Respiratory Protection Program

Why do I need Respiratory Protection?

It is the policy of the UMass Amherst to provide its employees with a safe and healthful work environment. 

The guidelines of the University's Respiratory Protection Program are designed to minimize employee exposure to occupational airborne contaminants such as harmful dusts, smoke, gasses, vapors, sprays, and hazardous bio-aerosols, as well as oxygen deficiency.  

This is accomplished, as far as feasible, by accepted engineering control measures, such as enclosure or confinement of the ‘hazardous’ operation, general and local ventilation, and substitution of less toxic materials.  However, when effective engineering controls are not feasible, or while they are being implemented or evaluated, respiratory protection may be required to minimize employee exposures.  In these situations, respiratory protection shall be provided at no cost to the employees. 

UMass Amherst Respiratory Protection Program ensures employees who use respirators understand their capabilities and limitations.

All members of the University community who wear respirators to safely fulfill their campus tasks must participate in the University's Respiratory Protection Program.

When do I need Respiratory Protection?

Working conditions under which respirators are most often used involve work in:

  • Confined or enclosed spaces;
  • Welding Animal and biological research facilities;
  • Atmospheres with potentially high concentrations of toxic gases, vapors or dusts;
  • Paint spraying
  • Oxygen-deficient atmosphere (less than 19.5 percent oxygen at sea level);
  • Atmospheres immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH);
  • Firefighting
  • Pesticide and fertilizer application
  • Hazardous materials handling
  • Asbestos abatement
  • Other areas where exposure level is at or above the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of the contaminant

How To Get A Respirator: Process Flow

Step 1: Workplace Evaluation for Exposure/Hazard Assessment

The first step is to conduct a workplace hazard evaluation to determine:

  • whether atmospheric contamination exceeds or is likely to exceed the hazard limit and
  • the most effective and efficient means of respiratory protection for you

The RPPA will work with you or your supervisor to find methods to reduce the levels of atmospheric contamination. If such methods offer insufficient protection and respirators are required, proceed to the next step, medical evaluation.

Step 2: Medical Evaluation

Because the use of respirators can place a burden on the body and aggravate some medical conditions, medical evaluations are required before a worker is fit-tested and told to wear a respirator. Of special concern is the health of workers who suffer from heart disease or respiratory problems.
Print and complete the following forms:

Drop off /send the completed forms to: 

Occupational Health Nurse
University Health Services
150 Infirmary Way
University of Massachusetts, Amherst 01003-9288

The Occupational Health Nurse (OHN) will contact you for discussion and or appointment. 
After determining the employee’s ability to use a respirator, the OHN will provide the RPPA with a written recommendation stating whether the employee is medically able to use a respirator or not and if there are any limitations on respirator use. 

NOTE: Employees are not permitted to wear respirators until the OHN or a physician or other licensed healthcare professional (PLHCP) has determined that they are medically able to do so.  Any employee refusing the medical evaluation will not be permitted to work in an area requiring respirator use.

Step 3: Respirator Selection

After receiving medical clearance for respirator use, make an appointment with the RPPA at EH&S. At this meeting the RPPA will advise you on the types of respirators to purchase. It is the PI/supervisor's responsibility to provide, and pay for, all personal protective clothing and equipment, including respirators. 

The flowchart below gives a general overview of the types of respirators and their function: 
(PS: this is not the comprehensive list of available types/models of respirators)

Types of Respirators and their functions

Step 4: Fit Testing

Call the RPPA to make an appointment for fit testing. Once the respirator type has been finalized, the RPPA will conduct a quantitative fit test (QNFT) using PortaCount machine specific to the make, model, style, and size of the respirator intended to be used. The RPPA will conduct initial and annual respirator fit testing for all respirator users in accordance with Appendix A of the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134.

Repeat fit testing may be required if the respirator wearer or PI/supervisor notices changes in the wearers' physical condition that could affect fit, and if a different face piece is used.

Annual fit testing and training is required. The RPPA will notify you when it's time for renewal.

There is no charge for fit testing by EH&S.

Step 5: Training 

Training on proper respirator usage, maintenance, storage and repairs will be provided at the time of fit testing. Respirator training routinely covers:

  • Why the respirator is necessary
  • What protection the respirator can give if properly fit and maintained
  • The limitations of the respirator
  • How to inspect, put on, remove and use the respirator
  • How to do user seal checks; Positive pressure and negative pressure checks
  • How to use the respirator in emergencies, including conditions in which the respirator malfunctions
  • How to recognize medical signs and symptoms that may prevent or limit effective use of the respirator
  • The general requirements of OSHA’s respirator protection standard.

Retraining must be given at least annually, or when changes in the workplace or in the type of respirator used makes previous training obsolete. New or transferred employees must be given their respirator training before being required to use the respirator.

Contact Respiratory Protection Program Administrator (RPPA): Nikki Brandon

What are the regulations and policies governing respiratory protection?