III. Respirator Programs

A comprehensive written respiratory protection program is required to assure that workers are provided effective health protection.

Q: WHY is a formal respirator program needed?

A: A respirator program increases the chances of using a respirator correctly. Just like medicine, a respirator will only help if it is used it correctly. Also, OSHA requires a number of written program elements for all respiratory protection programs. 

Q: WHO is in charge of the respirator program?

A: For the institutional College of St. Benedict and Order of St. Benedict, the environmental health & safety department is responsible for the administration of the respiratory protection program.

Q: WHAT do I need to know about the respirator program?

A: A set of written standard operating procedures containing information about aspects of a respirator program is posted at the EHS website . The procedures describe when, where, and how to correctly use and care for your respirator.

Q: SHOULD I see a doctor before I use my respirator?

A: Before you are assigned a task requiring the use of a respirator, and periodically thereafter, you will be required to complete a health check. Not all workers must be examined by a doctor. A questionnaire will be used to determine if conditions or symptoms indicate the need for further medical evaluation.

Q: DO I need training to wear the respirator?

A: Yes, you and your supervisor must be informed about the necessity for wearing respirators and the potential risks associated with not doing so. This training should include at a minimum:

  • The nature, extent, and specific hazards in your respective health-care facility.
  • A description of engineering controls and work practices and the reasons why they do not eliminate the need for personal respiratory protection.
  • An explanation for selecting a particular type of respirator, how the respirator is properly maintained and stored, and the operation, capabilities, and limitations of the respirator provided.
  • Instruction in how to inspect, put on, fit check, adjust, and correctly wear the provided respirator.
  • An opportunity to handle the provided respirator and learn how to put it on, wear it properly, and check the important parts
  • Instruction in how to recognize an inadequately functioning respirator.

Q: HOW do I know if the respirator is the right size for my face?

A: You will undergo fit testing to identify a respirator that adequately fits you.

Qualitative fit test chamber

Q: CAN I check the fit of my respirator?

A: Yes, always check the facepiece fit before each use. Consult the manufacturer's recommendations, which are found in the packaging.

A fit test is a method used to select the right size respirator for your face. A fit check is a method to check to see if you have correctly put on your respirator and adjusted it to fit properly.

Q: HOW do I take care of my respirator?

A: The manufacturer's instructions for inspecting, cleaning, and maintaining the respirator should be followed to ensure that it functions properly. Cleaning, inspection, repair and storage functions may be assigned to each individual user or to a central office.

Q: CAN a respirator be used by more than one person? How often should it be cleaned?

A: Disposable respirators should be assigned to only one person and discarded if soiled or physically damaged. Replaceable filter respirators may be shared, but should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after each use (see manufacturers' recommendations).

Q: WHAT should I do if I have problems with my respirator or questions about the respirator program?

A: First, contact the environmental health & safety department with problems and questions about using respirators. If you need additional information, you can contact NIOSH at 1-800-35-NIOSH.