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.

July 18, 2017

[Name and address withheld]

Dear [Name withheld],

Thank you for your March 10, 2017, email to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your email concerning the requirements of OSHA’s Asbestos Standard for Construction, 29 CFR 1926.1101, was referred to OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs. Your email addresses the use of powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) when performing asbestos removal in construction. This reply letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not detailed in your original correspondence. We’ve summarized your background information below, and paraphrased your question, followed by our response.

Background: Your email states that you perform asbestos removal using glove bags for minor maintenance projects, and your employer provides you with a hooded PAPR. You state that you find these hooded PAPRs adequate, but some coworkers have refused to wear them because they are not tight-fitting.

Question: Are these hooded PAPRs in compliance with OSHA rules and regulations for asbestos removal?

Reply: OSHA's Asbestos Standard for Construction, 29 CFR 1926.1101, has the following requirements for the type of removal work you have described. Assuming you are conducting a minor maintenance project, wherein the amount of asbestos-containing material (ACM) or presumed ACM (PACM) removed or disturbed can be contained in one glove bag or waste bag that does not exceed 60 inches in length and width, then this would be considered Class III asbestos work. 29 CFR 1926.1101(b). For this type of asbestos work, your employer must provide employees with an air-purifying half mask respirator, other than a filtering facepiece respirator, whenever the ACM removed or disturbed is thermal system insulation (TSI) or surfacing material. 29 CFR 1926.1101(h)(3)(iii)(B). For other types of ACM, this same type of respirator must be provided if no negative exposure assessment is available or where monitoring results show a permissible exposure limit (PEL) has been exceeded. 29 CFR 1926.1101(h)(3)(iii)(A). See also 29 CFR 1926.1101(g)(9)(v).

In these cases where the standard requires an air-purifying half mask respirator, such as may be the case for a maintenance project you’ve described, the standard has the following additional requirement for the selection of PAPRs if requested by employees:

Employers must provide an employee with tight-fitting, powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) instead of a negative pressure respirator selected according to paragraph (h)(3)(i)(A) of this standard when the employee chooses to use a PAPR and it provides adequate protection to the employee. [29 CFR 1926.1101(h)(3)(ii)]

The above reference to paragraph 1926.1101(h)(3)(i)(A) refers to the general requirement for employers to select a respirator with an assigned protection factor (APF) that is appropriate to protect the worker from the respiratory hazard in the job task, as required in OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134. OSHA’s respirator requirements within the Asbestos Standard, 29 CFR 1926.1101(h), are more protective than the requirements in OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard. Employers are required to comply with the Asbestos Standard whenever employees are engaged in asbestos removal.

The relevant portion of the Respiratory Protection Standard tabulates APFs for each type of respirator. For PAPRs, the APFs depend on the configuration of the respirator, whether it has a half mask facepiece (APF = 50), full facepiece (APF = 1,000), helmet/hood (APF = 25 or 1,000*), or loose-fitting hood (APF = 25). Respirators with tight-fitting facepieces, either a half mask facepiece or full mask facepiece, are required for compliance with OSHA’s Asbestos Standard for Construction. *Note: PAPRs with helmets or hoods receive an APF of 25 unless the respirator manufacturer demonstrates by specified testing a protection of 1,000 or greater. [Table 1 to 29 CFR 1910.134(d)(3)(i)(A)]

Since employees encounter significant health risk from asbestos exposure, even when employers limit exposures to the permissible exposure limits, the Asbestos Standard requires a higher level of protection from respirators. Specifically regarding hooded versus tight-fitting respirators, OSHA reviewed the evidence during its rulemakings:

Asbestos Rulemaking
Recently published field studies as well as environmental chamber studies conducted by the Los Alamos National Laboratory indicated that the tight fitting powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) offer more protection that the loose fitting PAPRs. [Federal Register, Vol. 51, No. 119, p. 22696, June 20, 1986]

Respiratory Protection Rulemaking
The Agency proposed to retain a number of special respirator selection provisions in the existing substance­specific standards. In this regard, OSHA noted that the respirator selection requirements proposed for retention were developed in rulemakings to provide protection against a hazardous characteristic or condition that is unique to the regulated substance. Additionally, the Agency stated that retaining these requirements would not increase the existing employer burden because they already must comply with these requirements. Consequently, retaining these provisions would maintain the level of respiratory protection currently afforded to employees. These provisions were in the substance-specific standards regulating employee exposure to vinyl chloride, inorganic arsenic, asbestos, benzene, coke oven emissions, cotton dust, ethylene oxide, and formaldehyde. [Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 164, p. 50178, August 24, 2006]

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA’s requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To assure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.



Amanda Edens, Acting Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs