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Respiratory Protection, General Industry – Regulation 29 CFR 1910.134

Ranking: 3

Employers must provide respirators to protect workers exposed to inhalation hazards when exposure cannot be controlled by engineering or administrative controls. © chalongrat –

A Workplace Story

A California Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (CA/FACE) Program report:

A bathtub refinisher, working alone in a small apartment bathroom, died of methylene chloride exposure while using the chemical to remove paint from a bathtub. The victim was not wearing any respiratory protection. The bathroom had a small, open window but no mechanical ventilation. The victim was the sole employee of a company that specialized in refinishing bathtubs and sinks.

In response to the incident, the CA/FACE Program recommends that safer paint removal products be used, but if a methylene chloride-containing paint remover is used, it should only be done in a well-ventilated bathroom, by someone wearing polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) or Silvershield® gloves and an airline respirator.

The Numbers

Enforcement from October 2019 through September 2020

Total citations: 2,757

Total inspections: 1,150

Total proposed penalties: $4,887,192

Industries most often violating the respiratory protection standard:

Health Care and Social Assistance: $2,730,216

Manufacturing (part 3 of 3): $577,613

Construction: $391,025

Manufacturing (part 2 of 3): $330,312

Other Services (except Public Administration): $123,753

Wholesale Trade: $90,813

Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services: $180,433

Manufacturing (part 1 of 3): $121,295

Retail Trade (part 1 of 2): $51,379

Transportation and Warehousing (1 of 2): $60,498


Respiratory hazards are due to exposure to substances hazardous to health which are small enough to be inhaled or breathed in, such as dust, fumes, spores or bacteria, gases or oxygen-deficient atmospheres. More than one respiratory hazard can be present at the same time. Sometimes, substances absorbed through the skin can also be hazardous to the respiratory system. Some examples of occupational lung diseases are:

  • Asbestosis. This condition is caused when a person breathes in tiny asbestos fibers.
  • Coal worker’s pneumoconiosis or black lung disease. This is caused by inhaling coal dust.
  • Silicosis, which is caused by breathing in airborne crystalline silica.
  • Byssinosis, caused by breathing in dust from hemp, flax and cotton processing. It is also known as Brown Lung Disease.
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an allergic lung disease caused by a lung inflammation that happens from breathing in fungus spores, bacteria, animal or plant protein, or certain chemicals. They can come from moldy hay, bird droppings and other organic dusts.
  • Work-related asthma, caused by breathing in dusts, gases, fumes and vapors. It causes asthma symptoms such as a chronic cough and wheezing.

The types of devices used to protect workers from respiratory hazards include:

  • Elastomeric Half Facepiece Respirators are usable and have replaceable cartridges or filters. They cover the nose and mouth and provide protection against gases, vapors or particles when equipped with the appropriate cartridge or filter.
  • Elastomeric Full Facepiece Respirators are reusable and have replaceable canisters, cartridges or filters. The facepiece covers the face and eyes, which offers eye protection.
  • Filtering Facepiece Respirators are disposable half-facepiece respirators that filter out particles such as dusts, mists and fumes. They do NOT provide protection against gases and vapors.
  • Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) have a battery-powered blower that pulls air through attached filters, canisters, or cartridges. They provide protection against gases, vapors or particles when equipped with the appropriate cartridge, canister or filter. Loose-fitting PAPRs do not require fit testing and can be used with facial hair.
  • Supplied-Air Respirators are connected to a separate source that supplies clean, compressed air through a hose. They can be lightweight and used while working for long hours in environments not immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH).
  • Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBAs) are used for entry into or escape from environments considered to be IDLH. They contain their own breathing air supply and can be either open circuit or closed circuit.
  • Combination Respirators can be either a supplied-air/SCBA respirator or supplied-air/air-purifying respirator. The SCBA type has a self-contained air supply if primary airline fails and can be used in IDLH environments. The air-purifying type offers protection using both a supplied-air hose and an air-purifying component and cannot be used for entry into IDLH environments.


OSHA requires that each employer must provide respirators to protect workers from workplace hazards during work to prevent inhalation of hazardous materials that cannot be controlled by other measures (i.e., engineering or administrative controls). The employer must establish and maintain a respiratory protection program, which is compliant with the OSHA respiratory protection standard and provides respirators suitable for their intended purpose.

A respiratory protection program must include a written plan detailing how the program will be administered. In addition to having a written program, the employer must also be able to demonstrate that the program is enforced and updated as necessary. The written program should include:

  • Procedure for selecting respirators for use in the workplace
  • Medical evaluation of employees required to wear 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 and discarding, and otherwise maintaining respirators
  • Procedure to ensure adequate quality, quantity, and flow of breathing air for atmosphere-supplying air respirators
  • Training of employees in the proper use of respirators, including putting on and removing them, any limitations on their use and their maintenance
  • Procedures for regularly evaluating the effectiveness of the program

Procedures for ensuring that workers who voluntarily wear respirators (excluding filtering facepieces) comply with the medical evaluation, and cleaning, storing and maintenance requirements of the standard. WMHS 205-980-0180

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