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.

April 26, 2018

Mr. Donald Porter
10214 NW 10th
Oklahoma City, OK 73127

Dear Mr. Porter:

Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter has been referred to the Directorate of Enforcement Programs for an answer to your question. This letter also follows up to a phone conversation you had with one of my staff members. You requested clarification of OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134, pertaining to voluntary use of respirators. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed herein, and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. Your paraphrased questions and our responses are below.

Question 1: If an employer pays for and allows respirators to be worn on a voluntary basis when respiratory protection is not required to meet any OSHA standard, is it then regarded as though the employer is mandating the use of the respirators?

Response 1: No, the employer may allow the voluntary use of respirators even where an exposure assessment shows respirator use is not required. The use of respirators is not regarded as mandatory unless required under the standard and/or the employer requires that employees wear respirators regardless of the exposure assessment results. The OSHA Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respiratory Protection Standard, page 15, offers the following guidance:

You are not required to pay for filtering facepiece respirators used voluntarily by employees. If the employer determines that any voluntary respirator use is permissible, the employer must provide the respirator users with the information contained in Appendix D of the standard ("Information for Employees Using Respirators When Not Required Under the Standard".) If you permit the use of respirators other than filtering facepieces, you must pay for required medical evaluations for voluntary users and provide voluntary users with appropriate facilities and time to clean, disinfect, maintain, and store respirators.

The OSHA Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respiratory Protection Standard can be found at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/3384small-entity-for-respiratory-protection-standard-rev.pdf.

Question 2: If the employer allows voluntary use of respirators, is the employer required to fit test the employees?

Response 2: No, the voluntary use of respirators in work atmospheres which are not hazardous does not require the respirator wearer to be fit tested. Please see the letter of interpretation from Mr. Gordon C. Miller, February 6, 2006 (attached).

If employers allow the voluntary use of elastomeric facepiece and powered air-purifying respirators (after determining that such use will not itself create a hazard), the employer must implement the elements of a written respiratory protection program necessary to ensure that employees voluntarily using such respirators are medically fit to do so, and that the respirator is cleaned, stored, and maintained so that its use does not present a health hazard to the user. See 29 CFR 1910.134(c)(2)(ii).

Question 3: Is facial hair allowed with voluntary use respirators?

Response 3: Facial hair is not prohibited when voluntarily using respirators, but it is discouraged. As mentioned above, please see the letter of interpretation from Mr. Miller (2006) for more information.

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 http://www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.

Sincerely,

 

Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

 

Enclosure