Respiratory Protection


You might need respiratory protection if inhalation hazards exist in your work environment. If you wear a respirator at UW, you must use it according to the UW Respiratory Protection Program, which is designed to protect employees and students by establishing accepted practices for assessing respiratory hazards and selecting, using and caring for respirators.

At the UW, managers and supervisors are responsible for establishing and maintaining good health and safety practices, including controlling exposures to airborne contaminants, such as dusts, vapors and other aerosols. Whenever engineering or administrative controls are not feasible or practical, or in emergency situations, you may need to use respirators and other personal respiratory protective equipment to protect employees and students from inhalation hazards.

What you need to know

The Respiratory Protection Program outlines the requirements and the University’s procedures for using respiratory protection in a safe and effective way that is compliant with applicable regulations.

This program has several key parts:

Identifying need for respiratory protection

  • EH&S will conduct a respiratory hazard evaluation, either for the general work environment or for a specific task. Based on the hazard evaluation, EH&S will determine if respirator use is required or voluntary. Sometimes EH&S will decide not to recommend respirators because exposures can be mitigated with other controls or work practices.

  • You may also be part of an existing user group that has established required respiratory protection for certain work tasks.

Medical clearance

  • Medical clearance is required before you can wear a respirator. Wearing respirators can put additional stress on the heart and lungs, and may cause some to feel anxiety or claustrophobia.

  • The UW Employee Health Center performs the medical clearance. You fill out a simple, confidential questionnaire that will only be reviewed by Employee Health Center staff.

  • If you are not medically cleared, you are not authorized to work in an environment where respirators are required.


  • Online training is available for some commonly used respirator types. In-person training is also offered for specific user groups as appropriate.

  • You will receive training on the hazards, limitations and capabilities of the respirators assigned, and how to properly inspect, use, clean and store them.

Fit testing

  • Fit testing is a quantitative or qualitative test performed by EH&S to determine if a specific make, model and size of respirator fits your face. Specifically, this test verifies that a mask doesn’t leak and provides adequate protection.

  • If you are required to wear a tight-fitting respirator (e.g., N95 or half-face elastomeric respirator), you must be fit tested.

  • Facial hair may interfere with a tight-fitting respirator’s seal; you should be clean-shaven in order to effectively wear these respirators.

  • Loose-fitting respirators (e.g. powered air-purifying respirators) require hands-on training instead of a fit test.

If you are required to use a respirator, you must be trained and fit tested every 12 months.

What you can do to stay safe


  • Recognize airborne chemical and particulate exposure hazards, and contact the Respiratory Program Administrator (206.543.7388 or if you believe that respiratory protection may be needed.
  • Fill out the Respirator Request Form to request respirator authorization for your user group. Update this anytime the work or hazards change.
  • Take the training that will be provided to your user group, even if you will not wear a respirator yourself.
  • Ensure employees are medically cleared before using a respirator.
  • Ensure employees complete their training and fit testing annually.
  • Allow your employees to do their medical clearance, training and fit testing during paid work time.
  • Enroll any new employees who will be required to wear respirators.
  • Purchase all required respiratory protection equipment.

Respirator users

  • Submit your medical clearance form confidentially to Employee Health, and complete the Annual Health Status Update (included during your fit testing) every year.
  • Attend training that is assigned to you.
  • Complete your annual fit testing or hands-on training before your 12 month authorization expires.
  • Use only the make, model and size of respirator that you were fit tested on.
  • Use your respirator safely and within the bounds of its limitations.
  • Maintain your respirator appropriately, changing cartridges and cleaning it when required.
  • Notify your supervisor of any problems with your respirator or if the hazards in your workplace change.

Services available

  • Hazard assessments, including site visits, risk assessment, and exposure assessments where needed

  • Respirator selection, including identifying correct cartridges and establishing a change-out schedule

  • Training, both in-person and online

  • Fit testing and hands-on training for respirator use

More Information

Frequently asked questions



Respiratory Protection Program Contact

(206) 543-7388
Reference Files