthly. Respirator inspection is to include a check of the tightness of connections and the condition of the facepiece, headbands, valves, connecting tube, and cartridges. A record is to be kept of inspection dates and findings for respirators maintained for emergency use.

Medical Surveillance

Workers should never be assigned to any operation requiring respiratory protection until a physician has determined that they are physically capable of working with the equipment. The medical evaluation will include a general physical emphasizing the pulmonary system, the administration of a pulmonary function test, and chest x-rays .


The respirator program will be monitored and evaluated by the Environmental Health and Safety Office annually to determine its effectiveness by evaluating the degree of wearer acceptance, examination of respirators in use, and periodic medical examinations to evaluate the protection afforded.

NOTE: See the Respiratory Protection Program for East Carolina University