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.

April 8, 2002

Kelsay D. Patterson, Esquire
The Law Office of Kelsay D. Patterson
3250 Mary Street, Suite 302
Coconut Grove, FL 33133

Dear Attorney Patterson:

This letter is in response to your April 4th fax asking for an OSHA advisory opinion and/or position statement. Your letter details concerns for a construction contractor client that is dealing with a valued employee who, as a Mennonite, wears facial hair for religious reasons and who, as a matter of employment, must wear OSHA required respirators to perform his painting assignments. In an effort to meet your timetable, I instructed Michael Buchet of my staff to call you and discuss OSHA respiratory protection requirement interpretations.

Mr. Buchet spoke with your assistant, Julie, this morning, April 5, 2002. As Mr. Buchet pointed out it would be impossible to create a letter answering your concerns in the time frame your pressing concerns require. The nature of your questions would necessitate a concurrence review of the response letter by other offices within the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well by the Office of the Solicitor.

As an alternative to a letter, Mr. Buchet discussed and helped your assistant find several existing letters of interpretation on the OSHA website. As he pointed out, the Construction Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1926.103, as of January 8, 1998, has requirements "identical to those set forth at 29 CFR 1910.134 of this chapter." The interpretation letters are found at §1910.134. Two of these letters, the December 2, 1998 letter to Mr. Kincaid and the October 3, 1996 letter to "Name withheld," which includes corrections dated March 29, 1999, should be particularly helpful. They deal with face-to-respirator face-piece seals and facial hair as well as the suitability of loose fitting respirators. I hope they provide the material you need.

If you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us again by faxing us at 202-693-1689 by writing to: U.S. Department of Labor - [OSHA, Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and Guidance, Room N3468, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20210, or by calling at 202-693-1689.]


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction

cc: Richard Fairfax