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Respiratory Protection eTool

This eTool* provides instruction on the proper selection of respiratory protection and the development of change schedules for gas/vapor cartridges as well as helps you comply with the OSHA respirator standard. Respirators should be used for protection only when engineering controls have been shown to be infeasible for the control of the hazard or during the interim period when engineering controls are being installed. (Refer to Exposure Control Priority).

The OSHA respirator standard applies to all occupational airborne exposures to contaminated air where the employee is:

Keep In Mind Keep In Mind

The display or use of particular products in this advisor is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Labor.

  • Exposed to a hazardous level of an airborne contaminant; or
  • Required by the employer to wear respirators; or
  • Permitted to wear respirators.

Four major duties are imposed by each of these standards. These duties are:

  • Use engineering controls where feasible to control the hazard.
  • Provide an appropriate respirator.
  • Ensure the use of an appropriate respirator.
  • Institute a respiratory protection program that complies with the rest of the standard.

Applicable OSHA Standards:

Exposure Control Priority

The Use of Respirators is the Least Satisfactory Method

Engineering and work practice controls are generally regarded as the most effective methods to control exposures to airborne hazardous substances. OSHA considers the use of respirators to be the least satisfactory approach to exposure control because:

  • Respirators provide adequate protection only if employers ensure, on a constant basis, that they are properly fitted and worn.
  • Respirators protect only the employees who are wearing them from a hazard, rather than reducing or eliminating the hazard from the workplace as a whole (which is what engineering and work practice controls do).
  • Respirators are uncomfortable to wear, cumbersome to use, and interfere with communication in the workplace, which can often be critical to maintaining safety and health.
  • The costs of operating a functional respiratory protection program are substantial - including regular medical examinations, fit testing, training, and the purchasing of equipment.
Workers' Rights

Workers have the right to:

  • Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
  • Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA's rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
  • Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days.

For additional information, see OSHA's Workers page.

How to Contact OSHA

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1-877-889-5627.

*eTools are stand-alone, interactive, highly illustrated web-based training tools on occupational safety and health topics. Some use expert system modules, which enable users to answer questions and receive reliable advice on how OSHA regulations apply to their work site. Some provide guidance information for developing a comprehensive safety and health program and include other recommended practices that often go beyond specific OSHA requirements. As indicated in the disclaimer, eTools do not create new OSHA requirements.

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