Complying with the Respiratory Protection Standard

The most important factor in determining the best respirator for your individual needs is to understand your environmental factors involved through proper air sampling. Respirator and cartridge selection are determined by the following factors: the results of your air sampling program; the accepted NIOSH, OSHA, or ACGIH exposure limits for contaminants; and the maximum use concentration of those substances.

The cartridge life expectancy calculator is an interactive means to help determine when a specific cartridge should be replaced, based on length of use and concentration. OSHA requires respirator cartridge replacement on a fixed, predetermined schedule to avoid “time of break through.” Breaking through occurs when the hazardous chemical “breaks through” the cartridge without being absorbed or collected by the protective barrier. The following information is needed to adequately utilize a cartridge life expectancy calculator:

  • Chemical hazard
  • Exposure and concentration
  • Temperature
  • Relative humidity
  • Atmospheric pressure
  • What type of a respirator you are using
  • Type of work and average breathing rate
  • Breakthrough concentration preference

Training programs are a necessity because OSHA requires an employee training program on these topics prior to using respirators. Respirator users also should consider consulting manufacturers for recommendations or with any question about specific products.

Using the American National Standards Institute – ANSI

The ANSI Z88 Committee on Respiratory Protection has a voluntary consensus standard entitled “Standard Practices for Respiratory Protection,” which is ANSI/AIHA Z88.2. This standard is of special interest because it addresses the question of assigned protection factors or (APFs).

APFs are the main factor used by thousands of employers when they select respirators to protect workers from different airborne hazards. The ANSI standard recommends protective factors that are very similar to those in OSHA’s proposal, except for a more conservative APF for filtering facepieces (disposable respirators). The standard also addresses other issues of key importance to the proper use of respiratory protection in the workplace and of interest to stakeholders, including:

  • Requirements for respiratory protection programs
  • Standard operating procedures for programs
  • Selection, limitation, and use of respirators
  • Training
  • Fit testing
  • Maintenance, inspection, storage, and disposal
  • Breathing air and oxygen-deficient atmospheres
  • Recordkeeping

Interested parties can obtain additional information about this standard or other activities of the ANSI Z88 Committee on Respiratory Protection by visiting

In conclusion, there are various avenues that can help you with respiratory standard compliance. To stay current on the standards that pertain to your industry and specific work environment, it is always in your best interest to turn to the NIOSH and OSHA websites (, first. Contacting the manufacturer of your equipment also can be beneficial.

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