Respiratory Protection Program


The purpose of this plan is to establish a program and procedures for wearing respiratory protection at the University of Northern Iowa.

This Program supports compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Respiratory Protection Standard, as found in 29 CFR 1910.134. This program applies to all University employees who work in areas in which the potential exposure to airborne contaminants requires the use of respirators. Persons using respiratory protection in the execution of their job duties at UNI must be enrolled in this program through the Department of Risk Management and Environmental Health and Safety.

Engineering controls, such as increased ventilation or enclosure of the hazard, or substitution of a hazardous material to a less hazardous one, should be the first line of defense. Such controls are not always possible and may not completely eliminate the risks of exposure. In instances such as these, respirators and other protective equipment must be used. 


Program Administrator: Environmental Safety Coordinator

This person is responsible for:

  • Issuing, updating and administering a written respiratory program and making sure it satisfies all applicable federal, state and local respiratory protection requirements.
  • Providing or making arrangements for initial and annual training to employees on respiratory protection.
  • Coordinating annual medical evaluations and forwarding any associated medical records to Human Resources.
  • Performing or making arrangements for the initial, annual and special fit testing of respiratory equipment.
  • Maintaining records for fit test, physical exams, and training for all University employees who are enrolled in the Respiratory Protection Program.
  • Conducting or making arrangements for hazard assessments and personal exposure monitoring of possible airborne hazards when respiratory hazards may be present as needed.
  • Recommending engineering and administrative methods to control respiratory hazards.
  • Provide assistance with generating a Worksite-Specific Respiratory Protection Plan for use in conjunction with the RPP.
  • Assisting the University Safety Officer in the annual review of the Respiratory Protection Program to ensure its continued effectiveness.
  • Collecting, evaluating and acting on appropriate recommendations made by respirator users.
  • Assisting departments in selecting respirators, filtering media and related equipment appropriate to needs and exposure hazards of employees.
  • Conduct annual inspections and evaluations to determine continued effectiveness of the respiratory protection program.

Managers and Supervisors whose staff are required to wear respiratory protection

These people are responsible for:

  • Knowing the hazards in their areas that require respiratory protection.  A Respiratory Hazard Evaluation Form  must be completed for any activity requiring respiratory protection.  The form should be turned into the Program Administrator to ensure the needs of the exposure risk assessment are being met.

Respiratory Hazard Evaluation Form

  • Knowing the types of respirators that need to be used are readily available and fit properly and comfortably
  • Ensure employees under their supervision, using respirators, have received appropriate training, fit testing and annual medical evaluations.
  • Enforcing the wearing of respiratory protection in areas where it’s required.
  • Ensure respirators are properly cleaned, maintained and stored according to the respiratory protection program.
  • Continually monitoring work areas and operations to identify respirator hazards.
  • Coordinating with the Program Administrator on how to address respiratory hazards or other concerns regarding the program.
  • Making sure employees are knowledgeable about the respiratory equipment for areas in which they work.
  • Providing training on hazardous chemicals to new employees.
  • Collecting feedback on respiratory use by employees

Employees required to wear respirators

These people are responsible for:

  • Attending initial and annual respiratory training and fit testing.
  • Wearing appropriate respiratory protection when and where required and in the manner in which they are trained.
  • Maintaining their respiratory protection equipment properly and keeping it in a clean and operable condition.
  • Inform their supervisor if the respirator no longer fits well or is damaged and request a new one that fits properly.
  • Replacing respirator cartridges according to their assigned schedule.
  • Providing feedback about respirator use to the Program Administrator through Managers and Supervisors.
  • Informing the Program Administrator of personal changes that may affect their use of respirators.

General Respiratory Information

  • The potential for respiratory hazards will be assessed within university facility and/or department where employees work and appropriate respiratory protection will be provided for employees who work in areas where respiratory protection is necessary.
  • Employees will be required to wear respiratory protection whenever and wherever respiratory hazards exist.
  • Respiratory protection will be stored in each individual employee’s locker or approved container.
  • Respiratory protection will be purchased through a vendor approved by EHS.
  • Efforts will be made to minimize the use of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

Obtaining a Respirator

Individuals must complete the steps below to enroll in the UNI RPP, which includes RPP, which is part of the Respiratory Protection Program ( including medical clearance, required training and respirator fit tests.

Initial Enrollment

  1. A hazard assessment  must be completed for any activity requiring respiratory protection.  .
  2. Once reviewed, EH&S will email the employee, requesting they fill out a medical questionnaire   The employee will be asked to return the questionnaire to EHS who will in turn forward the questionnaire to the approved medical provider for evaluation.  All information shared on the questionnaire will remain strictly confidential.

Medical Questionnaire

  1. EHS will contact medical provider to either to set up a time for them to come on campus and perform group medical evaluations (to see if the user is physically able to wear a respirator.)
  2. The medical provider will evaluate the questionnaire to see if the employee needs to be physically evaluated before being allowed to wear a respirator.  The medical provider may decide that additional medical evaluations are necessary if:
  • An employee reports medical signs or symptoms related to respirator use
  • A physician or other licensed health care professional, supervisor or the respirator program administrator believes the employee needs to be reevaluated.
  • Information from the respiratory protection program including observations made during fit testing and program evaluation, indicates a need for employee reevaluation.
  • A change occurs in workplace conditions (e. physical work effort, protective clothing and temperature) that may result in a substantial increase in the physiological burden placed on the user.
  1.  If approved for respiratory use, the employee will then undergo a respiratory fit test with the respirator assigned to them.  The employee will then complete the respiratory training provided by EHS. 
  2. Continued use of the respirator will require annual submission of medical questionnaires, fit testing and training.  EH&S will notify the employee two weeks prior to the anniversary of this date when these activities must take place.

Respirator Selection

Respirator use requires enrollment into the UNI Respiratory Protection Plan, prior to being enrolled employees should work with their supervisor to complete a hazard evaluation and notify EHS of those hazards that may require the use of a respirator.

  • EH&S will assist departments in choosing their respirators, filtering media and related equipment appropriate to the needs and exposure hazards of the employees.
  • Respirators will be selected according to the OSHA requirements set forth in the Respiratory Protection Standard.  Respirators are selected as appropriate based on the assigned protection factor or APF and calculated maximum use concentration (MUC).  
  • Choosing the correct respiratory protection equipment involves the following steps:
    • Determination of the hazard
    • The chemical and physical properties of the hazard
    • The toxicity and the concentration of the contaminant
    • The amount of oxygen present
    • Physical limitations of the wearer of the PPE
    • Length of exposure time to contaminant
    • Work requirements and conditions of exposure
    • Limitations and characteristics of the available respirator
    • Choosing equipment that is certified for the hazard
    • Assuring the device is performing as it is intended to do.
  • Only NIOSH-approved respirators will be used. Acceptable types are Honeywell, 3M or MSA.  Any other type must meet the approval of EHS.  Campus Supply handles all purchases of respiratory equipment
  • All respiratory protection equipment will be used in accordance with its manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Each respirator will be used and maintained exclusively by one employee.

Respirator Inspection and Maintenance

  • Each respirator will be inspected by its wearer before each use.
  • Any respirator found to be defective will be turned into the employee’s manager or supervisor for replacement.
  • The user will perform the proper seal check prior to each use.
  • Unit managers and supervisors where respirators are used will verify that appropriate respiratory protection is being used, inspected and maintained.
  • Respirators are to be cleaned, disinfected and maintained in a sanitary condition following the manufacturer’s recommendation.  

Respirator Cleaning Procedures

  • Each respirator will be inspected annually during the annual fit testing.

Fit Testing

Each user of a respirator with a negative or positive pressure, tight-fitting face piece will be fit tested to ensure a proper face piece-to-face seal.

  • Fit testing will be conducted annually or more often, as necessary.  Fit testing is done through Unity Point Occupational Health and follows their documented protocol.
  • Any employee who has facial hair or has a condition interferes with the face piece-to-face seal or valve function will not be allowed to wear a respirator. 
  • Employees will be fit tested with the make, model, and size of a respirator they will actually wear.  Employees will be provided with several models and sizes of respirators so they may find an optimal fit. Fit testing of respirators is to be conducted in the negative pressure mode.
  • The Program Administrator will conduct fit tests following the OSHA approved Biltrex Solution Aerosol QLFT Protocol in Appendix B (B4) of the Respiratory Protection standard.  The Program Administrator has determined that QNFT is not required for the respirators used under current conditions.  If conditions affecting respirator use change, the Program Administrator will evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether QNFT is required.


  • All employees who are required to wear respirators will receive training in their appropriate use, selection and maintenance.
  • Training will be repeated annually or more often, as needed (e.g.) if the employee changes departments and needs to use a different type of respirator)
  • Training will provide an opportunity for each employee to handle the respirator, have it fitted properly, test the face piece-to-face seal, wear it in normal air and wear it in a test atmosphere.
  • Training will include types of respiratory hazards, classes of respirators and their limitations, positive and negative pressure checks, general rules for respiratory protection, methods for cleaning, replacement of filters, and proper storage procedures.
  • Training is conducted by the staff of Risk Management and Environmental Health and Safety and must be completed prior to wearing a respirator.

Wearing Respirators

Wearing Respirators in Normal Situations

  • Any PPE, corrective glasses or goggles must be worn in a manner that will not interfere with the seal of the face piece-to-face seal.
  • Respirators must not be removed in a hazardous environment.
  • Respirator and cartridges are limited to identifiable hazards and cannot be worn in any other atmosphere.

Procedures for donning respirator include:

  • Make sure the straps are not too tight or too loose.
  • Check to see that the buckles are connected properly.
  • Make sure the valves are in place and working properly.
  • Attach the bottom strap first.
  • Fit the respirator snugly from the chin upward.
  • Attach the top strap and wear it high on the head for a better seal.
  • Make sure nothing interferes with the seal of the face piece-to-face seal.
  • Make sure the respirator provides a tight seal with no leaks. (Negative pressure fit check is performed by covering the cartridges with the palms of your hands while you try to inhale. Nose cup will pull against your face.  If leaks are detected, try adjusting straps.  If leaks continue, contact your manager or supervisor.  Positive pressure fit check is performed by placing a hand over the exhaust valve and exhaling.  If leaks are detected, assure you are not forcing the nose cup to lift from your face.  If leaks continue, contact your manager or supervisor – See User Seal Check Procedures for further information on seal check procedures.)

User Seal Check Procedures

  • Leave the hazardous environment immediately if you smell or taste the contaminant, if breathing becomes difficult, or if you become dizzy or nauseated.
  • Replace cartridge. change out schedule
    • If the filter and canister ESLI or End of Life Service Indicator indicates that its service life has been exceeded.
    • When a contaminate odor has been detected.
    • Prior to the expiration date of the respirator cartridge and filter.
    • When there is a restriction of air flow
    • When the filtering media has been discolored
    • When the user deems the cartridge has been used for an extended time frame (usually 6 to 8 hours)
  • N95 masks should be changed out
    • After each use, clean and sanitize respirator.
    • Elastomeric respirators should be stored in the bag provided by the manufacturer, a plastic ziplock bag, in a locker or approved container.  Filtering facepiece respirators should be stored in small paper bag. Respirators are to be stored away from direct sunlight, extreme heat or cold, excessive moisture and away from damaging chemicals and other contaminants. 
    • Full face cartridges should be dated after being removed from the package.  If the cartridge has not been changed out within 1 year of that date, it must be changed out on the 1 year anniversary of being removed from the package.

Wearing Respirators in Emergency Situations

  • University employees are not provided with or trained to use a respirator in an emergency situation.

Wearing Respirators Voluntarily

  • “Voluntary use” is only permitted in areas if there are no airborne hazards at concentrations requiring the use of a respirator. An employee may request to wear a respirator when it is not required as a precautionary measure or for comfort and protection against nuisance an odors.  The employee must obtain permission from the department in consultation with EH&S to wear the respirator and it can be only permitted if it will not interfere with an employee’s ability to work safely and does not create a new hazard.
  • Situations warranting voluntary use of respiratory protection include the following:
    • Avoid exposure to airborne contaminants that are below limits established by OSHA or UNI.
    • Avoid nuisance dust or odors.
    • Work in patient clinics (as a voluntary precaution when not required by procedure or policy).
    • Work with animals.
    • Work around potential allergens (e.g. sensitized individuals)
  • A hazard evaluation must be performed prior to using respirators voluntarily or their use is required.  Where a recognized respiratory hazard does not exist, the respirator may be used voluntarily under the following requirements, depending on the type of respirator.
  • Voluntary use of filtering facepiece respirators.  The following are requirements that need to be followed when wearing filtering facepiece respirators.
    • Ensure the respirators use will not pose a hazard in itself a hazard to the employee.
    • Provide the user with the information found in Voluntary Use of a Respirator on a one-time basis.  This appendix provides information the employee will need to know about wearing filtering facepiece respirators. Supervisors should maintain a signed copy for their records and must send it to EH&S.
    • Voluntary use of filtering facepiece respirators does not require any medical evaluation or fit test.

Voluntary Use of a Respirator

Voluntary use of respirators other than filtering facepiece.

These types of respirators, such as tight-fitting negative-pressure respirators, place a much greater physical demand on employees so more requirements are necessary to allow their use even on a voluntary basis:

  • Determine that the respirator use will in itself create a hazard.
  • Provide the users with the information contained in Voluntary Use of a Respirator 
  • Respirator user must be medically qualified to wear respirator
  • Follow the care and maintenance instruction 

Respirators that are used on a voluntary basis do not have to be provided or paid for by the department. The department is required to pay for any expenses described in the Voluntary Use of a Respirator  information, as well as any necessary medical evaluations and respirator cleaning equipment.

Unlike for required respirator use, employees are not prohibited from having facial hair when using a tight fitting respirator voluntarily because the air is safety to breath; however, this practice is discouraged for it is against sound industrial hygiene practices and the manufacturer’s instructions.

COVID-19 Guide for Employees Using N95 Respirators When Not Required 

 A N95 respirator is a device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. If an employee is seeking to voluntarily use an N95 respirator they should review and follow UNI’s COVID-19 Guide to Employees Using Respirators When Not Required. A hazard assessment is not required.


Records for respirator selection, fit testing and training will be kept in the Environmental Health and Safety Office.  Medical evaluations are confidential records forwarded by the University Medical Provider.  Medical records are kept at Human Resources.


Manual originated 08/1999

Reviewed July 13, 2023