Respiratory Protection Program

The University of Washington is committed to maintaining a safe and healthy work environment. Managers and supervisors are responsible to establish and maintain good health and safety practices. When effective engineering or administrative controls are not feasible or practical, or in emergency situations, the use of personal respiratory protective equipment may be necessary to protect the health of employees and students.

The UW Respiratory Protection Program is designed to protect employees and students by establishing accepted practices for selection, use and care of respirators. The Respiratory Protection Program conforms to University of Washington Administrative Policy 12.11 Respiratory Protection, and the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) standards for Respiratory Hazards 296-841 and Respirators 296-842.


How to Get a Respirator

REMINDER!
You must be trained and fit-tested every 12 months.




1. Submit a Respirator Request to EH&S

Inform your supervisor if you think you need a respirator to do your job safely. The supervisor completes and submits the Respirator Request Form.

2. Submit Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire to the Employee Health Clinic

Once the Respirator Request has been processed, you will receive a Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire. Complete and submit the questionnaire to the Employee Health Clinic (Box 354410) in a sealed envelope marked CONFIDENTIAL. Contact the Clinic directly (phone 206.685.1026) with questions or concerns about medical evaluations.

3. Attend training

Once you have been medically cleared to wear a respirator, your supervisor will schedule a training class for you.

4. Get a fit test

If you are required to wear a tight-fitting respirator, such as an N95 disposable respirator or half-mask elastomeric respirator with removable filters, you must have a fit test. The fit test will usually be completed right after the training.

5. Purchase the respirator

When respirators are REQUIRED based on a hazard assessment, the UW purchases respiratory protection equipment for employees. Your supervisor must purchase only the type, model, and size of respiratory protection equipment for which you have been trained and fitted as indicated on your Respirator Authorization Card. Any concerns with the use or fit of a respirator should be immediately reported to your supervisor.

Top

Respirator Users

Complete the Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire

Mail the Questionnaire to the Employee Health Clinic in the "CONFIDENTIAL" self-addressed envelope. You may discuss the questionnaire with an Employee Health Clinic nurse. The Medical Questionnaire is a confidential health history and can only be viewed by the Employee Health Clinic.

A copy of the Medical Clearance Form will be given to you and to your supervisor. You must have a respirator medical clearance before you can be trained and fit-tested for a respirator.

Training and Fit-Testing

Your supervisor will schedule training and fit testing for you. You will learn which respirator to wear for protection against various airborne hazards.

You will be fit-tested to determine which respirator is best for you. You must be clean-shaven to wear a tight-fitting respirator because facial hair can interfere with the seal of the respirator. Mustaches inside the laugh lines may not interfere and are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Avoid smoking, eating, drinking liquids other than water, and chewing gum prior to your fit test. If your fit test is successful, you will receive a Respirator Authorization Card that will list the brand, model, type, and size respirator(s) for which you were trained and fit-tested.

Use Respirators Safely

  • Use only the brand, model, and size respirator for which you were fitted.
  • Inspect the respirator and parts prior to use.
  • For tight-fit respirators, perform negative and positive-pressure seal checks each time the respirator is worn.
  • Use the filters recommended for the air contaminant involved. Contact EH&S if you are uncertain about which respirator or filter is right for the job.
  • Know the limits of your respirator.
  • Maintain the respirator, including changing the filters (cartridges) as required.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions.
  • Notify your supervisor if you sense increased breathing resistance, an odor or taste, or experience throat irritation when using the respirator.
Top

Supervisors

Submit a Respirator Request Form

Evaluate your workplace for chemical or biological products/agents and work activities that may require the use of respiratory protection. Identify employees and students who may need respiratory protection.

  • Respirator Request Form (PDF). Use the "tab" key to move from box to box to fill in the form. Save the form electronically on your computer and submit to EH&S via email to UWresp@uw.edu, via campus mail to Box 357165, or via fax to 206.221.3068.
  • The Respirator Request Form (PDF) may also be downloaded. Mail the completed form to EH&S at Box 357165, or fax to 206.221.3068.

Include material safety data sheets (MSDS) with each Respirator Request Form for products that may require the use of a respirator.

Workplace Hazard Assessment

EH&S will review the Respirator Request and contact you to arrange a workplace assessment, to schedule exposure monitoring if applicable, and to discuss respirator training and fit testing.

REMINDER!
Each employee or student must be medically cleared PRIOR to training and fit-testing.


Medical Clearance

When the hazard assessment is complete, you will receive Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaires for your employees. Instruct employees to complete and submit questionnaires to the Employee Health Clinic (Box 354410) in sealed envelopes marked CONFIDENTIAL. Contact the Clinic directly by phone: 206.685.1026 with questions about medical evaluations. You must not view answers on the questionnaires.

The Employee Health Clinic will evaluate each individual's ability to use a respirator. In some cases the EHC will require a scheduled visit to the Clinic. This may take additional time.

  • The Respirator Medical Clearance Form is completed by the EHC with copies provided to you, the employee or student, and EH&S.
  • Restrictions may be imposed for some individuals for the type of respirator they can use or for performing certain tasks while wearing a respirator. The supervisor must adhere to these restrictions when purchasing respirators and assigning work.
  • If not medically cleared, employees and students may not work in an environment that requires the use of a respirator.

Training and Fit-Testing

Contact EH&S to schedule training and fit testing. Respirator training is required before initial use and at least annually after that. Retraining is also required if new hazards are introduced or if it appears that the user has not retained the skill necessary for safe respirator use. Supervisors and Leads must attend training annually.

  • Beards and other facial hair can interfere with the proper fit of tight-fitting respirators. Bearded individuals will not be fitted with any respirator that requires fit-testing. However, mustaches trimmed inside the laugh lines may not interfere with the seal and are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
  • Training includes information on the use, limitations, filter selection and care of respirators.

Purchase ONLY the type, model, and size of respiratory protection equipment for which your employee or student has been trained and fit-tested. EH&S will provide you a copy of the training record that shows this information. Any concerns with the use or fit of a respirator should be immediately reported to the supervisor and EH&S for follow-up.

Voluntary Use

If the hazard assessment shows that the employee(s) only wants a respirator for incidental exposures to nuisance particles like dirt, it may be possible to enter into the "Voluntary Use" category. Discuss this option with the UW Respirator Program Administrator at 206.616.3777.

Top

Voluntary Use

Every employee who wears a respirator must be medically cleared, trained and fit tested. Exception to full program participation is VOLUNTARY USE of filtering facepiece respirators (dust masks) where no respiratory hazard has been identified.

Respirator use is not voluntary if a respiratory hazard exists, such as exposure to hazardous dusts, gases or vapors; exposure above permissible exposure limits (PELs); or hazardous exposure to an airborne biological hazard.

Where voluntary use of filtering facepiece respirators is allowed, the employee is not required to participate in annual medical clearance, training and fit testing.

For voluntary users who choose to wear other types of respirators (i.e., tight-fitting cartridge respirators, PAPRs, etc.), medical clearance, training and fit-testing are required.

Voluntary use does not require the employing unit to pay for respirators, but program costs, such as medical evaluations, training and fit-testing are the responsibility of the employing unit.

For information regarding voluntary use of respirators for animal care and use, please go here.

Employees

  1. Inform your supervisor that you want to wear a respirator on a voluntary basis.
  2. Print a copy of OHS Form 405, Advisory Information for Employees Who Voluntarily Use Respirators (PDF), read and sign where indicated and give a copy to your supervisor.
  3. Use the respirator properly and according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Report any problems with the respirator to your supervisor.

Supervisors

Make sure the workplace hazard assessment for your work area allows voluntary use of filtering facepiece respirators (see above). If you are not sure, contact the UW Respirator Program Administrator for assistance at 206.616.3777. Assist employees with completing the Advisory Information (PDF) form. Maintain copies of the form for all voluntary respirator users.

VOLUNTARY USE: A filtering facepiece respirator (dust mask) may be used for additional protection and comfort where NO respiratory hazard exists.

Medical clearance, training, and fit testing are NOT required for such use.

Employees whose job duties do not require them to wear a respirator, but would like to request a respirator due to a personal medical condition, must follow the UW Disability Accommodation process.

Top

For More Information

For questions or concerns, please contact the UW Respirator Administrator at 206.616.3777.

Top