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Environmental Health & Safety

Respiratory Protection Program

Quality of Supplied Air (from tanks or compressors)

Supplied air respirators provide high levels of protection, but only if the air source is free of contamination and other hazards.  OSHA has issued the following requirements for the quality of supplied air, along with requirements for air supplying equipment.  These requirements are:

  • Compressed and liquid oxygen shall meet the United States Pharmacopoeia requirements for medical or breathing oxygen;
  • Compressed breathing air shall meet at least the requirements for Type 1-Grade D breathing air described in ANSI/Compressed Gas Association Commodity Specification for Air, G-7.1-1989, to include:
    1. Oxygen content (v/v) of 19.5-23.5%;
    2. Hydrocarbon (condensed) content of 5 milligrams per cubic meter of air or less;
    3. Carbon monoxide (CO) content of 10 ppm or less;
    4. Carbon dioxide content of 1,000 ppm or less;
    5. Lack of noticeable odor
  • Compressed oxygen shall not used in atmosphere-supplying respirators that have previously used compressed air;
  • Oxygen concentrations greater than 23.5% shall be used only in equipment designed for oxygen service or distribution.

Compressors used to supply breathing air to respirators shall be constructed, situated, and maintained so as to:

  • Prevent entry of contaminated air into the air-supply system;
  • Minimize moisture content so that the dew point at 1 atmosphere pressure is 10o F (5.56oC) below the ambient temperature;
  • Have suitable in-line air-purifying sorbent beds and filters to further ensure breathing air quality. Sorbent beds and filters shall be maintained and replaced or refurbished periodically following the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Have a tag containing the most recent sorbent bed change date and the signature of the person authorized to perform the change. The tag shall be maintained at the compressor.
  • Ensure that, for compressors that are not oil-lubricated, carbon monoxide levels in the breathing air do not exceed 10 ppm.
  • Ensure that, for oil-lubricated compressors, a high-temperature or carbon monoxide alarm, or both, shall be used to monitor carbon monoxide levels. If only high-temperature alarms are used, the air supply shall be monitored at intervals sufficient to prevent carbon monoxide in the breathing air from exceeding 10 ppm.
  • Ensure that breathing air couplings are incompatible with outlets for non-respirable worksite air or other gas systems and no asphyxiating substance shall be introduced into breathing airlines.
  • Ensure that breathing gas containers are marked in accordance with the NIOSH respirator certification standard, 42 CFR part 84.

Medical Evaluation and Questionnaire

Using a respirator places an extra burden on an employee.  The respirator’s weight, breathing resistance, and tendency to trap heat can all contribute to an increased workload and increased fatigue.  In order to ensure that this potential for increased exertion does not place the employee at medical risk, the employee must receive a medical evaluation and a medical clearance. This medical evaluation and clearance shall be performed by a physician or other qualified, licensed health care professional (PLHCP) under the guidance and supervision of University Health Service’s (UHS) Occupational Health Unit or Strong Memorial Hospital’s Employee Health Program.  OSHA's mandatory medical clearance questionnaire is located in Appendix C of this document. The medical evaluation shall also include any tests, procedures, or other information that the evaluating PLHCP feels appropriate.

The following information must be supplied in writing to UHS or SMH Employee Health Program by the employee’s supervisor, prior to the medical clearance appointment:

  • The type and weight of the respirator to be used by the employee;
  • The duration and frequency of respirator use (including use for rescue and escape);
  • The expected physical work effort;
  • Temperature and humidity extremes that may be encountered;
  • Additional protective clothing and equipment to be worn;
  • Any additional information requested by UHS or SMH Employee Health.

Medical Determination

Upon completion of the medical evaluation, UHS or SMH Employee Health shall provide the employee and his or her supervisor with a statement of the employee’s ability or inability to wear a respirator, any limitations on respirator use due to medical or work conditions, and the need (if any) for follow-up medical evaluations.  Additionally, UHS and SMH Employee Health must provide a statement that the employee has been given a copy of the medical evaluation and medical determination results.

Additional Medical Evaluations

Additional medical evaluations shall be scheduled when:

  • The employee reports signs or symptoms that are related to respirator use or the employee's ability to use a respirator
  • UHS, SMH Employee Health, EH&S, or the employee’s supervisor request a re-evaluation
  • Observation of the employee indicates a need for re-evaluation
  • There are changes in the workplace or task that may significantly increase the employee’s exertion while wearing a respirator (i.e., physical work changes, temperature changes, added protective clothing, etc.)

Additional medical evaluations shall consist of whatever exams, tests, or other information that the PLHCP feels are necessary to evaluate the employee.

Employees Who Can Not Be Medically Cleared

For those employees who cannot be medically cleared to wear negative pressure respirators, the University shall provide the employee with a suitable powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) if available and appropriate, and if the employee can be medically cleared for its use.  The University may also accommodate the employee in other ways as recommended by UHS, SMH Employee Health, EH&S, the supervisor, and representatives of Employee Relations, Personnel, and/or other employment-related University departments.  Employees who perform tasks which require PAPRs or supplied air respirators and who cannot be medically cleared shall also be accommodated according to safety, medical, personnel and legal procedures and requirements.

Continue to next section of Respiratory Protection Program on the web.

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

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