Safety Products

Respiratory Protection


Essential Elements of

Respirator Selection

OSHA 29 CFR §1910.134 requires employers to establish and maintain a written respiratory program to protect their employees who wear respirators. Additionally, the proper selection of respirators must be made according to the guidance of ANSI Z88.2. Selecting the right equipment involves several steps:

1. Identify the Contaminant: Always consult the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each chemical used in the work process. The physical form of the contaminant will help determine the type of respiratory protection needed.

2. Determine the Concentration Level: Perform air monitoring to determine the concentration level of the contaminant in the work area. If the level is higher than the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for the substance, precautionary measures must be taken. If the employer cannot identify or "reasonably estimate" the employee exposure, the atmosphere must be considered Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH).

3. Evaluate the Conditions of Exposure: The nature and context of the hazard, work rate, area to be covered, mobility, work requirements and conditions, as well as the limitations and characteristics of the available respirators are also selection factors.

4. Choose the Proper Respirator: The respirator should provide protection against the hazard for which it was designed. Respirators are classified according to the respiratory hazard, and the two main categories of respirators are air-purifying respirators and air-supplying respirators.

5. If the atmosphere is determined to be IDLH, a full facepiece certified SCBA or a full facepiece pressure demand airline respirator with auxiliary self-contained air supply must be used.

a. If the atmosphere is not determined to be IDLH, the employer must provide a respirator that is appropriate for the contaminant(s) identified.
b. Respirator training, medical evaluations and qualitative or quantitative fit testing must be provided at no cost to the employees.  



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