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OSHA Respiratory Protection Requirements

1. Exposure Assessment

OSHA requires employers to evaluate respiratory hazards in the workplace. You can bring in an independent or OSHA consultant if you don’t have a trained safety professional on staff or for an additional opinion on your hazards. The results of the assessment can help determine:

Exposure levels, and whether they’re acceptable or unacceptable.You should conduct a new assessment periodically and every time there are changes in the workplace that could result in new exposures — such as a change in equipment, process, products or control measures. An exposure assessment form is included in our FREE written respiratory protection program.

2. Written Respiratory Protection Program

Keeping a written record provides proof of compliance with the regulatory standards to OSHA. It also gives employees a reliable source for information about respiratory protection procedures, and it’s invaluable in helping evaluate the program. A FREE written program is included with our onsite services. The record should:

State all the policies and procedures established for your workplace.
List who is responsible for which parts of the program.
Contain all the documentation gathered during all of the previous steps.

NOTE: This is an overview only, not an official, legal or complete interpretation of the standard.

3. Respirator Selection

OSHA mandates that when respirator use is required in the workplace, respirators must be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). As a safety administrator, you must select respirators according to the assigned protection factor (APF), which is the workplace level of respiratory protection that a respirator or class of respirators is expected to provide to employees when the employer implements a continuing, effective respiratory protection program. A Respirator Selection Form is included with our FREE written respiratory protection program.

Another consideration is maximum use concentration (MUC), which is the maximum concentration a worker can be expected to be protected from using the chosen respirator. Multiplying the APF by the personal exposure limit (PEL) gives you the MUC for a respirator; it should be less than both the PEL and the IDLH levels for that hazard.


And finally, the respirators you select have to be appropriate for the type of hazard. Different types of respirators, filters and cartridges are needed depending on whether the airborne contaminants in your workplace are particles, gases, vapors or other hazards. Respirators also need to be compatible with any other personal protective equipment (PPE) that workers need to wear for protection against other types of hazards.

Types of Respirators There are two main kinds of respirators:

Air-purifying respirators, which use filters, cartridges or canisters to remove contaminants from the air you breathe.
Atmosphere-supplying respirators, which provide you with clean air from an uncontaminated source.

4. Medical Evaluation

Before employees can wear a respirator, you need to make sure they’re medically approved to do so. Not everyone is physically able to wear respiratory protection while on the job, because it can make breathing more difficult and may place additional stress on the body.

Initially, OSHA requires workers to complete a questionnaire, where they’ll provide information about medical conditions that could affect their ability to wear a respirator, as well as information about workplace conditions and the hazards they face. Make sure you provide employees all the data they need to complete the questionnaire.

A physician or licensed health care professional (PLHCP) must then evaluate the employee’s responses. The PLHCP will recommend whether follow-up medical examinations are required, and if so, what tests are necessary. We facilitate a convenient online method to to meet OSHA requirements. Register, take the evaluation, and get instant results.

5. Fit Testing

Tight-fitting respirators can only provide expected protection if they fit correctly, so fit-testing each employee is critical.

There are two kinds of tests, and OSHA specifies which can be used depending on the respirator type. The methods are qualitative and quantitative. We provide a customizable suite of on-site respirator fit testing services tailored to help organizations both small and large meet their compliance needs. 

6. Respirator Training & Maintenance

Annual training is an important (and OSHA-mandated) piece of the respiratory safety program. Our on-site respirator fit testing services also include training and maintenance guidance FREE of charge.