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OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.134: Respiratory Protection

Ranking: #2

The Risks

Respirators protect workers against insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors and sprays. These hazards may cause cancer, lung impairment, diseases or death. Compliance with the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard could avert hundreds of deaths and thousands of illnesses annually.

Respirators protect the user in two basic ways. The first is by the removal of contaminants from the air. Respirators of this type include particulate respirators, which filter out airborne particles, and air-purifying respirators with cartridges/canisters which filter out chemicals and gases. Other respirators protect by supplying clean respirable air from another source. Respirators that fall into this category include airline respirators, which use compressed air from a remote source, and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), which include their own air supply.

Major Provisions of the Standard

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    In the control of those occupational diseases caused by breathing air contaminated with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays or vapors, the primary objective shall be to prevent atmospheric contamination. This shall be accomplished as far as feasible by accepted engineering control measures (for example, enclosure or confinement of the operation, general and local ventilation, and substitution of less toxic materials). When effective engineering controls are not feasible, or while they are being instituted, appropriate respirators shall be used pursuant to this section.

  • A respirator shall be provided to each employee when such equipment is necessary to protect the health of such employee. The employer shall provide the respirators which are applicable and suitable for the purpose intended. The employer shall be responsible for the establishment and maintenance of a respiratory protection program.
  • In any workplace where respirators are necessary to protect the health of the employee or whenever respirators are required by the employer, the employer shall establish and implement a written respiratory protection program with worksite-specific procedures. The program shall be updated as necessary to reflect those changes in workplace conditions that affect respirator use. The employer shall include in the program the following provisions of this section, as applicable:
  • Procedures for selecting respirators for use in the workplace;
  • Medical evaluations of employees required to use respirators;
  • Fit testing procedures for tight-
    fitting respirators;
  • Procedures for proper use of respirators in routine and reasonably foreseeable emergency situations;
  • Procedures and schedules for cleaning, disinfecting, storing, inspecting, repairing, discarding and otherwise maintaining respirators;
  • Procedures to ensure adequate air quality, quantity and flow of breathing air for atmosphere-supplying respirators;
  • Training of employees in the respiratory hazards to which they are potentially exposed during routine and emergency situations;
  • Training of employees in the proper use of respirators, including putting on and removing them, any limitations on their use, and their maintenance; and
  • Procedures for regularly evaluating the effectiveness of the program.
  • An employer may provide respirators at the request of employees or permit employees to use their own respirators if the employer determines that such respirator use will not in itself create a hazard.
  • In addition, the employer must establish and implement those elements of a written respiratory protection program necessary to ensure that any employee using a respirator voluntarily is medically able to use that respirator, and that the respirator is cleaned, stored and maintained so that its use does not present a health hazard to the user. Exception: Employers are not required to include in a written respiratory protection program those employees whose only use of respirators involves the voluntary use of filtering facepieces (dust masks).
  • The employer shall designate a program administrator who is qualified by appropriate training or experience that is commensurate with the complexity of the program to administer or oversee the respiratory protection program and conduct the required evaluations of program effectiveness.
  • The employer shall provide respirators, training and medical evaluations at no cost to the employee.
  • The employer is required to evaluate respiratory hazard(s) in the workplace, identify relevant workplace and user factors, and base respirator selection on the respiratory hazard(s) to which the worker is exposed.
  • The employer shall select a NIOSH-certified respirator. The respirator shall be used in compliance with the conditions of its certification.
  • The employer shall identify and evaluate the respiratory hazard(s) in the workplace; this evaluation shall include a reasonable estimate of employee exposures to respiratory hazard(s) and an identification of the contaminant’s chemical state and physical form. Where the employer cannot identify or reasonably estimate the employee exposure, the employer shall consider the atmosphere to be IDLH (immediately dangerous to life and health).
  • The employer shall select respirators from a sufficient number of respirator models and sizes so that the respirator is acceptable to, and correctly fits, the user.
  • The employer shall provide the following respirators for employee use in IDLH atmospheres:
  • A full facepiece pressure demand SCBA certified by NIOSH for a minimum service life of thirty minutes, or
  • A combination full facepiece pressure demand supplied-air respirator (SAR) with auxiliary self-contained air supply.
  • Respirators provided only for escape from IDLH atmospheres shall be NIOSH-certified for escape from the atmosphere in which they will be used.
  • All oxygen-deficient atmospheres shall be considered IDLH. Exception: If the employer demonstrates that, under all foreseeable conditions, the oxygen concentration can be maintained within the ranges specified in Table II of this section (i.e., for the altitudes set out in the table), then any atmosphere-supplying respirator may be used.
  • For atmospheres that are not IDLH, the employer shall provide a respirator that is adequate to protect the health of the employee and ensure compliance with all other OSHA statutory and regulatory requirements, under routine and reasonably foreseeable emergency situations.

Compliance Resources

OSHA’s website provides a variety of respiratory information, including general guidance, training videos and resources in Spanish. Go to: www.osha.gov/respiratory-protection WMHS

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