In order to minimize the exposure of employees to harmful air contaminants in concentrations above the permissible exposure limits outlined by OSHA when engineering controls are not feasible, a business must provide appropriate respirators adequate to protect the health of the employee (OSHA Act 29 CFR-1910.134).
The following is a brief outline of the requirements of a respirator protection program:
- Written Policy – The policy shall include the selection and proper use of respirators.
- Training – Employees shall be instructed and trained in the proper use and limitations of respirators.
- Medical Evaluation – Employees will not use a respirator until a local physician determines they are physically able to wear such equipment. Employees will be re-examined periodically for their continued fitness to wear respirators. If respirators are worn for comfort use only, no medical evaluation is needed. However, be aware of the requirements in Appendix D of the respirator standard.
- Respirator Selection – The respirator shall be selected on the basis of the exposure hazards of the employee. Only respirators approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the Mine Safety and Health Administration will be used.
- Respirator Fit Testing – A quantitative or qualitative fit test will be performed on each employee required by the employer to wear a respirator. The purpose of this procedure is to determine the proper selection and fit of the respirator. Fit testing of respirators is required only if a hazard exists.
- Facial Hair – An employee required to wear a respirator will not have a beard (24-hour growth and longer), extended sideburns, or goatee.
- Respirator Inspection, Cleaning, Maintenance, and Storage – The respirator will be cleaned with mild soap and water and disinfected with a sanitary solution after each use. The respirator will be inspected before and after each use for proper function and for worn or deteriorated parts. When respirators are not being used, they will be stored in a clean, dry, and sanitary location.
- Program Evaluation – The employer will conduct an evaluation of the respirator protection program at least annually.
- Records – Training, fit-testing, medical qualifications, and inspection records will be kept by the employer. Records will be retained for the duration of the individual’s employment, plus 30 years.
Important Note: An acceptable Respirator Protection Program cannot be developed from this Overview. Its purpose is to give you an awareness of OSHA program requirements. You are advised to contact the appropriate state and federal regulatory agencies for details of the Respirator Protection Program. See OSHA 3079 "Respiratory Protection" (available at the indicated link, if you have if you have Adobe® Acrobat® Reader software, or order it through the OSHA web site’s Publications Order Form.