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Voluntary Respiratory Protection Programs

Have you ever walked through the labs and seen N95 masks sitting on a bench shelf even though you do not have an active respirator program? Make sure the use of all respiratory protection is reviewed and approved at your facility.

The OSHA Respirator Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134, stipulates requirements for mandatory and voluntary respiratory protection programs. Voluntary programs arise from situations where there is an atmosphere that is below exposure limits (not hazardous per the regulation), but employees still feel that they need respiratory protection. Common situations where a voluntary program may be in place include making N95 respirators available for use in an animal care facility to reduce exposure to animal allergens and allowing employees to wear N95 respirators for powder handling when exposure limits are not exceeded.

Various components of a full program are required when a voluntary program is in place. For any voluntary use, a signed copy of OSHA’s Appendix D must be kept on file, or another form of documentation that employees have been provided with Appendix D. In cases where elastomeric respirators are being worn voluntarily, elements of the written program must be implemented to ensure medical evaluation, care, and maintenance of the elastomeric respirators. It is best practice to conduct training for voluntary respiratory protection programs so employees are familiar with the proper use and care of the respirators, and the limitations of their use.

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