OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.

March 9, 1995

Mr. William K. Principe
Constangy, Brooks & Smith
Attorneys at Law
Suite 2400
230 Peachtree Street, N.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-1557

Dear Mr. Principe:

This is in response to your letter of December 21, 1994, concerning employees in a cotton yarn manufacturing plant who voluntarily wear cloth over their mouths and noses to prevent lint from sticking to their skin. The employees' exposures to cotton dust are less than half the permissible exposure limit (PEL) and the employees are not involved in nor exposed to blow down or blow off of equipment. You inquired whether the wearing of this cloth by these employees constitutes the wearing of a "respirator" within the meaning of either 29 CFR 1910.1043(f) or .134.

In OSHA's view the wearing of the cloth would not constitute the wearing of a "respirator" within the meaning of either 29 CFR 1910.1043(f) or .134. However, please note that 29 CFR 1910.1043(f)(1)(v) requires employers to provide a respirator to employees who request one. Should any of the employees wearing cloth over their mouths and noses request a respirator, then according to [29 CFR 1910.134(d)(1)], "The employer shall select respirators from those tested and approved for protection against dust by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) under the provisions of 30 CFR Part 11."      (Correction 4/21/99) ["The employer shall select and provide an appropriate respirator based on the respiratory hazard(s) to which the worker is exposed and workplace and user factors that affect respirator performance and reliability. The employer shall select a NIOSH-certified respirator. The respirator shall be used in compliance with the conditions of its certification."]     Moreover, should any of these employees request a respirator, their employer must comply with the respirator program stipulated at 29 CFR 1910.1043(f)(3) and with the respirator usage requirements stipulated at [29 CFR 1910.134(c)(2)].

We appreciate the opportunity to clarify this matter. Should you require additional information, please contact the Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 219-8036.

Sincerely,

Ruth McCully, Director
Office of Health Compliance Assistance

December 21, 1994

John B. Miles, Jr.
Directorate of Compliance Program
U.S. Dept. of Labor/OSHA
Room N-3468 F-P Building
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210

Dear Mr. Miles:

I would like to request a formal Opinion Letter addressing the following situation. Our firm represents a yarn plant that is covered by the requirements of the Cotton Dust Standard, 29 C.F.R. 1910.1043. In work areas where employee exposure to cotton dust is less than half the permissible exposure limit and where employees are not involved in or exposed to blow down or blow off of equipment, certain employees have voluntarily decided to wear cloth over their mouths and noses to prevent lint from sticking to their skin. The cloth is typically the thickness and texture of t-shirt material.

Would the wearing of this cloth over the lower half of these employees' faces constitute the wearing of a "respirator" within the meaning of either 29 C.F.R. 1910.1043(f) or 1910.134? If so, is compliance with 1910.1043(f) and 1910.134 required under the circumstances described above? If compliance is required, with which provisions of these standards would our client be required to comply?

Sincerely,

William K. Principe