Respiratory Protection

When University employees are exposed or potentially exposed to hazardous air contaminants, the primary method of protection is through use of accepted engineering methods such as local exhaust ventilation, elimination of the hazardous substance, or isolating the contaminant process. However, when these control methods are infeasible, or if they fail to reduce the exposure to acceptable levels, respirators will be provided to and worn by employees. 

Respirators are personal protection equipment (PPE) designed to cover the nose and mouth and works by removing air contaminants, or by providing clean air to the user.

Proper use of a respirator is essential to the health of the user, therefore everyone that wears a respirator, must be included in the University of Minnesota Respirator Protection Program (RPP).

Health, Safety, and Risk Management is responsible for the written RPP to ensure it is up-to-date and effective.

Services We Provide

  • Hazard evaluation and determination of the need for respiratory protection
  • Recommendations for the appropriate respirator, cartridges, and filters that provide the appropriate level of protection
  • Fit testing
  • Training and instruction on the proper use and maintenance of respirators

Preparation for Using a Respirator

There are several steps to be completed before you may use a respirator. Complete the following steps:

  1. Contact Industrial Hygiene for a Consultation and Hazard Assessment
    In a hazard assessment, our staff will identify the contaminant properties and evaluate the potential exposure against regulatory personal exposure limits (PELS), or threshold limit values (TLVs). Staff will then determine if an exposure is at the level that may cause harm. Call (612) 626-6002 to schedule a consultation.

    To learn more about PELS and TLVs, see the OSHA Annotated Table and MNOSHA PEL.

  2. Respiratory Protection Program: Medical Evaluation and Fit Testing
    Wearing a respirator may place a burden on your cardiovascular system while your are working. Therefore, prior to fit testing and respirator use, each person is required to have a medical evaluation. Visit the Occupational Health Process for Respirator Medical Clearance website to start the process. 


  3. Respirators and Cartridge Selection
    When a respirator is required in the workplace, all respirators must be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Additionally, each respirator must be selected to provide a level of protection necessary for health and safety. Information about the different types of respirators and their assigned protection factors is available in the OSHA Assigned Protections Factors for the Revised Respiratory Protection Standard.

    Chemical cartridges do not last forever. If the cartridge does not have an End-of-Service-Life Indicator (ESLI), then a change-out schedule must be developed and followed. Cartridge service life is based upon environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and the amount of physical effort required during the work task. Contact Health, Safety, and Risk Management (HSRM) for assistance at [email protected] or (612) 626-6002.

    For information on Voluntary Use of Respirators, see the N 95 Voluntary Use Fact Sheet.

  4. Respiratory Protection Training
    The Respiratory Protection Training course is required for anyone who is required to wear any type of respirator, including N-95 filtering facepieces, for any reason, regardless of duration or frequency of use. The training is also strongly recommended for anyone who wears any type of respirator voluntarily.  

If You Want to Wear a Respirator

If you are required to wear a respirator, you can reference the Respirator Requirements fact sheet to review the steps you will need to take. Respirators include N95 masks, half-face and full-face tight-fitting respirators, and powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs). Surgical masks, cloth masks, and other barrier masks are not required to complete this process.

Links to Regulations

General Industry 29CFR.1910.134