5.9 Respiratory Protection Program

Safety, Health, and Environmental Manual


5.9.1 Purpose

These guidelines provide a respiratory protection program for employees who wear respirators. The purpose of the respiratory protection program is to make sure Church employees are protected against harmful levels of air contaminants and a lack of oxygen. The Church provides respiratory protection equipment for each employee who is or may be exposed to a hazardous atmosphere in the course of work.

Managers and supervisors of Church operations that require respirators should implement these guidelines and designate a respiratory program administrator at each location. The program administrator should make reasonable efforts to ensure that the respiratory protection program outlined in this document is followed.

The best way to control respiratory hazards is through engineering and administrative controls such as improving ventilation, changing processes, and substituting toxic materials for less-toxic materials. However, some situations do require respiratory protection. Respirators may be used on a temporary basis while engineering or administrative controls are being implemented. Or they should be used on a routine basis where engineering controls do not exist.

5.9.2 General Rules and Procedures

Managers and supervisors should establish and maintain a written respiratory protection program. The respiratory program administrator should carry out the following general rules and procedures for establishing and maintaining a respiratory protection program.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

The program administrator should maintain SOPs for respirators. The program administrator should:

  • Develop a list of operations and emergency conditions in which respirators should be used.

  • Determine the appropriate respirators for each operation or condition (see section 5.9.3, “Selecting Respirators”).

  • Write respirator procedures for each operation or condition.

  • Test that the respirators fit employees (known as fit testing).

Employees should use respirators according to written SOPs. If procedures do not exist for a given operation, use one of the following options:

  1. Use the most protective respirator available (supplied air or SCBA).

  2. The program administrator must develop a new SOP and select an appropriate respirator (see section 5.9.3, “Selecting Respirators”).

Maintaining Respirators

Employees should keep respiratory protection equipment clean and in good operating order. They should do so through a program of routine inspection, cleaning, repair, and proper storage when the equipment is not in use (see section 5.9.6, “Maintaining, Cleaning, Inspecting, and Storing Respirators”).

Medical Determination

The respiratory program administrator should:

  • Complete a Respirator Medical Determination form (see chapter 7) to give the licensed healthcare professional information about the type of respirator to be used and the nature of the respiratory hazards.

  • Have the licensed healthcare professional perform a medical evaluation using a questionnaire (applicable for the regulatory jurisdiction where you live). The licensed healthcare professional can provide approval by reviewing the questionnaire or conducting an in-person medical evaluation if needed. Make sure the licensed healthcare professional returns the Respirator Medical Determination form with an opinion on the employee’s ability to use a respirator.

  • File the Respirator Medical Determination form (see chapter 7).

  • Provide additional medical evaluations if:

    • An employee reports medical signs or symptoms related to using a respirator.

    • The physician, supervisor, or program administrator observes (for example, during fit testing or program evaluation) or has information (for example, a change in workplace conditions such as physical work effort, protective clothing, or temperature) that an employee needs to be reevaluated.

Fit-Testing Respirators

The program administrator is responsible for annually testing employees who use negative-pressure (air-purifying) respirators. Where possible, conduct qualitative fit retests using the employee’s own respirator (see “Positive Pressure Test” and “Negative Pressure Test” below). If this is not possible, conduct the test only with a respirator of the same make, model, and size as the employee’s own respirator. The Respirator Fit Test Record (see chapter 7) can assist with this process.

The program administrator should keep records of periodic fit tests on file. If an employee fails a periodic fit test, refit him or her with another size or make of respirator. Under no circumstances should an employee continue to use a respirator that does not fit adequately. Employees should not use negative-pressure (air-purifying) respirators in a hazardous or potentially hazardous atmosphere unless they have passed either a quantitative or qualitative fit test. Fit testing may be available from vendors or workplace medical clinics. Procedures and best practices for respirator fit tests are readily available on the internet.

Employees who use supplied-air respirators do not need to be fit tested. However, reasonable efforts should be made to make sure a face piece of proper size is used to minimize air leakage. Powered air-purifying respirators do not require fit testing.

Employees with a beard, stubble, or other facial hair in the sealing area of the face piece automatically fail the fit test.

Seal Check

Under the direction of a qualified person, an employee should choose from various sizes (and brands) of half-face or full-face air-purifying respirators by holding them to his or her face to see which feels right. The employee should then put on the respirator, following the manufacturer’s instructions, and perform positive- and negative-pressure tests to check the seal between the respirator and his or her face.

  1. Positive-Pressure Test. Close the exhalation valve by lightly pressing on the valve cover. Exhale gently. The fit is satisfactory if a slight positive pressure builds up inside the face piece without air leaking out between the face piece seal and the employee’s face.

  2. Negative-Pressure Test. Block the air inlet to the respirator, either by placing the palms of the hands over the cartridge inlets or by squeezing the breathing tube or blocking its inlet. Inhale gently and hold breath for at least 10 seconds. The fit is satisfactory if the face piece collapses slightly without air leaking out between the face piece seal and the employee’s face.

In both tests do not to exert so much pressure with your hands that the respirator face piece is distorted and the fit is changed. Both tests may be difficult or impossible using respirators that have not been designed with these tests in mind. Some cartridges cannot be covered with a normal-sized hand, and some exhalation valves are difficult to seal with the hand. It sometimes helps to remove the covers or cartridges.

The employee must pass the pressure test with the proper size and brand of respirator before beginning the respirator fit test.

Employee Training

Employees should be trained before using respiratory protection in a hazardous or potentially hazardous atmosphere. A qualified person should train supervisors and workers. The program administrator should document training and keep the records on file. Conduct annual respirator training for employees with respirators. If a new employee received respirator training in the 12 months before being hired by the Church and can demonstrate skill and competence regarding respirator use, then renewed training is not required until the conclusion of the 12-month period. Training should include the following:

  • Instruction on the nature of the hazards in the work atmosphere (whether acute, chronic, or both) and an honest appraisal of what may happen if the respirator is not used.

  • An explanation of why engineering or administrative controls are not immediately feasible to reduce or eliminate the need for respirators.

  • A discussion of why the respirator selected for a given operation is the proper respirator for that purpose.

  • A discussion of the capabilities and limitations of the respirator.

  • Actual use of the respirator and training on the importance of close supervision to make sure proper use continues. This includes training on how to recognize the end of the service life of cartridges and canisters or filters (for example, signs include tasting or smelling contaminants, checking the manufacturer’s expiration date, or noticing increased difficulty breathing).

  • Wearing the respirator in a safe environment for an adequate amount of time to ensure the employee is familiar with the operation of the respirator.

  • Instruction on cleaning, storing, and maintaining a respirator.

  • Putting on, wearing, and removing the respirator. This includes proper fit of the face piece and leak testing using the positive- and negative-pressure tests.

Program Evaluation

The program administrator should periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the program to make sure employees receive adequate respiratory protection. He or she should do the following:

  • Evaluate Employee Acceptance. Consult with employees periodically about their attitudes toward wearing respirators. Factors that affect their attitudes include:

    • Comfort

    • Resistance to breathing

    • Fatigue

    • Interference with vision

    • Interference with communications

    • Restriction of movement

    • Interference with job performance

    • Confidence in the respirator’s effectiveness

  • Inspect and Evaluate Respirator Program Operation. Conduct frequent inspections of the program to be sure that:

    • Proper types of respirators are selected.

    • Employees are trained properly.

    • Correct respirators are issued and used.

    • Respirators are worn, maintained, and stored properly.

    • Respirators are inspected properly.

    • Respiratory hazards are monitored.

    • Medical surveillance of workers is carried out.

The program administrator should make sure defects found in the respiratory protection program are documented and corrected. Documentation should include plans to correct faults in the program and target dates for implementing corrective actions.

5.9.3 Selecting Respirators

The program administrator should select respirators by matching the respirator to the respiratory hazard. He or she should follow the selection process for all hazardous operations requiring respirators.

The program administrator should prepare and maintain a Respirator Selection form (see chapter 7) that lists the following:

  • Job operations

  • Respiratory hazards present

  • Estimate of employee exposure

  • Respirator required for use in the operation

When preparing the Respirator Selection form, use industry best practice standards and the best information available on hazards involved and respirators available. Under no circumstances should supervisors allow employees to use less-protective respirators for a given operation than those listed on the form.

For potentially hazardous operations not listed on the form, the supervisor or employee should contact the program administrator to help select the proper respirator before starting work.

The program administrator should base the selection of proper respiratory protection on the following considerations:

  • Characteristics of the hazard

  • Characteristics of the respirator

  • Other special considerations

Characteristics of the Hazard

When selecting a respirator, identify the hazard you are dealing with and consider the following:

  • Characteristics of the respiratory hazard

    • The contaminants

    • The concentration of contaminants

    • Oxygen deficiency

    • Potential for the environment to become immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH)

    • Physical and chemical properties of the contaminant

    • Physiological effects on the body

    • Warning properties of the contaminant

    • Applicable health standards and guidelines for your location

      Where respirators are to be worn as a precautionary measure against a spill, leak, or uncontrolled release, evaluate the potential exposure levels that might result.

  • The nature of the hazardous operation or process

    • Characteristics of the operation or process

    • Characteristics of the work area

    • Availability of oxygen in the area

    • Raw materials

    • End products and by-products

    • Employee activities

Supplied-air respiratory protection is the only type of protection approved for oxygen-deficient atmospheres, for IDLH atmospheres, and for contaminants with poor warning properties. Use full-face respirators when the contaminant is an eye irritant.

  • The location of the hazardous area in relation to the nearest area of breathable air

  • The length of time the respirator must be worn

  • The standards for specific contaminants (for example, benzene, lead, asbestos, formaldehyde, or arsenic)

Characteristics of the Respirator

  • Respirators must be approved by recognized organizations, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

  • Know the characteristics, capabilities, and limitations of the selected respirator.

Special Considerations

  • Facial hair. Employees with facial hair are prohibited from using respiratory protection equipment because facial hair does not allow a good seal between the face and the face piece.

  • Corrective Eyeglasses and Contacts. Employees are prohibited from wearing corrective eyeglasses with a full-face respirator because the face seal is compromised. In most cases in which negative-pressure respirators may be worn, half-masks are acceptable. Half-masks eliminate the concern about corrective glasses interfering with the face piece seal. However, employees who wear corrective glasses and must wear a full-face respirator may use contact lenses or a special eyeglass kit that mounts on the inside of the face piece. The Church will provide these eyeglass kits to employees.

  • Facial characteristics. Employees shall not wear a respirator if scars, missing teeth, or unusual facial configurations prevent an adequate seal of the respirator to the face.

Providing Respirators

Managers and supervisors should assign each employee needing an air-purifying respirator with his or her own respirator. The employee’s name should be marked on the respirator. Each employee should care for and store his or her respirator according to requirements under section 5.9.6, “Maintaining, Cleaning, Inspecting, and Storing Respirators.”

Do not assign other types of respirators (if present) for exclusive use. These respirators should be cleaned and disinfected after each use.

Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) Conditions

When IDLH conditions exist, employees should use only positive-pressure supplied-air respirators. Conditions immediately dangerous to life and health include the following:

  • High levels of air contaminants

  • Lack of oxygen (less than 19.5 percent)

  • Unknown contaminant and oxygen levels

Employees should not enter areas with IDLH conditions unless absolutely necessary. SOPs for IDLH conditions will include requirements for the following:

  • Standby personnel

  • Safety lines and harnesses

  • Monitoring explosive limits

  • Notifying emergency response personnel

5.9.4 Air-Purifying Respirators

Air-purifying respirators remove contaminants from the atmosphere and can be used only (1) when there is sufficient oxygen to sustain life (more than 19.5 percent) and (2) within specified limitations of the specific face piece, cartridge, or canister.

Particles are removed by mechanical filters. Gases and vapors are removed by absorption or chemical reaction. Combination cartridges and canisters are available with both mechanical and chemical filters.

Protection Factors

The protection factor of an air-purifying respirator is defined as the ratio of contaminant concentration outside of the respirator to levels inside the respirator. A protection factor of 1 indicates no protection. The higher the number, the more protective the respirator.

Employees should not use respirators when contaminants exceed the maximum-use concentration. This is determined by multiplying the assigned protection factor by the exposure limit for the contaminant. For example, if a respirator has a protection factor of 10 and the exposure limit is 50 parts per million (ppm), the respirator may be used for concentrations up to 500 ppm. Contaminants must not exceed the concentration limits of the respirator cartridges or canisters.

Contaminant-Warning Properties

Air-purifying respirators are used only for gases and vapors that possess good warning properties. Gases and vapors should be detectable through taste, smell, or irritation, and levels must not exceed the exposure limits. The only exceptions to this rule are approved respirators that have an end-of-service-life indicator that informs the wearer the cartridge or canister is nearing the end of its useful life.

When using air-purifying respirators for protection against gases and vapors, replace cartridges or canisters when a contaminant is detected inside the face piece by taste, smell, or irritation.

Many particulate air contaminants do not possess warning properties. However, as mechanical filters become loaded with particles, the resistance across the filter increases and it becomes more difficult to pull air through the filter. Replace filters when breathing becomes more difficult.

Types of Air-Purifying Respirators

The following are four common types of air-purifying respirators:

  1. Single-Use or Disposable Respirator. Single-use respirators are available for both particulates and organic vapors. Because they cannot be fit tested and employees cannot determine the adequacy of fit, these respirators should not be used in situations where contaminants may exceed regulatory limits or other health standards. They should be used only for employee comfort against contaminants of low or no toxicity. Do not use them when benzene, lead, asbestos, radionuclides, formaldehyde, or arsenic are present, regardless of concentration.

    If respirators are provided by the Church for voluntary use or if the employee provides his or her own respirator, precautions should be taken to ensure that the respirator itself does not present a hazard. If use of respirators on a site is voluntary and there is not a justified need for other types of respiratory protection, then that site is not required to participate in the respiratory protection program. For operations based in the U.S., provide each employee using a respirator voluntarily with a copy of appendix D to OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.134, (Mandatory) Information for Employees Using Respirators When Not Required under the Standard.

  2. Half-Face Air-Purifying Respirator. Half-face and full-face air-purifying respirators are also referred to as negative-pressure respirators because, on inhalation, the pressure inside the respirator is reduced below atmospheric pressure. Half-face respirators fit under the chin and over the nose and have four-point suspensions. These respirators are not appropriate for eye irritants. They have an assigned protection factor of 10. Therefore, they should not be used when air contaminants exceed 10 times the exposure limit.

    Concentrations should not exceed the maximum limits stated for the cartridge being used. Cartridges are available for a variety of air contaminants, including particles, organic vapors, acid gases, chlorine, ammonia, radionuclides, asbestos, and combinations of these. Do not use half-face air-purifying respirators against contaminants that:

    • Are extremely toxic.

    • Have poor warning properties.

    • Are irritating to the eyes.

    • Are poorly absorbed by available cartridges.

  3. Full-Face Air-Purifying Respirator. The full-face respirator covers the face from under the chin to the forehead and has a clear face piece for vision. It offers eye protection and a higher level of protection. It also has a longer service life than the half-face respirator because the air-purifying canister is larger. This respirator has an assigned protection factor of 50. Therefore, it should not be used when concentrations exceed 50 times the exposure limit. When asbestos is present, quantitative fit testing is required.

  4. Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR). In PAPRs, blowers pull air through mechanical filters to a helmet or loose-fitting hood under constant positive pressure. They are available with particle filters, including high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, and activated charcoal filters for certain organic vapors. They are a good alternative for employees who cannot be fit with negative-pressure respirators.

5.9.5 Air-Supplying Respirators

Air-supplying respirators provide grade D air or better (as defined below) under positive pressure. The air source may be a compressed air cylinder or a compressor that pumps clean, filtered ambient air. The air flows through hoses or tubes to either a tight-fitting face piece, hood, or helmet. Air-supplying respirators provide protection against a lack of oxygen and toxic atmospheres.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) is a cylinder of compressed air carried on the employee’s back. It supplies breathing air to a face piece through hose and regulator assemblies. Air cylinders provide 20 to 60 minutes of air. They are an excellent source of emergency respiratory protection because they are portable. SCBAs must have tank pressure gauges and low-pressure warning devices.

Supplied-Air Respirators

In supplied-air or air-line respirators, breathing air is supplied from a compressor or compressed air cylinder through a hose connected to a face piece or hood device. Two advantages are that the employee:

  1. Is not limited to 20–30 minutes in the work area.

  2. Does not have to carry the weight of the compressed air cylinder on his or her back.

However, the air line can limit mobility, and it can be severed. An accessory escape cylinder with at least five minutes of air is required for emergency exit from IDLH conditions. Hose lengths may range up to 300 feet. Hose fittings should not fit other gas systems.

Where air compressors are used, air-intake ports should be in areas free of contamination to make sure the air supplied is grade D or better (as defined below). A continuous carbon monoxide monitor and alarm should be installed and functioning in the compressor air stream.

An air-purifying system should also be present to remove particles, excess moisture, carbon monoxide, and other air contaminants.

Air Quality

Grade-D breathing air includes the following:

  • Oxygen: 19.5 to 23.5 percent

  • Carbon dioxide: 1,000 ppm or less

  • Carbon monoxide: 10 ppm or less

  • Hydrocarbon (condensed): 5 mg/m3

  • Lack of noticeable odor

5.9.6 Maintaining, Cleaning, Inspecting, and Storing Respirators

Supervisors are responsible for making certain that employees maintain, clean, inspect, and store their respirators properly. Supervisors are also responsible for seeing that worn, damaged, or defective respirator parts are repaired or replaced.

Respirator Maintenance and Cleaning

The supervisor has primary responsibility for making sure that employees properly maintain and clean their respirators. Supervisors should confirm that employees inspect their respirators before and after each use.

Using the following procedures, employees should clean their respirators at the end of each shift or more often if they are heavily soiled:

  • Remove any filters, cartridges, or canisters.

  • Wash the face piece and breathing tube in a cleaning and disinfecting solution. Use a hand brush to remove dirt.

  • Rinse the face piece and breathing tube completely in clean, warm water. Air-dry in a clean area.

  • Clean other respirator parts as recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Insert new filters, cartridges, or canisters periodically as recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure they seal tight.

Respirator Inspection

Supervisors should make sure that employees inspect their respirators before and after each use. The employees should report problems or defects to their supervisors. Supervisors should supply replacement parts and help replace valves, head straps, and other worn, broken, or defective parts.

Air-Purifying Respirators. Replacement parts must be manufactured by the maker of the respirator. Do not substitute other parts.

Supplied-Air Respirators. The program administrator, or someone he or she designates, should inspect SCBAs each month and keep a record of these inspections. He or she should attach a tag to each SCBA so the date of the inspection and the initials of the inspector can be entered.

The inspector should:

  • Check the air pressure to see that the cylinder is fully charged.

  • Check the regulator and warning devices to see that they are functioning properly.

  • Check the condition of the face piece, valves, headbands, shoulder straps, and all connecting hoses. Stretch connecting hoses to check for breaks and leaks.

  • Hydrostatically test all compressed gas cylinders on a periodic basis. Test cylinders made of steel every five years. Test aluminum tanks every three years.

  • Test cylinders on or before the date stamped on the cylinder. If a cylinder has not been tested within the required time, take the cylinder out of service and depressurize it until the test can be performed. Testing should be performed by a qualified company.

Employees should report problems to supervisors. Employees must not attempt repairs. Only factory-certified technicians should perform repairs on supplied-air equipment.

Respirator Storage

The supervisor should make sure employees:

  • Store air-purifying respirators in a clean, dry, secure location where temperatures do not exceed 120°F (49°C), such as the employee’s locker.

  • Protect respirators against sunlight, heat, extreme cold, excessive moisture, damaging chemicals, and distortion (warping). Large cans with plastic lids or plastic bags are good for storing half-face units.

  • Keep respirators used for emergency purposes out of areas where hazardous situations may occur. This helps make sure they can be retrieved and put on safely.