Respiratory Protection

The respiratory protection program is governed by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) under 29 CFR 1910.134. Many people believe buying and using a respirator is no more complicated than any other personal protective equipment (PPE), like a pair of gloves. However, there are many federal requirements that go along with wearing a respirator such as medical evaluations, fit testing, and training. Even the decision of which type of respirator to buy, or which type of cartridge you need can be a complicated one. Call us before purchasing a respirator or beginning any operation where you feel respiratory protection might be necessary.

UAF Respiratory Protection Policy (WORD) - This document covers UAF policy as well as training and medical exam requirements.

Respiratory Protection

Respirators can significantly reduce the level of exposure of a particular substance when used correctly. However, respirators should not be the first option for reducing exposure. It is always best to eliminate a hazard first if possible, by administrative techniques, i.e., shorter work interval times, or by engineering techniques such as utilizing a fume hood to reduce exposure.

In order to better assess the need for a respirator, please call the UAF Industrial Hygienist at 907-474-6671, to coordinate environmental and/or personal sampling evaluations. The results from the samples will indicate the level of exposure. Once the exposure concentration is known, it will help in assessing the degree of protection needed.

Before you wear a respirator

Although respirators reduce exposure, they can cause a physiological burden on employees. There are several mandatory steps that must be taken before employees are permitted to use respirators when required in the work place. These include:

  • Medical Evaluation
  • Annual Fit Tests
  • Enrollment in the UAF Respiratory Protection Program
  • Training on the selection, use, care, limitations, maintenance, storage, and other aspects of wearing a respirator.

All these items can be easily arranged and completed, but the need must first be communicated to EHSRM. Please call our office at 907-474-6771 to initiate the process.

If you choose to wear a respirator

If you choose to wear a respirator when it is not required under the OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.134, there are guidelines that must be provided to you as an employee. These guidelines can be found under Appendix D of the standard but please call EHSRM for further instructions on the use of a respirator.

Frequently Asked Questions: Respirators


Call or email Tracey Martinson at 907-474-6771. Be prepared to answer questions such as what material are you working with, how is it applied, and how long you work with it. It is also useful to have a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) available.

Fit testing of all tight-fitting facepiece respirators is required prior to initial use, whenever a different respirator is used, and at least annually thereafter. An additional fit test is required whenever there are changes in the user's physical condition that could affect respirator fit (e.g., facial scarring, dental changes, cosmetic surgery, or an obvious change in body weight.) The employee must be fit tested with the same make, model, style, and size of respirator that will be used.

Disposable respirators cannot be disinfected, and are therefore assigned to only one person. Disposable respirators must be discarded if they are soiled, physically damaged, or reach the end of their service life. Replaceable filter respirators may be shared, but must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after each use before being worn by a different person, using procedures in Appendix B-2 of 29 CFR 1910.134, or equally effective procedures recommended by the manufacturer.

Yes, but if an employee wears corrective glasses or goggles or other personal protective equipment, the employer must ensure that such equipment is worn in a manner that does not interfere with the seal of the facepiece to the face of the users. Kits are available from all respirator manufacturers that allow the mounting of prescription lenses inside full-face respirators.

Yes. While OSHA believes that contact lenses do not pose additional hazards to the wearer, they warn that contact lenses are not eye protection devices. If eye hazards are present, appropriate eye protection must be worn instead of, or in conjunction with, contact lenses. Also, their use is not recommended in dusty atmospheres while wearing a half-mask respirator.

First of all, you need to think about what you are using the device for. For instance, many people use a dust mask for painting, when most of these types of devices are only good for particulates (which will not protect you from potentially dangerous vapors in paint). Also, you cannot be fit tested on a dust mask, so there is no way of determining the protection factor. Therefore, these masks are to be used for comfort purposes only. You should have any condition that you are unsure of evaluated by EHSRM prior to work.

It is okay to have facial hair as long as it does not interfere with the respirator seal or valves. A mustache or goatee may be worn as long as all of the facial hair is contained within and does not affect the seal or respirator. Also, you should not have more than one day of growth of facial hair when wearing a respirator. Respirators that do not rely on a tight face seal, such as hoods or helmets, may be used by bearded individuals.