Respirator Protection-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Respirator Protection

Recent training I have been performing on campus for Hazard Communication issues has brought up a number of questions about respiratory protection.

Environmental Health and Safety provides respiratory protection for certain circumstances and situations. This includes situations where other controls for the hazards in one’s workplace are insufficient to provide protection for the worker.  We first consider whether the hazard can be removed from the workplace or work process. Secondly, we see whether a safer material can replace the hazard of concern.  Then we consider other controls such as ventilation or a fume hood, or perhaps a process change.  When all of these options fail to sufficiently remove the hazard from a worker, we consider respiratory protection.

There are two items of protection we consider:  a disposable dust mask and an actual respirator.  The dust mask has very limited regulatory requirements related to its use, and we prefer to use this where it is appropriate.  (“Limited” requirements does NOT mean “no” requirements, though!)  A respirator has a considerable amount of regulatory requirements for its use, although EH&S is able to accommodate them, when necessary.  These requirements include a medical evaluation and annual fit testing and training sessions.  Given these requirements, we limit respirator use to only approved situations and EH&S must be involved in each.  You may NOT purchase a respirator on your own for use at the University, even for a voluntary use situation!  The use of a dust mask in a voluntary use situation is the only situation where EH&S does not need to be involved.

If you think your work may require the use of respiratory protection, please contact either Andrew Lawson (8-8405) or myself (8-1493).

By: Mark Banister,, 412-268-1493