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Environmental Health & Safety

Respiratory Protection Program

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Warning Signs of Respirator Failure

If you suspect your respiratory has become damaged during use, or that it is malfunctioning, (i.e. breathing difficulty, detect odor/taste, respiratory irritatin), immediately leave the contaminated area. Once outside, inspect it to ensure it is functioning properly before re-entering the contaminated space. If it is not functioning properly , replace it with a properly working respirator before re-entry. Ensure that the damaged respirator is removed from service immediately, labelled as not usable, and is repaired or discarded.

Particulate Air-Purifying

When breathing difficulty is encountered with a particulate filter respirator (due to increased resistance resulting from partial clogging), the filter(s) must be replaced. Disposable filter (e.g. filtering facepiece) respirators must be discarded when wet, soiled or contaminated, or when medically required for patient infection prevention considerations.

Gas or Vapor Air-Purifying

If, when using a gas or vapor respirator (chemical cartridge or canister), any of the warning properties are detected (e.g., odor, taste, eye irritation, or respiratory irritation), promptly leave the area and check the following:

  • Proper face seal
  • Damaged or missing respirator parts
  • Saturated or inappropriate cartridge or filter
  • End of service life indicator (ESLI)

If no discrepancies are observed, replace the cartridge or filter. If any of the warning properties appear again, the concentration of the contaminants may have exceeded the cartridge or filter design specification.

Supplied Air Respirator

When using an airline respirator, leave the area immediately if the compressor fails, if an air pressure drop is sensed, or if you are signaled to exit.

Voluntary Respirator Use

Under some circumstances, employees may wish to use respiratory protection equipment for their own comfort or sense of well being, even when there is no recognized exposure hazard.  In these cases, not all of OSHA’s respiratory protection requirements apply (i.e., fit testing is not required). In order to voluntarily use respiratory protective equipment in this way, the following criteria must be met:

  • Those employees who would like to voluntarily wear respiratory protective devices for comfort in the absences of recognized exposure hazards may do so; however, those employees must do so in full comliance with the Voluntary Respirator Use href="
  • There is no recognized hazard or potential for over exposure
  • The respirator must be NIOSH certified
  • The respirator must be cleaned, stored, and maintained
  • The respiratory protective equipment does not itself present a hazard to the user
  • Note for respirators other than the disposable N-95 type, the employee who wishes to use such a half/full face mask or PAPR must be medically cleard to do so. The Respiratory Protection Coordinator for the employee's area is responsible for ensuring this is done.
  • For N95s(such as dust masks, “duck bill” respirators), fit testing and medical clearance are not required for voluntary use.
  • The employee must be given a copy of Information for Employees using Respirators When Not Required Under the Standard (see Appendix A
  • The employee and his/her supervisor must sign the release form. The form must be kept on file in the department's respiratory protection records.

Those employees who would like to voluntarily wear a respirator may purchase and wear their own respirator as long as the Supervisor and RPC approve it.

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Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail Questions.

This page last updated 2/3/2022. Disclaimer.