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 https://www.osha.gov.

December 23, 1998

Mr. John P. Hale
Respirator Support Services
2028 Virts Lane
Jefferson, MD 21755-8801

Dear Mr. Hale:

This is in response to your letter of February 6. We apologize for the long delay in responding to your letter. In your letter you have asked for an official interpretation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134. Your questions will be answered in the order they were presented.

Your first question, concerning the provisions in paragraph (c)(4), asks whether this paragraph also includes fit testing or any other program elements that may incur a cost. Where respirators are required, respirators and their associated requirements such as fit-testing, maintenance, training, and medical evaluations must be provided at no cost to the employee. It is the intent of the standard that the employer would not be required to incur any costs associated with voluntary use of filtering facepieces other than providing a copy of Appendix D to each user. If the employer allows the voluntary use of respirators other than filtering facepieces, then costs associated with ensuring the respirator itself does not create a hazard, such as medical evaluations and maintenance must be provided at no cost to the employee.

In your second question you have asked for a clear definition of what OSHA means by "annual", with regard to the training and fit test requirements in the Respiratory Protection Standard. Annual means that training and fit testing must be conducted every year, before or on the anniversary date of the employee's previous training and fit test; for example, if the employee is trained or fit tested on February 1, 1999, then the employee must be trained or fit tested before or on February 1, 2000.

The final question concerns the word "effective" as it is used in paragraph (g)(1)(iii). The preamble to the Final Rule states that "The intent of the equally effective phrase is to ensure that the procedures used have been demonstrated to be effective in identifying respirators that fit poorly when donned or adjusted" (Federal Register Vol. 63, No.5 January 8, 1998). Following the manufacturer's recommended fit test procedures will help detect and prevent poor respirator donning practices. While this may not be a perfect solution for some respirators, such as disposable filtering facepieces, the provision is intentionally written in performance language to encourage manufacturers to develop new user seal check methods.

Thank you for your interest in safety and health. If you have further questions, please feel free to call OSHA's Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 693-2190.


Richard E. Fairfax
Directorate of Compliance Programs