US Dept of Labor

Occupational Safety & Health AdministrationWe Can Help

Back to eTools

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.
How do I find out about employer responsibilities and workers' rights?

Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The OSHA law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law (including the right to raise a health and safety concern or report an injury). For more information see or Workers' rights under the OSH Act.

OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. To reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

Small businesses may contact OSHA's free On-site Consultation services funded by OSHA to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites. To contact free consultation services, go to OSHA's On-site Consultation webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and press number 4.

Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Workers can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), online via eComplaint Form, or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing it to the local OSHA area office. Complaints that are signed by a worker are more likely to result in an inspection.

If you think your job is unsafe or if you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Your contact will be kept confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.

*eTools are "stand-alone," interactive, highly illustrated web-based training tools on occupational safety and health topics. Some use expert system modules, which enable the user 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 mandates. As indicated in the disclaimer, eTools do not create new OSHA requirements.

Back to Top

Thank You for Visiting Our Website

You are exiting the Department of Labor's Web server.

The Department of Labor does not endorse, takes no responsibility for, and exercises no control over the linked organization or its views, or contents, nor does it vouch for the accuracy or accessibility of the information contained on the destination server. The Department of Labor also cannot authorize the use of copyrighted materials contained in linked Web sites. Users must request such authorization from the sponsor of the linked Web site. Thank you for visiting our site. Please click the button below to continue.