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Health and Safety Guide




    One of the principal routes by which chemicals can enter the body is through inhalation. If an individual is exposed to an excessive airborne concentration of a chemical over a long period of time, undesirable health effects can result.

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set maximum exposure standards for many airborne toxic materials. The Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) can assist in determining whether a workerís exposure to chemicals and/or particulates with which he or she works exceeds these standards. If the permissible exposure limit is exceeded, the exposure must be reduced to acceptable levels through the use of engineering and/or administrative controls.

    Engineering controls include the following:

    • substitution with a less toxic material
    • change in process to minimize contact with hazardous chemicals
    • isolation or enclosure of a process or work operation
    • wet methods to reduce the generation of dust, when applicable
    • general dilution ventilation
    • local exhaust, including the use of chemical fume hoods or other types of specialized ventilation systems
    Administrative controls include employee training, use of standard operating procedures, and work scheduling to minimize the length of exposure.

    Respirators and other personal protective equipment may be used where engineering controls are not feasible or cannot reduce exposure to acceptable levels, or while engineering controls are being installed. The need for a respirator is dependent upon the type of operations and the nature and quantity of the materials in use and must be assessed on a case by case basis.

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Scope and Application

The use of respirators at Princeton University is subject to prior review and approval by EHS, per University policy. The OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard regulates any use of respiratory protection.

    Any individual who has received approval by EHS to use a respirator, including self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), must be enrolled in the Respiratory Protection Program. A physical examination and health history review will be conducted by the Employee Health in University Health Services for medical approval and surveillance.

    Respiratory protection, through the use of supplied air or self-contained breathing apparatus, is required for work in oxygen deficient atmospheres. It also may be necessary during non-routine operations in which the individual is exposed briefly to high concentration of a hazardous substance (e.g., maintenance or repair activities or during spill clean-up).

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Program Description

    The use of respirators is regulated by OSHA through the Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134). The standard requires the development of a Respiratory Protection Program, including all of the elements described below.

    Initial Hazard Assessment

    Anyone who believes that respiratory protection is needed during the course of his or her work must notify EHS. An industrial hygienist from EHS will evaluate the potential hazards of the work and determine whether respiratory protection is needed. This may involve personal and area air sampling to measure exposure levels.

    Written Respiratory Protection Program

    Departments in which respirators are used are required to establish and maintain a written respiratory protection program covering all aspects of the use of respiratory protection. The written program must include provisions for:

    • identification and measurement of hazards
    • respirator selection
    • medical assessment
    • training
    • proper fitting of respirator
    • respirator inspection and maintenance
    • recordkeeping
    • periodic program review

    Each department must appoint a Respiratory Protection Program Manager, to be responsible for developing and implementing the Respiratory Protection Program in that department.

    The written program must be reviewed and updated at least annually. A model written program is available through EHS.

    Respirator Selection

    An EHS industrial hygienist determines the type of respirator needed (e.g., half-face or full-face air purifying respirator, powered air purifying respirator, supplied air respirator or self-contained breathing apparatus) based on the results of the initial hazard assessment. When air purifying respirators are recommended, the appropriate type of filter or chemical cartridge is selected. Only respirators and supplies approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) may be used at Princeton University.

    Departments purchase the appropriate respirator and supplies. If the respirator is needed for a limited time or for a special project, the department may rent the appropriate equipment from EHS, upon availability.

    Medical Surveillance

    Prior to the assignment of respiratory protection, the individual must be evaluated by the Employee Health to determine whether he or she is able to wear a respirator. This involves the completion of a medical history questionnaire, a limited physical examination and baseline laboratory testing. This may include a pulmonary function test, a chest x-ray, an echocardiogram, a urinalysis and a complete blood count.

    The medical history questionnaire (which is part of the annual Respirator Fitting Form) must be completed annually by each individual enrolled in the Respiratory Protection Program and is reviewed by a licensed healthcare professional. The frequency of physical examinations and laboratory testing is at the discretion of the physician, based, in part, on age and general health.

    Training and Fit-Testing

    Individuals who require respiratory protection must receive training before using a respirator. The training is provided by EHS and includes discussion of the need for respiratory protection, the elements of the Respiratory Protection Program and the individualís responsibility under it, the medical surveillance program, proper use of respiratory protection, respirator maintenance, and handling emergency situations.

    Individuals required to wear negative pressure respirators must be fitted properly and tested for an adequate seal prior to use in a contaminated atmosphere. Qualitative fit-testing using irritant smoke is performed by EHS. Instructions on performing positive and negative pressure checks are provided to respirator users so that they may check their respiratorís fit in the field.

    SCBA users must show proficiency donning and doffing the respirator. It is imperative that they know how the SCBA functions and how to use it under varying conditions.

    All respirator users must attend training and be fit-tested annually.

    Inspection and Maintenance

    Respirator users are responsible for regular cleaning and inspection of their respirators, including looking for defects and missing parts. Respirators must be stored properly in order to protect them from dust, sunlight, excessive heat or cold, moisture and chemicals. Inspection forms are available through EHS and are distributed during annual training.

    SCBA must be inspected at least monthly and a record of the inspection must be maintained. The department appoints an individual or group to be responsible for the monthly inspections. Inspection forms are available through EHS and are distributed during annual training.

    The departmental Respiratory Protection Program Manager should periodically spot check respirators to ensure they are in good condition.


    For each individual assigned a respirator, the department maintains records of training, fit-testing, and respirator inspections. Medical records, including copies of the Respirator Fitting Form and results of physical examinations, are kept by Occupational Medicine at the McCosh Health Center.

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Roles and Responsibilities


    • Recognize potential hazards and contact EHS for evaluation.
    • Purchase respirators and associated equipment.
    • Develop and implement a written Respiratory Protection Program.
    • Notify EHS of new individuals requiring respiratory protection.
    • Spot check respirators periodically.
    • Conduct annual review of written program.
    • Maintain inspection records of SCBA units.
    • Notify EHS of changes in procedures.


  • Recognize potential hazards and notify the department or EHS.
  • Enforce the use of respiratory protection, where necessary.


  • Identify and evaluate hazards.
  • Select suitable respiratory protection options.
  • Conduct initial and annual training and fit-testing.
  • Conduct initial and periodic practice sessions for SCBA users.
  • Perform periodic reevaluations of exposures.
  • Maintain records of fit-testing and training.
  • Audit departmental program periodically.


  • Recognize and report potential hazards to Supervisor.
  • Use respiratory protection as instructed.
  • Attend training and fit-testing annually
  • Contact EHS following each non-routine use of SCBA.
  • Inspect respirator for defects or missing parts.
  • Clean and store respirator as instructed.
  • Notify EHS in the event of physical changes, such as scars or extreme weight gain or loss.

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For More Information

Contact an EHS Industrial Hygienist at 258-7882.

Full text of the OSHA Respirator Standard (29 CFR 1910.134) is available through EHS.

A model written departmental Respiratory Protection Program is available through EHS.

The Respiratory Protection Self-Audit Checklist is available through EHS or may be downloaded either as a PDF or a customizable Word document.

The following references are available through EHS:

  • American Industrial Hygiene Association, Respiratory Protection, 1985.
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Certified Equipment List as of September 30, 1993.
  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, Industrial Ventilation, A Manual for Recommended Practice, 20th edition, 1988.
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Respirator Decision Logic, 1987.

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