Voluntary Use of Respirators – 29 CFR 1910.134

OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.132 (d)(1) requires that employers perform a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) assessment to determine whether hazards are present, or likely to be present, that necessitate the use of personal protective equipment. In addition, 29 CFR 1910.132 (d)(2) requires a written certification of the assessment. This Hazard Assessment can be used to decide if respiratory protection is needed or should be required by employers.

If respirators are not needed or not required by the employer and employees still wish to use respirators on a voluntary basis OSHA has some requirements that employers must meet before allowing voluntary use.

In paragraph 1910.134(c)(2)(i) of the Respiratory Protection Standard OSHA states that an employer may provide respirators at the request of employees or permit employees to use their own respirators, if the employer determines that such respirator use will not in itself create a hazard. To do this, the employer must implement certain elements of a written respiratory protection program necessary to ensure that any worker using a respirator voluntarily is medically able to use that respirator. In addition, the employer must ensure that the respirator is properly cleaned, stored and maintained so that its use does not present a health hazard to workers.

However, employers do not have to develop and implement a written respiratory protection program when workers only use filtering facepiece respirators voluntarily. (Source: https://www.osha.gov/video/respiratory_protection/voluntaryuse_transcript.html)

If the employer determines that any voluntary respirator use is permissible, the employer shall provide the respirator users with the information contained in Appendix D to the standard (“Information for Employees Using Respirators When Not Required Under the Standard”). (See below for the text of Appendix D.)

In addition, according to 1910.134(c)(2)(ii), the employer must establish and implement those elements of a written respiratory protection program necessary to ensure that any employee using a respirator voluntarily is medically able to use that respirator, and that the respirator is cleaned, stored, and maintained so that its use does not present a health hazard to the user.

There is an exception: Employers are not required to include in a written respiratory protection program those employees whose only use of respirators involves the voluntary use of filtering facepieces (dust masks).

Normally, respirators that are voluntarily used by employees will be filtering facepieces (dust masks). NIOSH-approved respirators are strongly recommended, but they are not required for voluntary use. This voluntary use of dust masks alone does not require the employer to have a written program. For filtering facepiece respirator use, the employer needs only ensure that dust masks are not dirty or contaminated, that their use does not interfere with the employee’s ability to work safely, and that a copy of Appendix D is provided to each voluntary wearer. Merely posting Appendix D is not considered adequate.

Use of elastomeric or supplied-air respirators, even when voluntary on the part of the employee, will require the employer to include all elements in a written program that will ensure use of these respirators does not create a hazard.

It is the intent of the standard that the employer would not be required to incur any costs associated with voluntary use of filtering facepieces other than providing a copy of Appendix D to each user. If employers allow the voluntary use of respirators other than filtering facepieces, the costs associated with ensuring the respirator itself does not create a hazard, such as medical evaluations and maintenance must be provided at no cost to the employee.

Appendix D to Sec. 1910.134 (Mandatory)

Information for Employees

Using Respirators When Not Required Under the Standard

Respirators are an effective method of protection against designated hazards when properly selected and worn. Respirator use is encouraged, even when exposures are below the exposure limit, to provide an additional level of comfort and protection for workers. However, if a respirator is used improperly or not kept clean, the respirator itself can become a hazard to the worker. Sometimes, workers may wear respirators to avoid exposures to hazards, even if the amount of hazardous substance does not exceed the limits set by OSHA standards. If your employer provides respirators for your voluntary use, or if you provide your own respirator, you need to take certain precautions to be sure that the respirator itself does not present a hazard.

You should do the following:

1. Read and heed all instructions provided by the manufacturer on use, maintenance, cleaning and care, and warnings regarding the respirators limitations.

2. Choose respirators certified for use to protect against the contaminant of concern. NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, certifies respirators. A label or statement of certification should appear on the respirator or respirator packaging. It will tell you what the respirator is designed for and how much it will protect you.

3. Do not wear your respirator into atmospheres containing contaminants for which your respirator is not designed to protect against. For example, a respirator designed to filter dust particles will not protect you against gases, vapors, or very small solid particles of fumes or smoke.

4. Keep track of your respirator so that you do not mistakenly use someone else’s respirator.

[63 FR 1152, Jan. 8, 1998; 63 FR 20098, April 23, 1998]

Source: OSHA – https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9784