Respiratory Protection

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Man wearing a respirator and protective clothing pouring a jar of chemicals. Caption: Respirators aren't always the right solution, but when they are, you'll need to learn more about what's required to ensure they work reliably. Photo courtesy of SHARPRespirators are designed to protect individuals from harmful airborne contaminants or low oxygen levels. In some workplaces, respirators are the only solution available to address such hazards.

Reliance on respirators is not allowed in workplaces where exposure controls can be used to remove the airborne hazard. For example, you may be able to use a ventilated exhaust system to eliminate harmful emissions. When prevention solutions don't eliminate or reduce the airborne hazard, respirators can take on a supporting role in worker safety.

A respiratory protection program is necessary and required when respirator use is mandatory. Without a program, you can't ensure proper selection, medical clearance, fit testing, training, use, and maintenance practices.

In workplaces where respirators are not required, employers may permit employees to voluntarily use them for personal comfort, when it safe to do so.  In such cases, a reduced respiratory protection program may be required, depending on the type of respirator used. See the program requirements below for further details.

Rules and requirements


Man in blue shirt holding a respirator. Caption reads: Training on proper use and maintenance is essential for employees who rely on respirators to keep them safe.Training


Other resources

Program development

Illustration of a common fiber paper dust mask. Caption: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) certifies that respirators meet minimum quality standards. Click here to read more about NIOSH certification. Photo courtesy of NIOSHSelection

Medical evaluations

Fit testing



Related topics

More help from L&I

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