Respiratory Protection Program
This section has been reviewed and updated as needed: April 2012
When possible, occupational exposures caused by breathing contaminated air must be controlled through the use of feasible engineering controls such as the use of general and local ventilation systems, confinement of the operation, or substitution of less toxic materials. When effective engineering controls and other types of workplace controls (administrative, product substitution, etc.) are not feasible, or while they are being instituted, appropriate respirators shall be provided and used. The use of respirators is the last line of defense to protect employees from inhalation hazards.
This program will be updated as necessary to reflect changes in workplace conditions that affect respirator use.
Department of Environment, Health and Safety
The Department of Environment, Health and Safety is responsible for administering and overseeing the respiratory protection program and for conducting evaluations of program effectiveness.
The supervisor must ensure that worksite specific safety procedures (Job Safety Analysis) are developed and communicated to employees.
The supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the employees receive respirator training, fit-testing, and medical evaluations prior to issuing respirators for use.
Supervisors are responsible for the implementation and enforcement of all provisions of this program.
Employees (males) are also responsible for ensuring that they are clean shaven prior to annual fit-testing and anytime they must use and don a respirator. This will reduce the potential for leakage of the respirator as a result of an ineffective face to respirator seal.
Employees that use respirators are also responsible for reporting any problems associated with respiratory protective equipment to their supervisors and notifying the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic of any changes in medical condition or work practice that could impact their medical clearance for respirator use.
The best way to create worksite-specific procedures is by developing a “Job Safety Analysis (JSA)”. It describes a task in a step-by-step fashion, identifies associated hazards, and outlines proper controls that minimize the risk of injury or illness to the individual performing that task. Procedures for respirator use, care, cleaning, chemical cartridge change out schedules, maintenance, and inspection are to be included in the JSA. Employees must be trained on the JSA and the Work Unit’s Hazards Management Plan. Employees must be cleared for respirator use prior to working in an area or assigned to a task that requires respiratory protection. Planning assistance is available from the Department of Environment, Health and Safety, Workplace Safety section at 919-962-5507.
- Respirators are to be selected based on the respiratory hazard(s) to which the worker is exposed along with workplace and user factors that affect respirator performance and reliability.
- Each supervisor is to evaluate the respiratory hazards in the workplace, identify relevant workplace and user factors, and base respirator selection on these factors. This written assessment is to be included in the work unit’s Hazard Management Plan, on the Respirator User Questionnaire form. The EHS Department can help supervisors evaluate potential air contaminants and inhalation hazards and help complete the respirator user questionnaire of the HMP. Once submitted, EHS will determine if exposure monitoring for the applicable air contaminant(s) or other type of exposure assessment (e.g. modeling, etc.) has been conducted. If our records indicate that exposure monitoring has not been conducted, EHS will coordinate the scheduling of the evaluation and exposure monitoring of air contaminant(s). The evaluation of respiratory hazards is to include a reasonable estimate of employee exposures to respiratory hazard(s) and an identification of the contaminant’s chemical state and physical form. If the hazard cannot be identified or the employee’s exposure reasonably estimated, the atmosphere is considered to be IDLH (immediately dangerous to life and health). If an unsafe exposure situation exists, the feasibility of engineering or administrative controls will be considered. If these preferred methods of controlling exposures are not feasible, appropriate respirators shall be provided and used.
- Respirators can be obtained through the UNC Storeroom. All respirators stocked at the Storeroom are NIOSH-certified and are to be used in compliance with the conditions of certification. Half face air purifying respirators and disposable filtering facepiece air purifying respirators are available for purchase at the University Old General Storeroom. The University Old General Storeroom contact number is 919-962-6767.
- Tight-fitting air purifying respirators shall not be worn when conditions prevent a good face seal. Such conditions include, but are not limited to, growth of a beard, sideburns, any piece of clothing that projects under the facepiece (such as bandannas or ball-caps), or temple pieces on glasses. When employees are required to use tight-fitting air purifying respirators and have facial hair that interferes with seal of the respirator, such as a beard or goatee, the employee shall use a Powered Air Purifying Respirator equipped with a loose-fitting hood. This is the only acceptable respirator to be used under these circumstances.
Respirators for Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) Atmospheres
All oxygen-deficient atmospheres, less than 19.5% oxygen, are considered IDLH. The following respirators are to be used in IDLH atmospheres:
- A Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) used in the pressure-demand mode, certified by NIOSH for a minimum service life of thirty minutes
- A combination full facepiece pressure demand supplied-air respirator (SAR) with auxiliary self-contained air supply
Respirators provided only for escape from IDLH atmospheres are to be NIOSH-certified for escape from the atmosphere in which they will be used. All employees who will be required to use an SCBA must be trained, tested, and certified prior to use.
UNC-CH employees, except for fire fighters and emergency responders to an unknown concentration of chemical contaminants, are not expected to work in IDLH Atmospheres.
Respirators used for protection against Mycobacterium tuberculosis are specifically addressed in the UNC Tuberculosis Control Plan.
The following information must be provided to the UEOHC before a recommendation is made concerning an employee’s ability to use a respirator:
- The type and weight of the respirator to be used by the employee;
- The duration and frequency of respirator use (including use for rescue and escape);
- The expected physical work effort;
- Additional protective clothing and equipment to be worn; and
- Temperature and humidity extremes that may be encountered.
- Any limitations on respirator use related to the medical condition of the employee, or relating to the workplace conditions in which the respirator will be used, including whether or not the employee is medically able to use the respirator
- The need, if any, for follow-up medical evaluations
- A statement that the UEOHC has provided the employee with a copy of the written recommendation
Additional medical evaluations are provided if:
- An employee reports medical signs or symptoms that are related to the ability to use a respirator
- The UEOHC, supervisor, or the Department of Environment, Health and Safety determines that an employee needs to be reevaluated
- Information from the respiratory protection program, including observations made during fit testing and program evaluation, indicates a need for employee reevaluation
- A change occurs in workplace conditions (e.g., physical work effort, protective clothing, temperature, etc.) that may result in a substantial increase in the physiological burden placed on an employee
An additional fit test is conducted whenever the employee, supervisor, the Department of Environment, Health and Safety, or the UEOHC makes visual observations of changes in the employee’s physical condition that could affect respirator fit. Such conditions include, but are not limited to, facial scarring, dental changes, cosmetic surgery, or an obvious change in body weight. The employee may select a different respirator if he/she does not think the respirator fit is acceptable, even after passing the fit test. The employee will have to be re-fit tested if a different type, model, or manufacture of respirator is used.
Quantitative fit testing of these respirators is accomplished by modifying the facepiece to allow sampling inside the facepiece in the breathing zone of the user, midway between the nose and mouth. This requirement is accomplished by using a sampling adapter designed to temporarily provide a means of sampling air from inside the facepiece. Any modifications to the respirator facepiece for fit testing are to be completely removed, and the facepiece restored to NIOSH-approved configuration, before that facepiece is used in the workplace. Scheduling of respirator quantitative fit-testing is performed through the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic data coordinator. The UEOHC contact phone number is 966-9119.
Facepiece Seal Protection
User Seal Check Procedures
Positive Pressure Check
Negative Pressure Check
Manufacturer's Recommended User Seal Check Procedures
Use of Powered-Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR)
Employees must ensure that the motor blower of the PAPR is providing the required airflow prior to operation or anytime a decrease in airflow is experienced to verify that the PAPR is providing the required airflow. To be certified as a PAPR by NIOSH, the blower must provide at least 170 Liters/Minute (6 cubic feet per minute (cfm)) to a loose-fitting face piece, helmet, or hood or 115 Liters/Minute (4 cfm) to a tight-fitting facepiece. To check the airflow prior to operation, the respirator manufacturer provides a device for verifying that the airflow exceeds these levels. The device includes a flow meter that can be attached to the respirator. Employees must read and understand the manufacturer instructions prior to use of the PAPR. Maintenance and airflow indicator tests should be included in your standard operating procedure and/or Job Safety Analysis for the operation of the PAPR for use for protection against air contaminants.
Continuing Respirator Effectiveness
- To wash their faces and respirator facepieces as necessary to prevent eye or skin irritation associated with respirator use
- If they detect vapor or gas breakthrough, changes in breathing resistance, or leakage of the facepiece
- To replace the respirator or the filter, cartridge, or canister elements. If the employee detects vapor or gas breakthrough, changes in breathing resistance, or leakage of the facepiece, the respirator is to be replaced or repaired before the employee is allowed to return to the work area
- Remove filters, cartridges, or canisters. Disassemble facepieces by removing speaking diaphragms, demand and pressure-demand valve assemblies, hoses, or any components recommended by the manufacturer. Discard or repair any defective parts.
- Wash components in warm (43°C [110°F] maximum) water with a mild detergent or with a cleaner recommended by the manufacturer. A stiff bristle (not wire) brush may be used to facilitate the removal of dirt. Rinse components thoroughly in clean, warm (43°C [110°F] maximum) running water. Drain.
- When the cleaner used does not contain a disinfecting agent, respirator components should be immersed for two minutes in one of the following:
- Hypochlorite solution (50 parts per million (ppm) of chlorine) made by adding approximately one milliliter of laundry bleach to one liter of water at 43°C (110°F)
- Aqueous solution of iodine (50 ppm iodine) made by adding approximately 0.8 milliliters of tincture of iodine (6-8 grams ammonium and/or potassium iodide/100 cc of 45% alcohol) to one liter of water at 43°C (110°F)
- Other commercially available cleansers of equivalent disinfectant quality when used as directed, if their use is recommended or approved by the respirator manufacturer
- Rinse components thoroughly in clean, warm (43°C [110°F] maximum) running water. Drain. The importance of thorough rinsing cannot be overemphasized. Detergents or disinfectants that dry on facepieces may result in dermatitis. In addition, some disinfectants may cause deterioration of rubber or corrosion of metal parts if not completely removed.
- Components should be hand-dried with a clean lint-free cloth or air-dried.
- Reassemble facepiece, replacing filters, cartridges, and canisters where necessary.
- Test the respirator to ensure that all components work properly.
The respirators are to be cleaned and disinfected at the following intervals:
- Respirators issued for the exclusive use of an employee are to be cleaned and disinfected as often as necessary to be maintained in a sanitary condition
- Respirators issued to more than one employee are to be cleaned and disinfected before and after being worn by different individuals
- Respirators maintained for emergency use are to be cleaned and disinfected after each use
- A check of respirator function, tightness of connections, and the condition of the various parts including, but not limited to; the facepiece, head straps, valves, connecting tube, and cartridges, canisters or filters;
- A check of elastomeric parts for pliability and signs of deterioration.
Employees that use Powered Air Purifying Respirators must verify that the respirator and components (e.g. blower motor, attachment hoses, hood or helmet) are inspected prior to use.
All respirators maintained for use in emergency situations are to be inspected at least monthly in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, and are to be checked for proper function before and after each use. Emergency escape-only respirators are to be inspected before being carried into the workplace for use. Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) are to be inspected monthly. Air and oxygen cylinders are to be maintained in a fully charged state and are to be recharged when the pressure falls to 90% of the manufacturer’s recommended pressure level. The inspection is to include a determination that the regulator and warning devices function properly. Documentation of inspections for respirators maintained for emergency use is to be provided on a tag or label that is attached to the storage compartment for the respirator, is kept with the respirator, or is included in inspection reports stored as paper or electronic files. This information is to be maintained until replaced following a subsequent certification. The documentation is to include:
- The date the inspection was performed
- The name (or signature) of the person who made the inspection
- The findings
- Required remedial action
- A serial number or other means of identifying the inspected respirator
- Oxygen content (v/v) of 19.5-23.5%
- hydrocarbon (condensed) content of 5 milligrams per cubic meter of air or less
- Carbon monoxide (CO) content of 10 ppm or less
- Carbon dioxide content of 1,000 ppm or less
- Lack of noticeable odor
Compressed oxygen is not to be used in atmosphere-supplying respirators that have previously used compressed air. Oxygen concentrations greater than 23.5% are to be used only in equipment designed for oxygen service or distribution. Cylinders used to supply breathing air to respirators are to meet the following requirements:
- Cylinders are tested and maintained as prescribed in the Shipping Container Specification Regulations of the Department of Transportation (49 CFR part 173 and part 178)
- Cylinders of purchased breathing air have a certificate of analysis from the supplier that the breathing air meets the requirements for Type 1–Grade D breathing air
- The moisture content in the cylinder does not exceed a dew point of -50°F (-45.6°C) at 1 atmosphere pressure
Compressors used to supply breathing air to respirators are constructed and situated so as to:
- Prevent entry of contaminated air into the air-supply system
- Minimize moisture content so that the dew point at 1 atmosphere pressure is 10 degrees F (5.56°C) below the ambient temperature
- Have suitable in-line air-purifying sorbent beds and filters to further ensure breathing air quality. Sorbent beds and filters are to be maintained and replaced or refurbished periodically following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Have a tag containing the most recent change date and the signature of the person authorized by the employer to perform the change. The tag is to be maintained at the compressor.
For compressors that are not oil-lubricated, carbon monoxide levels in the breathing air are not to exceed 10 ppm. For oil-lubricated compressors, a high-temperature or carbon monoxide alarm, or both, to monitor carbon monoxide levels are to be used. If only high-temperature alarms are used, the air supply is to be monitored at intervals sufficient to prevent carbon monoxide in the breathing air from exceeding 10 ppm. Breathing air couplings are to be incompatible with outlets for non-respirable worksite air or other gas systems. No asphyxiating substances are to be introduced into breathing air lines. Only breathing gas containers marked in accordance with the NIOSH respirator certification standard, 42 CFR part 84 are to be used.
- Changes in the workplace or the type of respirator render previous training obsolete
- Inadequacies in the employee’s knowledge or use of the respirator indicate that the employee has not retained the requisite understanding or skill
- Any other situation arises in which retraining appears necessary to ensure safe respirator use. Each employee is to demonstrate knowledge of at least the following:
- Why the respirator is necessary and how improper fit, usage, or maintenance can compromise the protective effect of the respirator
- What the limitations and capabilities of the respirator are
- How to use the respirator effectively in emergency situations, including situations in which the respirator malfunctions
- How to inspect, put on and remove, use, and check the seals of the respirator
- What the procedures are for maintenance and storage of the respirator
- How to recognize medical signs and symptoms that may limit or prevent the effective use of respirators
- The general requirements of the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard
We have developed website based online respiratory protection training modules for employees to use as a training resource. Additional computer based training modules are planned to be developed by EHS for specific work units in the future. Training assistance can also be provided by contacting EHS at 919-962-5507.
Employees can log on to the UNC Environment, Health, and Safety Department website to access our online respiratory protection training programs. Once logged on to our site, go to the training section, and then select the section called ‘self-study units’.
The training module, Respiratory Protection for Tuberculosis, was created for employees that work in the clinical environment (i.e. Physicians in Healthcare areas, and all other designated medical personnel). This module covers all required training requirements for healthcare and other employees that are enrolled in the Respiratory Protection Program for the protection against Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
The training module, Respiratory Protection, was created to be a comprehensive review of the UNC-CH Respiratory Protection Program and is required for Industrial/Maintenance & Construction and Support Service work unit employees that are issued tight-fitting/ elastomeric, air purifying respirators or powered-air purifying respirators.
The training module, Using N95 for Respiratory Protection, covers all required training requirements for the use of filtering facepiece N95 respirators.
The training module, Respiratory Protection for Energy Services Mechanical Maintenance, was designed for Energy Services Cogeneration Facility Mechanical Maintenance employees who use full face, half face, and filtering face piece respirators for respiratory protection.
The training module, UNC Emergency Responder Respirator Training, was designed for EHS Department employees who use full face respirators and Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses for respiratory protection during emergency response actions such as when responding to a chemical spill or release on campus.
This evaluation will include consultations with supervisors and employees required to use respirators to assess compliance with UNC-CH Respiratory Protection Program requirements, to access the employees’ views on program effectiveness and to identify any problems or issues that may need to be further addressed. Factors to be assessed include:
- Respirator fit (including the ability to use the respirator without interfering with effective workplace performance)
- Appropriate respirator selection for the hazards to which the employee is exposed
- Proper respirator use under the workplace conditions the employee encounters
- Proper respirator maintenance
- Compliance with UNC-CH Respiratory Protection Program requirements
- Medical determination that the employee is able to use the respirator
- The respirator is to be cleaned, stored, and maintained so that its use does not present a health hazard to the user
- Employees are provided a copy of Appendix D of OSHA 1910.134, “Information for Employees Using Respirators When Not Required Under the Standard”
Exception: These requirements do not apply to the voluntary use of filtering facepieces (dust masks).
The service life of a cartridge depends upon many factors, including environmental conditions such as humidity, breathing rate of the respirator user, cartridge filtering capacity, and the amount of contaminants in the air.
Detection of chemicals by taste, smell, or irritation is not acceptable indicators to replace respirator chemical cartridges. An established change out schedule will help prevent “break-through” of the chemical cartridge and will prevent detection of chemicals by taste, smell, or irritation as a result of the overuse of a saturated cartridge.
EHS Department Staff will assist you develop chemical cartridge change out schedules upon request and during scheduled workplace evaluations. We have tools and technical expertise to help you. Many of the Respirator Manufactures that we use at UNC such as North, 3M, and MSA, have cartridge service life estimator computer tools on their company websites to help determine acceptable change out schedules. In addition, on the Workplace Safety Section Webpage under the Respiratory Protection Program Section, we have a link to the OSHA Respiratory Protection e-tool/Respirator Change Schedule that can be used to help establish acceptable chemical cartridge change schedules.