Respirator Use in Laboratories-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Respirator Use in Laboratories

Recently, EH&S has been finding many laboratory areas where respirators are present (without EH&S oversight) and which have been purchased by lab workers for their own use.  This is in violation of the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard, which addresses even VOLUNTARY use of respirators.

First, it is critical that a medical evaluation be performed on any person wearing a respirator, to determine whether they are physically fit to wear one.  People with asthma, lung or heart problems or a number of other medical issues may find respirator use problematic.  EH&S can arrange for these examinations with a qualified physician.  Secondly, it is critical that the respirator be properly fitted to the wearer by a trained person.  Thirdly, it is critical that proper cartridges be selected for the contaminants present and that the respirator and the cartridges be properly maintained.  EH&S can perform the fit testing (on medically-approved personnel) and also provide the necessary training, the respirators and the proper cartridges.

It is important to understand that, provided that other laboratory controls are in place and properly working (specifically fume hoods and ventilation,) there should be NO NEED for a lab worker to wear a respirator in the first place.  EH&S will be happy to evaluate the work activities of any person who feels they need a respirator.  If it is determined that one is needed, EH&S will provide all the necessary activities for the respirator use to be OSHA-compliant.

Respirator use that is not coordinated by EH&S is NOT PERMITTED in laboratories, or for that matter, in any university work areas.