Fact Sheet

Respiratory Protection

OSHA regulates the use of respirators in general industry through 29 CFR 1910.134 and various substance-specific standards such as asbestos (29 CRF 1910.1001) or Lead (29 CFR 1910.1025).

Respiratory protection is required when an airborne contaminate exceeds the permissible exposure limit for a particular substance. PELs are set by OSHA and found in regulation 29 CFR 1910.1000, Table Z-1 Limits for Air Contaminants.

See specific OSHA regulations for confined space (29 CFR 1910.146 Permit-required Confined Spaces), such as tanks, silos, pits and vessels, which require respiratory protection even through the PEL isn’t exceeded. Also refer to OSHA’s Safety and Healthy Topics, Confined Spaces.

Respirators protect the worker by:

  1. removing contaminants from the air.
  2. filtering out chemicals and gases.
  3. supplying clean respirable air from another source.

OSHA requires an employer to develop and use a written respiratory-protection program with work-site-specific procedures that must be managed by a trained administrator.

In order to provide proper protection:


Respirators should only be used when engineering control systems are not feasible. Engineering control systems, such as adequate ventilation or scrubbing of contaminants, should be used to make respirator use unnecessary.

Respirators should only be used by workers who have successfully passed classroom training, supervised onsite training and testing in situations that mirror work sites where they will be assigned.

Selecting the proper respirator for the job, the hazard and the person is very important, as is thorough training in the use and limitations of respirators.

Questions regarding the proper selection and use of respirators should be addressed to a certified industrial hygienist, or to the NIOSH Division of Safety Research, 944 Chestnut Ridge Road, Morgantown, WV 26505.


NIOSH Fact Sheet: Workers in Secondary Response and Other Supporting Roles

NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (NPG)

NIOSH Respirator Decision Logic

NIOSH Safety and Health Topics: Respirator

NIOSH Safety and Health Topics: Occupational Respiratory Disease Surveillance, State-Based Surveillance

NIOSH Suggested Cleaning and Sanitizing Procedures

OSHA Publication 3079, Respiratory Protection

OSHA Respiratory Protection eTool

OSHA Safety and Health Topics: Occupational Asthma

OSHA Safety and Health Topics: Respiratory Protection

Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Revised Respiratory Protection Standard, OSHA, 1998