OSHA Requirements

OSHA requires employers to evaluate respiratory hazards in the workplace. You can bring in an independent or OSHA consultant if you don’t have a trained safety professional on staff or for an additional opinion on your hazards. The results of the assessment can help determine:

  • Exposure levels, and whether they’re acceptable or unacceptable.

You should conduct a new assessment periodically and every time there are changes in the workplace that could result in new exposures — such as a change in equipment, process, products or control measures. An exposure assessment form is included in our written respiratory protection program.

Keeping a written record provides proof of compliance with the regulatory standards to OSHA. It also gives employees a reliable source for information about respiratory protection procedures, and it’s invaluable in helping evaluate the program. A written program is available for purchase on our website. The record should:

  • State all the policies and procedures established for your workplace.
  • List who is responsible for which parts of the program.
  • Contain all the documentation gathered during all of the previous steps.

NOTE: This is an overview only, not an official, legal or complete interpretation of the standard.

OSHA mandates that when respirator use is required in the workplace, respirators must be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). As a safety administrator, you must select respirators according to the assigned protection factor (APF), which is the workplace level of respiratory protection that a respirator or class of respirators is expected to provide to employees when the employer implements a continuing, effective respiratory protection program. A Respirator Selection Form is included with the purchase of our written respiratory protection program.

Another consideration is maximum use concentration (MUC), which is the maximum concentration a worker can be expected to be protected from using the chosen respirator. Multiplying the APF by the personal exposure limit (PEL) gives you the MUC for a respirator; it should be less than both the PEL and the IDLH levels for that hazard.


And finally, the respirators you select have to be appropriate for the type of hazard. Different types of respirators, filters and cartridges are needed depending on whether the airborne contaminants in your workplace are particles, gases, vapors or other hazards. Respirators also need to be compatible with any other personal protective equipment (PPE) that workers need to wear for protection against other types of hazards.

Types of Respirators There are two main kinds of respirators:

  • Air-purifying respirators, which use filters, cartridges or canisters to remove contaminants from the air you breathe.
  • Atmosphere-supplying respirators, which provide you with clean air from an uncontaminated source.

Before employees can wear a respirator, you need to make sure they’re medically approved to do so. Not everyone is physically able to wear respiratory protection while on the job, because it can make breathing more difficult and may place additional stress on the body.

Initially, OSHA requires workers to complete a questionnaire, where they’ll provide information about medical conditions that could affect their ability to wear a respirator, as well as information about workplace conditions and the hazards they face. Make sure you provide employees all the data they need to complete the questionnaire.

A physician or licensed health care professional (PLHCP) must then evaluate the employee’s responses. The PLHCP will recommend whether follow-up medical examinations are required, and if so, what tests are necessary. We facilitate a convenient online method to to meet OSHA requirements. Register, take the evaluation, and get instant results.

Tight-fitting respirators can only provide expected protection if they fit correctly, so fit-testing each employee is critical.

There are two kinds of tests, and OSHA specifies which can be used depending on the respirator type. The methods are qualitative and quantitative. Our convenient online training provides certification in establishing a respiratory protection program, training workers, and providing respirator fit testing. Course graduates will understand what is involved with complying with the OSHA respirator fit testing standard, 29 CFR 1910.134 and AIHA/ANSI Z88.10-2010.

Respirator Training

Annual training is an important (and OSHA-mandated) piece of the respiratory safety program. Our written respiratory protection program includes a training guide that includes all the required topics. OSHA states that, at a minimum, training should include:

  • Why employees need to use the respirator.
  • What the respirator can and cannot do to help protect them.
  • How to properly inspect, put on and take off, and use their respirators.
  • How to perform a “user seal check” on their respirators.
  • How to use the respirator effectively in emergency situations, including what to do if it doesn't work properly.
  • How to recognize medical signs and symptoms that may limit or prevent workers from using a respirator.
  • How improper fit, usage or maintenance can reduce the respirator’s ability to protect them.
  • The procedures for maintenance and storage of the respirator.
  • The requirements for federal/state OSHA respiratory protection standards.

Respirator Maintenance

Employers must provide procedures for the proper use and care of half and full-facepiece respirators, which are included in our written respiratory protection program. They include:

  • Use
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting
  • Identification of Equipment
  • Storage
  • Inspection
  • Repairs

Allegro™ Qualitative Irritant Smoke Fit Test Kit

Quick, simple, and economical to use for respirator fit testing and airflow indication. Kits contain everything needed to perform multiple fit tests without the cost of extra equipment. Each aspirator bulb pump and Gastec irritant smoke tube is pre-calibrated and ready for immediate use.

Key Specifications

  • There are no special sensitivity test chemical mixtures to prepare in advance.
  • Irritant smoke is the only OSHA-accepted qualitative fit testing method that does not rely on the test subject’s subjective response.

Allegro™ Qualitative Banana Oil Fit-Test Kits

The Standard Kit comes in a carry bag and includes two 1 oz. (30mL) bottles of testing agent, a vinyl test enclosure, measuring pipette, and paper towels. Simply disperse the fit test solution into the hood environment. If the wearer does not detect the test agent’s taste, an acceptable fit has been demonstrated.

Key Specifications

  • Banana oil (isoamyl acetate) is the substance originally used for testing respirator fit; its strong, recognizable odor quickly indicates the lack of proper fit.
  • Available in two fit test kits and Fit Check Ampules that provide a fast and easy method of on-the-spot qualitative fit testing

3M™ Qualitative Fit Test kit (Bitrex/Saccharine)

3M offers two qualitative fit test kits FT-10 (sweet) and FT-30 (bitter); FT-10 uses a test solution of sodium saccharin that produces a sweet tasting aerosol and FT-30 uses denatonium benzoate to produce a very bitter taste. Simply spray the fit test solution into the hood environment. If the wearer does not detect the test agent’s taste, an acceptable fit has been demonstrated.

Key Specifications

  • Fast, easy method for performing qualitative fit testing.
  • Can be used with any particulate respirator, or any gas/vapor respirator with particulate prefilter.
  • Convenient, reliable and economical to use.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

A qualitative fit test (QLFT) may only be used to fit-test:

  • Negative-pressure, air-purifying respirators, as long as they’ll only be used in atmospheres where the hazard is at less than 10 times the permissible exposure limit (PEL).
  • Tight fitting facepieces used with powered and atmosphere-supplying respirators.

QLFT is pass/fail and relies on the user’s senses using one of four OSHA-accepted test agents:

  • Isoamyl acetate (banana smell); only for testing respirators with organic vapor cartridges.
  • Saccharin (sweet taste); can test respirators with a particulate filter of any class.
  • Bitrex® (bitter taste); can also test respirators with particulate filters of any class.
  • Irritant smoke (involuntary cough reflex); only for testing respirators with level 100 particulate filters.

Each QLFT method uses seven exercises performed for 1 minute each:

  • Normal breathing.
  • Deep breathing.
  • Moving head side to side.
  • Moving head up and down.
  • Bending over (or jogging in place if fit test unit doesn’t permit bending at the waist).
  • Talking.
  • Normal breathing again.

Advantages of qualitative fit testing:

  • Low cost for kit and supplies.
  • Multiple employees can be simultaneously tested.
  • Simple pass/fail results.

Disadvantages of qualitative fit testing:

  • Chance of employee deception or inability to taste/smell solution.
  • Limited protection-factor verification (maximum fit factor of 100).

A quantitative fit test (QNFT) can be used to fit-test any tight-fitting respirator. It involves using an instrument to measure leakage around the face seal and produces a numerical result called a “fit factor.” There are three OSHA-accepted QNFT test protocols:

  • Generated aerosol uses a non-hazardous aerosol such as corn oil generated in a test chamber.
  • Condensation nuclei counter (CNC) uses ambient aerosol and doesn’t require a test chamber.
  • Controlled negative pressure (CNP) uses a test that creates a vacuum by temporarily cutting off air. (There is also a fourth method, which is an abbreviated version of this one.)

QNFTs use the same seven exercises as QLFTs, plus an additional “grimace” test where the subject smiles or frowns for 15 seconds. A fit factor of at least 100 is required for half-mask respirators and a minimum fit factor of 500 for a full facepiece negative-pressure respirator.

Advantages of quantitative fit testing:

  • No protection-factor limit.
  • Documentation of numerical results.
  • No chance of employee deception or inability to taste/smell solution.

Disadvantages of quantitative fit testing:

  • Only one employee can be tested at a time.
  • More costly than qualitative fit testing.
  • Often times adaptors and different quantitative equipment is needed depending on the respirator model/type.