The primary objective of the respiratory protection program is to prevent exposure to air contaminated with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, vapors, or sprays, and thus to prevent occupational illness.

A program administrator must be responsible for the program. This person must know enough about respirators to supervise the program properly.

Respiratory_half_face_bkgOSHA’s respirator standard requires employers to establish and maintain an effective respiratory protection program when employees must wear respirators to protect against workplace hazards. Different hazards require different respirators, and employees are responsible for wearing the appropriate respirator and complying with the respiratory protection program.

Employees must use respirators while effective engineering controls, if they are feasible, are being installed. If engineering controls are not feasible, employers must provide respirators and employees must wear them when necessary to protect their health. The employee’s equipment must be properly selected, used, and maintained for a particular work environment and contaminant. In addition, employers must train employees in all aspects of the respiratory protection program.

A good summary of all the requirements of the regulation is provided by OSHA’s Respiratory Protection booklet (publication #OSHA 3079, published 2002).


Areas and personnel affected

This is a list of potential areas, activities or personnel to evaluate for respiratory protection needs (not an all-inclusive list):

Activities or situations

  • Painting
  • Floor resurfacing
  • Work with solvents
  • Work on asbestos containing material
  • Boiler cleaning (annual)
  • Swimming pool cleaning (annual)
  • Maintenance or construction operations – sawing, sanding, cutting, crushing, screening,  blasting, insulating, grinding, or any operation that releases a respirable fraction;
  • Chemical spill clean-up

Processes that involve:

  • Metals (fumes or particles), including soldering, brazing, pickling, etching, plating, galvanizing, welding, smelting, photography, printing, paints containing heavy metals
  • Hazardous liquids, including spray processes, pesticides, open pouring or transfer of liquids
  • Heating (vapor degreasing)
  • Material that is atomized or sprayed
  • Combustion
  • Chemical reactions
  • Use of carcinogens, sensitizers, or highly toxic materials


  • Health clinics
  • Laboratories
  • Arts, including studio arts and theater set construction
  • Confined spaces


  • Employees with exposure potential during influenza outbreaks
  • Authorized entrants (permit-required confined space program)
  • Physical Plant employees having specific exposures, especially painters, facility repair workers, maintenance mechanics, heating plant employees, and Class II or III asbestos workers.
  • Personnel with respiratory complaints or symptoms


Written program and other provisions of the regulation

Campuses are required to develop and implement a written respiratory protection program. The program needs to be updated as necessary to reflect those changes in workplace conditions that affect respirator use. Other required program elements include:

  • written worksite specific procedures;
  • program administration and evaluation;
  • respirator selection;
  • employee training;
  • fit testing;
  • medical evaluation;
  • respirator use, inspection, cleaning, maintenance, repair and storage;
  • work area surveillance; and
  • air quality standards for supplied air.


Written program examples


Training and employee information

Training is essential for correct respirator use. Employers must teach supervisors and workers how to properly select, use, and maintain respirators. All employees required to use respiratory protective equipment must receive instruction in the proper use of the equipment and its limitations. Employers should develop training programs based on the employee’s education level and language background.

Training must include an explanation of the following:

  • Why respirator use is necessary;
  • Nature of the respiratory hazard and consequences of not fitting, using, and maintaining the respirator properly;
  • Reason(s) for selecting a particular type of respirator;
  • Capabilities and limitations of the selected respirator;
  • How to inspect, put on and remove, and check the seals of the respirator;
  • Respirator maintenance and storage requirements;
  • How to use the respirator effectively in emergency situations, including when the respirator malfunctions; and
  • How to recognize medical signs and symptoms that may limit or prevent the effective use of the respirator.

Users should know that improper respirator use or maintenance may cause overexposure. They also should understand that continued use of poorly fitted and maintained respirators can cause chronic disease or death from overexposure to air contaminants.


Training program and employee information material

Training and employee information material must be customized and specific for the needs of your campus respiratory protection program. Here are some examples of training templates and material in use.



Other college/university training material



Regulations, interpretations and standards

Listed below are regulations, interpretations and standards on respiratory protection that would generally pertain to the work and operations commonly found at UW System campuses. Excluded from this list are the respiratory protection regulations under the asbestos construction standard. See OHSA’s page on asbestos in construction for more information.



For an excellent introductory overview of the requirements for a respiratory protection program, OSHA provides a booklet, “Respiratory Protection.”

The Respiratory Protection eTool provides detailed information about how to implement and maintain a program, links to the regulatory language, assistance for developing a respirator change schedule, and an Advisor Genius tool to assist with respirator selection.

Here are links to the general industry rule language and interpretations:



Administration code booksWisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services

The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) has authority over public employee occupational health and safety regulation. The July 2003 edition of 29 CFR 1910 was adopted to regulate public employee safety, with modifications published in Wisconsin Administrative Code Chapter SPS 332.

Pertinent to respiratory protection, SPS 332.35 states: “In lieu of 29 CFR 1910.1000, July 1, 2003 edition, an employee’s exposure to air contaminants shall be in accordance with the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.1000, July 1, 1992 edition.” Disregard the transitional limits in the table, as the final rule limits are in effect for public employers in the State of Wisconsin.



The American Industrial Hygiene Association provides oversight for the ANSI/AIHA Z88 Respiratory Protection series.

  • ANSI/AIHA Z88.2 Practices for Respiratory Protection. (1992 version withdrawn, new standard not published as of August 2011).
  • ANSI/AIHA Z88.6 2006 Respirator – Physical Qualifications for Personnel.
  • ANSI/AIHA Z88.7 2010 Color Coding of Air-Purifying Respirator Canisters, Cartridges and Filters.
  • ANSI/AIHA Z88.10 2010 Respirator Fit Testing Methods.
  • BSR AIHA Z88.12 (Draft) Respiratory Protection for Infectious Aerosols.


Related program areas and topics

Agricultural safety; Air-purifying respirator (APR); Art studios; Asbestos management; Biological agents; Facility Repair Workers; Formaldehyde; Full-face respirator; Half-face respirator; Hazardous and toxic substances; Influenza; Laboratories; Lead (Pb); Maintenance Mechanics; Painters; Permit required confined space entry; Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA); Silica (crystalline); Supplied-air respirator (SAR); Welding.


Reference material, files, and websites

General reference material

  • Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respiratory Protection Standard, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2011. Publication # OSHA 3384-09.
  • OSHA Respiratory Protection Videos page – Includes following topics:
    • Respiratory Protection in General Industry
    • Respiratory Protection in Construction
    • Respirator Types
    • Respirator Fit Testing
    • Maintenance and Care of Respirators
    • Medical Evaluations for Workers Who Use Respirators
    • Respiratory Protection Training Requirements
    • Voluntary Use of Respirators
    • Counterfeit and Altered Respirators: The Importance of NIOSH Certification
  • Assessment of NIOSH-approved N95 filter performance against varying conditions.” Kang, Mitchell, thesis, University of Iowa, 2011. A study which challenges NIOSH-approved N95 facepiece respirators to four different aerosols produced by nebulizing solutions of varying size, and six different types of engineered nanoparticles.


Reference material for this webpage



This publication was prepared for environmental, health and safety staff at University of Wisconsin System campuses, to assist in finding resources and information for regulatory compliance. It is not intended to render legal advice.

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