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Environmental Health & Safety

Respiratory Protection Program

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Care of Respiratory Protective Equipment

In order to be effective and to properly protect the user, respirators must be regularly inspected, cleaned, and maintained.  It is the responsibility of the respirator user to ensure that his or her respirator is inspected before each use, is kept in a clean and sanitary condition, is stored away from sources of contamination, is maintained properly, and that any problems with the equipment are reported immediately for repair or replacement. Disposable respirators should be discarded if they become soiled or contaminated, or at a minimum, at the end of each work shift or as directed by Infection Prevention.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has set guidelines for the cleaning of respiratory protective equipment.  These are summarized below.  Alternatively, respiratory protective equipment can be cleaned according to the manufacturer's recommendations so long as the equipment is cleaned and disinfected in a way that does not damage it, and does not harm the user.


Respiratory protection equipment must be stored in a way that protects it from damage, dust, contamination, sunlight, chemicals, excessive moisture, and extreme temperatures.  It must also be stored in a manner that prevents damage to or deformation of the facepiece or valves.  Additionally, emergency respirators must be stored according to any manufacturer's recommendation in an easily accessible way in the workplace, and must be in containers clearly labeled as containing emergency respirators. 


When using respirators routinely, these inspections must be performed before each use and during each cleaning. The following checks are required as part of the respirator inspection procedure:

  • Respirator function
  • Tightness of connections
  • Condition of  the facepiece, hood or headpiece, head straps, valves, connecting tubes, and cartridges or other filters
  • Pliability of any elastomeric parts
  • Signs of cracking, discoloration, or other signs of aging
  • PAPR air flow and battery/wiring condition

Respirators found to be defective or in need of repairs must be removed from service immediately.


When repairing a respirator or replacing cartridges, valves or other components, only parts approved for the particular make and model of respirator shall be used. Use of other parts may invalidate the NIOSH approval.  No attempts, under any circumstances, should be made to change, modify, or improve any respiratory protection device. Contact EH&S for further information.

Service Life/Filter Change Schedules

Some air purifying respirator cartridges/filters are equipped with end‑of‑service‑life indicators (ESLI), that warn the respirator user of the approach of the end of adequate respiratory protection. If no ESLI-equipped filter is available for the specific contaminant(s) of concern, a change-out schedule must be developed and implemented for filters and cartridges based on objective information or data that will ensure that they are changed before the end of their service life to prevent contaminant breakthrough. The Supervisor and/or EH&S shall maintain a record of the information and data relied upon to determine the cartridge change schedule. Employees voluntarily wearing APRs regularly with organic vapor cartridges shall change the cartridges on their respirators if they detect breakthrough, i.e., odor or irritation.

Note: OSHA has chemical specific standards for the following substances, which dictate specific change out schedules

  • Acrylonitrile
  • Benzene
  • Butadiene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Vinyl chloride

Employees wearing APRs or PAPRs with P100 filters for protection against dust and other particulates shall change the cartridges on their respirators when they first begin to experience difficulty breathing (i.e., resistance) while wearing their respirators.

Consider the following to assist with determing change out schedules for filters and cartridges. Contact EH&S for assistance:

  • Availability of objective data from the manufacturers for the particular make/model of the respirator.
  • Confirm appropriate selection of cartridge for the work place environment.
  • Contact EH&S for change out schedules for mixtures due to their complexity.
  • Employees voluntarily wearing APRs regularly with organic vapor cartridges shall change the cartridges on their respirators as recommended by the respirator/cartridge manufacturer.

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

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