Respiratory Protection

Over the past decade the need for respiratory protection has evolved. Recent OSHA Regulations regarding Hexavalent Chromium, Lead and Asbestos prompted a need for assessment of respiratory hazards in the workplace. When possible these hazards should be controlled using engineering, work practice, or administrative controls. However, if these controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, employees may need to utilize respiratory protection.


  • Harmful dusts (lead, silica, and other heavy metals)
  • Fumes and smokes (welding fume)
  • Gases and vapors (chemical exposures)
  • Oxygen deficiency (oxidation, displacement, and consumption)
  • Biological hazards (tuberculosis, whooping cough, flu viruses)


  • Air-Purifying Respirators (APR) clean the air you breathe using filters, cartridges, or canisters.
  • APRs include half face, full face, N95, and PAPR respirators.
  • Atmosphere Supplying Respirators supply the user with breathing air from a source independent of the ambient atmosphere. Supplied Air Respirators (SAR) and Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) are examples of atmosphere supplying respirators.


  • Prior to issuing respirators, the workplace must be assessed to determine if there is a need for respiratory
  • If the assessment determines that the use of respiratory protection is required, employees must be medically cleared, trained, and respirator fit tested prior to respirator use.
  • Employees who are required to use respirators must also complete the training and fit testing requirements on an annual basis.


  • Respirators must always be inspected prior to donning. The inspection should check for missing or worn respirator parts.
  • For air-purifying respirators, the proper cartridge or filter must be selected based on the hazard.
  • Respirator users must don the respirator properly and verify a good fit by performing positive and negative user seal checks each time the respirator is donned.
  • Respirator users must know the limitations of their respirator and stay clean shaven in the respirator seal area.
  • Employees may not share respirators and must only use the respirator for which they have been fitted for.

Disclaimer: The information and suggestions contained in these safety talks are believed to be reliable. However, the authors of the topics and the owners of this web site accept no legal responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency, or completeness of such information or suggestions contained within these topics. These guidelines do not supercede local, state, or federal regulations and must not be construed as a substitute for, or legal interpretation of, any OSHA regulations.